Photo courtesy of Stick City Brewing.

On Jan. 31, 2018, the night of the Super Blue Blood Moon, Nick Salkeld was busy making beer in Mars, Pa.

After whipping up a seven-barrel batch of pale ale, he gazed up at the twinkling sky and knew that the stars were in alignment for Stick City Brewing Co.

An engineer by trade, Salkeld grew up around good beer. His dad, Ron Salkeld, started homebrewing after taking a business trip to Germany in 1994. The malty ales he quaffed in Deutschland put all those fizzy, yellow American suds to shame.

Even mom was impressed.

“It turned me into a beer drinker,” Elaine Salkeld says of her husband’s hobby.

In addition to crafting beer, the family relaxes by taking camping trips to Cabot, Pa. Surrounded by Eastern hemlocks — the state tree — they call their rural respite “Stick City.”

The brewery’s name and logo are an homage to that wooded place where even the bar and tables are hand-carved out of old tree roots. Head brewer Nick, 32, hopes Stick City Brewing’s new Irvine Street taproom in Mars becomes a refuge for community members.

The soon-to-open taproom at Stick City Brewing in Mars, Pa.

What will they offer?

The 2,400-square-foot building is the former home of the Mars Volunteer Fire Company, which recently merged with the Valencia station and relocated to new digs on Route 228. On brew days, the Salkelds — including brother Ronald and sister Breanna — open the four garage doors. The smell of fresh barley, malt and hops lures people in.

But Martians will have to wait a little while longer to get a taste; Stick City won’t officially open for business for about one more month.

Until then, the family is busy reproducing dad’s original recipes and experimenting with new concoctions, including a beverage dedicated to local firefighters. Cabotsquatch, a brown ale, is a nod to the big-footed creature that, according to legend, roams the forested hillsides of Cabot. Stickney is a hazy IPA named after the largest crater on Phobos, a satellite of the planet Mars.

“We make modern progressive ales,” says Nick, raising a glass of the brewery’s’ signature IPA, Neptune 2000. “We love pushing the boundaries of what beer is, from how it tastes to how it looks to how long it can stay on a shelf. This beer is all about freshness.”

There will be four or five taps flowing when Stick City debuts, but Nick plans to expand the selection in the future. Folks can stop by for a pint or fill a 64-ounce growler to go. Eventually, Stick City will also offer bottled or canned beer. Local wines, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages also will be served and a steady rotation of food trucks will feed hungry patrons … and their pooches.

“We’re going to be family- and dog-friendly,” Nick explains. “I want this to be a community gathering place where you can loiter and have a beer.”

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.