Christian Simmons has a lot on his plate or, you could say, his glass.
The founder and president of Pennsylvania Libations, a Strip District store that sells and distributes beer, wine and spirits produced in the Commonwealth, is bringing another boozy business to the neighborhood: Bonafide Beer Co. Travis Tuttle, head brewer at Butler Brew Works, is co-owner.
Located in the former Chicken Latino space near the corner of 21st Street and Penn Avenue (across from Pamela’s Diner), it’s expected to open in early-November. The popular Peruvian restaurant has moved to Beechview.
“I love making beer. I love selling beer. I love the people in the craft beer industry,” says Simmons, who until recently was part owner of Four Seasons Brewery Co. in Latrobe.
The 1,600-square-foot taproom will feature a lounge-style atmosphere, with bisected, cast iron, clawfoot bathtubs serving as couches. Tuttle will operate a two-barrel system to start. He will eventually do contract brewing at larger facilities, making big batches of quaffable lagers and IPAs that can be canned and sold in mixed 12-packs.
The idea, Simmons says, is to offer approachable, affordably priced craft suds that will appeal to fans of macro-brews.
Specialty cocktails will also be on the menu. The owners might offer a weekend brunch featuring sourdough pancakes made with brewer’s yeast.
While work on Bonafide Beer Co. is underway, Simmons is getting ready to open yet another venture: 1700 Penn, a full-service bar, bottle shop and Helltown Brewing taproom.
When the 6,000-foot-space opens next month at 1700 Penn Ave., customers will be able to grab to-go bottles and cans from the state’s top wineries, cideries and meaderies — and sip cocktails and enjoy Helltown and Rivertowne pints. Local artists are painting murals on the inside and outside of the building.
There is a large outdoor space at 1700 Penn currently open on weekends, with Con Alma, a restaurant and jazz bar in Shadyside, providing live music and items from their new food truck. Hours of operation are Friday 3 to 9 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Once (if) football season starts, customers can watch the Steelers play on a large, inflatable screen.
Simmons says PA Libations staff members, who are educated on every product in the store, will be able to float between 1700 Penn and Bonafide Beer Co.
“It gives my current employees an opportunity to grow and see if they want to do something else within the company,” he says.