Zeus the French Bulldog loves Garfield.
He sits in the doorway at 5113 Penn Ave., the future home of Two Frays Brewery, watching the neighborhood come back to life. Passersby often snap pictures of him through the glass door.
In October, Zeus’s owners, Mike and Jen Onofray, bought the 100-year-old building and began renovating it. COVID-19 pushed back the brewery’s summer launch to later this year.
The delay, although disappointing, has allowed the couple to experiment with different beer styles.
“Coronavirus isn’t changing the product,” Mike Onofray says. “If anything, the product is getting better.”
The 900-square-foot taproom houses a seven-barrel brewing system and there’s a 400-square-foot beer garden on the side of the brick structure, which is decorated with an old hand-painted Star Soap billboard.
Two Frays will start out with 10 taps pouring beer to please just about every palette. Made with vegan ingredients, most of the selections will clock in at an easily quaffable five percent alcohol by volume. There will be some more potent seasonals and experimental brews released throughout the year. There is no kitchen, but patrons can bring their own food. Neighboring businesses include Spak Brothers Pizza and Soju, both of which are open for takeout.
Zeus and his owners are anxious to open that glass door and let people inside to enjoy a pint.
East End Brewing Company
December 2019 marked East End Brewing Company’s 15th anniversary.
Owner Scott Smith was on top of the world, planning the annual Pedal Pale Ale Keg Ride for early April and then COVID-19 stopped him in his tracks.
With bars and restaurants closed, the Larimer brewery’s wholesale distribution business essentially dried up. But despite the challenges, Smith and his full-time, 15-member crew have managed to keep rolling thanks to Payroll Protection Program funding, a safe and efficient to-go beer operation and plenty of thirsty customers.
East End offers contactless takeout and curbside pickup at the brewery every day except Mondays. On Saturdays, deliveries are made to more than 40 zip codes in the Pittsburgh area.
During the shutdown, East End released five new neighborhood beers (Point Breeze North, Windgap, Esplen, Chartiers City and Hays), two perennial favorites (Witte and Wheat Hop) and two benefit beers, Resilience Pale Ale to support victims of the Australian Bushfires, and All Together to help local service industry staff.
Cinderlands Beer Company
Last spring, USA Today named Lawrenceville’s Cinderlands Beer Co., one of the top 10 new breweries in the country. Soon after, the beer maker opened its second location, Cinderlands Warehouse, on Smallman Street in the Strip District.
The company hasn’t let the stay-at-home order kill its buzz.
“We are still making just as much beer, it is just all going into cans now instead of split between cans and draft,” Marketing Director Joanna Warden says.
While the Butler Street site is closed, Cinderlands Warehouse offers delivery and curbside pickup of its beer and a revised food menu that’s sure to please every palate. Monday through Saturday from noon to 8 p.m., there are options ranging from Chicken Thai Fried Rice and Bratwurst Poutine to family-style meals and housemade bread (in case you’re not making your own).
Making a beer run used to be a chore but since the quarantine started, many people welcome any excuse to get out of the house (with masks on, of course).
Brewery lovers with wanderlust can soon cross county lines to stock up on suds at these soon-to-open breweries.
Union Brothers Brewing
Zach Waltz and Jeremiah Cain found a silver lining in the COVID-19 storm.
The friends, a union electrician and union boilermaker, respectively, were supposed to open Union Brothers Brewing in Harmony, PA, in April, but the pandemic put those plans on hold. Instead, they’re using the downtime to turn the operation into a well-oiled machine.
“It has allowed us to work out a lot of kinks and small details that we were kind of overlooking because we were just in a strict time schedule of getting open in April,” says Waltz, who grew up in the Butler County borough. “I think the extra time has allowed us to fine-tune some things and, with a strong social media presence, build a lot more hype around our brand.”
Now slated to open the second week of June, the 2,000-square-foot brewpub has a full kitchen, indoor seating for 58 customers and another 17,000 square feet of outdoor space, which could come in handy during this era of social distancing. The taproom features artwork by Pittsburgh-based graffiti artist Max Gonzales.
There are 12 beers on tap — everything from hazy IPAs and an amber ale to fruited sours and big stouts. Union Brothers will start off by filling growlers and selling cans.
Allusion Brewing Company
For years, the folks behind Allusion Brewing Company have been trying to turn their dream into a reality.
Coronavirus is just another nightmare they have to endure before opening the space at 143 Grant Ave. in Vandergrift, a riverside town in Westmoreland County.
“For us, this crisis came when we were still working on getting open, so it hasn’t hit us as hard as I know other businesses have been affected,” says co-owner Robert Buchanan of Ross Township. “We are just delayed opening by a few months because of this. It would have been much harder if we were open and this crisis would have shut us down right after opening.”
Depending on the restrictions in place when the businesses is up and running, Allusion will offer to-go beer in growlers, bottles and possibly cans, a rotating lineup of food trucks out front and some housemade eats, including appetizers and a kids’ menu.
Sobel’s Obscure Brewery
Since 2012, David and Jackie Sobel, have been making beer in Jeannette. Through wholesale distribution, the father-daughter team distributes Sobel’s Obscure Brewery products to 34 counties across Pennsylvania. They were getting ready to debut an 18,000-square-foot, two-floor taproom in The Glass City when coronavirus shattered those plans.
Because crews are unavailable to work on the Gillespie Building, a 98-year-old former department store on Clay Avenue, the grand opening is now slated for this winter. The family will orchestrate a pop-up tap garden over the summer.
With the closing of bars and restaurants, the Sobels lost roughly 90 percent of their sales market, so they decided to open their warehouse for to-go beer. Folks have been scooping up cans, growlers and 22-ounce bottles thanks to some entertaining social media posts.
“You know, a lot of it comes from my father. He is naturally a happy person who sees things with a glass half full perspective,” Jackie Sobel says. “We are experiencing something that we have no control over. We can either stay in bed and put our blankets over our heads, or we can get up, put a smile on and make the best of the bad situation. And I really think we have! Especially right now, we all need some joy in our day. And honestly, beer is fun! So why not have some fun?”