There’s something brewing in the East End, but it’s not beer.
Goodlander Cocktail Brewery is opening inside a former animal shelter at 6614 Hamilton Ave. in Larimer. Owner Wes Shonk plans to whip up and keg batches of carbonated drinks such as Moscow Mules and Mojitos. By Memorial Day, he’ll start selling the highball-style beverages in returnable glass growlers.
Eventually, the taproom will open for on-site consumption so customers can enjoy a classic cocktail on the rocks poured straight from the tap.
Shonk is a familiar face on Pittsburgh’s libations scene. He’s worked behind the bar at cocktail-forward spots such as Hidden Habor, Wigle’s Barrelhouse & Whiskey Garden, Butcher & The Rye and 1947 Tavern.
“I’ve always found cocktails to be more fun and exciting than food,” he says. “Where are the fun, bubbly drinks? I want to see what people are making!”
He got the idea for Goodlander after seeing the name on a painting sold at a yard sale. Shonk, an affable guy who grew up in the Laurel Highlands, liked the positive, outdoorsy vibe it gave off. Even the 3,400-square-foot space — which most recently housed Red Star Kombucha — has an alfresco feel. Sunlight pours through the large windows of the front bar area, the walls are light green and there’s an abundance of plants. Cedar, the resident pooch, is constantly chasing a tennis ball.
Shonk will eventually add tables and chairs to the area, but the business will operate on a takeout only model for a while.
Zesting, juicing, measuring, filtering, chilling and carbonating the fresh ingredients will take place in the back of the building. Shonk will make large batches in a 200-gallon tank. Each cocktail will take about 24 hours to complete with a five-barrel system using nationally known brands of gin, vodka and rum.
Kegging the cocktails keeps them fresh and bubbly for at least two weeks. Shonk will sell kegs wholesale to bars and restaurants throughout Pittsburgh, including The Bulldog Pub in Morningside and The Summit on Mt. Washington.
Customers can stop in and pick up a 32- or 16-ounce, returnable glass growler or bring their own to fill. They can also grab Goodlander swag, cocktail accouterments and bags of square ice made on a Hoshizaki ice maker. Shonk recommends consuming the elixirs while they are fresh and cold.
The growler concept is reminiscent of how the first craft breweries, such as nearby East End Brewing Company, got their products to the masses in the 1990s.
Shonk says he’s received a lot of advice and encouragement from East End owner Scott Smith and other members of the local food and beverage industry.
The closed-loop packaging system is not only sustainable, but also keeps people coming back to try new drinks, whether it’s a Gin and Tonic or an East Side, a mix of gin, cucumber, mint, lime, sugar and seltzer. Goodlander also will offer non-alcoholic beverages such as cold-brewed iced tea, sparkling lemonade and ginger beer.
“I have aspirations to make all kinds of seasonal drinks that are meant to delight and satisfy,” Shonk says while tossing the tennis ball to Cedar. “There’s a whole world of possibilities!”