Each Pittsburgh brewery offers up an experience as diverse as the beers it pours. From small, neighborhood brewing companies like Allegheny City to regional behemoths like Southern Tier, there’s a perfect place and time for each of Pittsburgh’s craft breweries. Here’s how to choose which one to visit:
When you’re feeling sour:
Draai Laag Brewing Company. 501 E. Ohio St., Millvale.
Well, this one was easy. Draai Laag Brewing Company opened in 2012—the first brewery in Millvale since 1845—specializing in sour and Belgian ales that are, to quote their motto, “Wild by Design.” Wild, you say? Wild ales, like the flagship Cru, are brewed on “wild” yeasts or bacteria, in this case Draai Laag’s signature Wild Angels strain that was cultivated locally in Draai Laag’s first year. Fruity, fresh, and a little bit funky, Draai Laag offers a beer selection unlike any other in the area.
When you want a hazy, Vermont-style IPA:
Brew Gentlemen. 512 Braddock Ave., Braddock.
Why is this so oddly specific? Vermont or New England-style IPAs are all the rage in the beer world right now. If you’ve been to any local brewery in the past six months, odds are they have at least one dank, turbid, citrusy IPA on tap. But unlike, say, the cronut, these babies are no flash in the pan: they’re just too darn delicious to be a fad. From their flagship General Braddock IPA (ranked the 2nd best American IPA in the country (!) by Paste Magazine), to their, uh, mammoth Mammoth Double IPA, to whatever countless one-off prototypes and seasonal varieties might be in the works, no one does it better than Brew Gentlemen.
When you want to drink outside:
Hofbräuhaus. 2705 S. Water St., South Side.
There are plenty of local breweries with outdoor seating perfect for that lazy Saturday afternoon. At Southern Tier, a 250-person capacity beer garden will open this spring. You can enjoy a brew on the back patio at Hitchhiker or at the picnic tables next to Roundabout. But for our money, there’s no more enjoyable place for a brew with a view than at Hofbräuhaus’ expansive back patio and biergarten right next to the Monongahela River.
When you want entertainment beyond beer:
Voodoo Brewery. 205 E 9th Ave., Homestead.
OK, you’ve got your beer, now what? Sip it thoughtfully? Ruminate on the world and your place within it? Nah, let’s play some games instead. There’s a sweet Spiderman pinball machine at the East End Brewery in Larimer, and Brew Gentlemen has plenty of board games, but Voodoo Brewery in Homestead is in a class of its own. Voodoo Homestead just opened a “pinball speakeasy” complete with four machines, including Medieval Madness, which many consider the best pinball game ever made. There’s even an art gallery, Abandoned Pittsburgh, inside Voodoo that’s open evenings, Thursday through Saturday. For now, Voodoo is as close to a “Barcade” as Pittsburgh gets.
When you’re craving food as much as beer:
ShuBrew. 210 S Main St, Zelienople.
Many local craft breweries forego an in-house kitchen in favor of food trucks. This is not a bad thing—we’d rather breweries focus on the beer, anyway—but for people looking for that all-in-one dinner and craft beer experience there are more than a few options including the German fare at Penn Brewery, the newly-opened Mindful Brewing (try the pierogies), Spoonwood (wood-fired pizzas) and Full Pint’s Wild Side Pub. But the one brewery that stands head-and-shoulders above the rest for food is Zelienople’s ShuBrew. 50-50 burger blends with ground beef and ground bacon? Homemade pizzas? Ramen bowls with house-made kimchi? Yes, yes, and yes again, please. Oh, and their beer is quite delicious, too.
When you want that hot new thing:
Dancing Gnome. 925 Main St., Sharpsburg.
Newer doesn’t always equal better, except when it does: Sharpsburg’s Dancing Gnome is killing it right now. From juice-bomb IPAs (Jam) to exceptional stouts (Creases), everybody seems to agree that DG can do no wrong. Will they be able to keep up with demand? Will the quality carry over to other styles of beer? They haven’t even been open six months yet, but for now, we can only say: believe the hype.
When you want to drink with man’s best friend:
Grist House. 10 E. Sherman St., Millvale.
If it were up to us, dogs would be allowed everywhere. But it’s not, so they’re not. Hitchhiker welcomes dogs on their back patio, and Allegheny City has a “dog wall” where regulars are encouraged to post pictures of their four-legged friends. (If you find yourself in Slippery Rock, North Country Brewing Co. hosts a Friday “yappy hour” from 3 to 6 p.m.) But there’s something about Grist House that seems to attract animal lovers: Have you ever been there and not seen a dog? With their large front lot with picnic table seating, there’s no better place to share a flight with Fido.
When you want some beer to-go:
Mindful Brewing Co. 3759 Library Rd, Castle Shannon.
Virtually every brewery you visit will offer beer to-go in the form of growlers, those 64-ounce glass jugs that craft beer aficionados collect like badges on Untappd. Some breweries, like Voodoo, Grist House, East End and more sell cans on-site while others offer crowlers to go. A crowler, you say? It’s a 32-ounce can filled and sealed on-site like a growler. At Mindful, you can take home a growler or crowler of one of the 70 beers on tap or make your own six-pack from a selection of more than 1,000 different bottles. Decisions, decisions . . .
When you want to brewery hop—on foot.
As more and more breweries open in Pittsburgh, it has become easier to bounce between them without the need to drive, or even Uber. For now, no one beats Lawrenceville for density of breweries. Start at Hop Farm‘s cozy taproom at 56th and Butler before heading three blocks west to Full Pint’s Pittsburgh outpost, the Wild Side Pub. From there, Roundabout is only four blocks away at the corner of 49th and Butler. In a few months you’ll be able to visit Eleventh Hour Brewing at 3711 Charlotte, two blocks back from Butler. In the meantime, swing by Arsenal Cider House on Penn on your way to Church Brew Works at 36th and Liberty.
When you want to brewery hop—on a bike.
GAP Trail from the South Side to Homestead
What better way to cap off a strenuous bike ride than with a frosty ale or lager. Take the GAP trail from the South Side toward Homestead, stopping first to hoist a stein at Hofbräuhaus. After you’ve seen the bald eagles swing by Rock Bottom in the Waterfront for a diverse array of locally-made beer by some Pittsburgh brew scene veterans. If you’re still up for more, cross the train tracks to Homestead proper and hit up Voodoo Homestead. And later this year, you can add Trios Brewing at 8th and McClure and their outdoor beer patio to the itinerary.
When it’s time for happy hour:
Rivertowne Brewing. 337 N Shore Dr, North Side.
Only a handful of local breweries offer happy hour. Penn Brewery has one, and so does Church Brew Works and Rock Bottom, but the nod goes to Rivertowne because of simple mathematics: they have not one but two happy hours. From 4-6 p.m., it’s half off every drink in house, and from 10 p.m. to midnight, all Rivertowne drafts are discounted to $3.50. If there’s a better deal, we don’t know about it.