The century-old building at 918 Merchant St. in Ambridge once housed an automobile dealership and, most recently, a travel agency. Now it’s a destination for beer lovers.

In March, Fermata Brewing Company opened in the 4,500-square foot space. Since then, co-owners Jared Tuk, Chris Bendick, Alan Gore and Rob Smoker have been churning out good brews and good vibes.

The sounds of laughing customers, clinking pint glasses and a killer stereo system fill the 10-barrel taproom, which is somehow cozy despite its size. After two years of pandemic silence, it’s music to the ears of Fermata’s owners, who are longtime friends and rock ‘n roll enthusiasts.

In musical terms, a fermata is a mark over a note or rest that denotes a hold of unspecified length. So, sip a Jam Session! IPA, grab grub from a food truck partner and hang out as long as you want. Fermata is open 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

The facility boasts a 10-barrel brewing system that cranks out a variety of beer styles. Photo courtesy of Fermata Brewing Company.

Although a canning line is coming soon, this isn’t a grab-and-go joint. Visitors can belly up to the bar, plunk down in a bright orange booth or stand along the rail overlooking the fermenting tanks, which are labeled Lerxst, Pratt and Dirk, nicknames of Rush band members.

Non-beer drinkers will find cider, wine and craft cocktails on tap, too.

In addition to enjoying live music several days a week, guests can also kick back in the retro listening lounge that looks like ‘70s-era rec room.

Relax with a pint and some vinyl records in Fermata’s retro-inspired Listening Lounge. Photo courtesy of Fermata Brewing Company.
Relax with a pint and some vinyl records in Fermata’s retro-inspired Listening Lounge. Photo courtesy of Fermata Brewing Company.

On Saturday, April 23, from noon to 6 p.m., celebrate Record Store Day by spinning tunes on the vintage turntable while drinking a Dr. Peters’ Bitter.

The 3.5-percent ABV English Bitter is the first offering in Fermata’s Community Tap Program. Each month, the brewery will donate a portion of the proceeds from a particular beer to a local charity. Throughout April, pints of Dr. Peters’ Bitter will support Communicycle, an organization that repairs and distributes thousands of bikes throughout Beaver County and beyond.

Being a good neighbor is important to the owners, who want to be a part of Ambridge’s resurgence. They even donate spent grain to area cattle farmers.

There are 16 beverages on draft, including a Community Tap that benefits a different local charity each month. Photo courtesy of Fermata Brewing Company.

Fermata is situated on the opposite side of town from Altered Genius Brewing Company, which opened in May 2020 at 411 Merchant St. The town’s business district, which is in the midst of a streetscape upgrade, was recently used as a filming location for the movie “A Man Called Otto” starring Tom Hanks.

The historic structure Fermata occupies also houses Merchant Coffee Co. The businesses collaborated on Cold Brew Collusion, an American wheat beer made with Azacca and Huell Melon hops and the house coffee blend. In September, the two entities plan to hold an Oktoberfest celebration in their parking lot.

In the meantime, the Fermata crew will make the rounds at various beer festivals. Find them at Logger Jam: A Celebration of Local Lagers on April 30 at Allegheny City Brewing on the North Side, Beers of the Burgh on June 11 at the Carrie Blast Furnaces in Rankin and Barrel & Flow Fest Aug. 12-14 in the Strip District.

After a month of operation, the owners are glad they’re striking a chord with crowds.

“We’ve had long lines, but no one gets frustrated or uncomfortable,” Gore says. “It’s just good vibes and that’s what this is all about.”

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.