So three home brewers walk into a zoo…
It might sound like the beginning of a joke—albeit an awful one—but Jamie Rice, Justin Waters and Kyle Branigan aren’t kidding around. The founders of Milkman Brewing, Pittsburgh’s newest craft brewery, might be new to the business, but they’re hardly strangers to the scene.
The three first met during a craft brewers’ event at the Pittsburgh Zoo back in 2010 when they were introduced to each other by a mutual friend.
“We were just pouring some stuff together and we really liked each others’ beers,” Rice says. “Kyle’s always been sort of a mad scientist. Justin was making some pretty good beers, and I’d basically done one beer over and over again.”
They shared the dream of opening a brewery, and for four years, they worked on recipes, took brews to festivals and looked for the right space. The name arrived after they considered an old dairy facility in New Kensington. Though they didn’t get the space, the name stuck and they have since located to 2517 Penn Avenue in the Strip.
Milkman’s initial offerings include Single Hop Nugget Pale Ale—a beer which, as the name suggests, features only one variety of nugget hops. While many brewers opt to brew pale ales with different blends of hops to create varying flavor profiles, the Milkmen are going in the other direction, exploring the flavors and characteristics of individual strains of hops.
American craft beer culture is rife with complex hopping, sometimes to the point of excess. While it delights the beer drinkers who self-identify as hopheads, beer novices and many traditionalists abhor the overhopping that’s become popular, especially among west coast breweries.
By taking on hops one at a time and retaining a static malt profile, the Milkmen allow beer drinkers to experience hops in a much more subdued way. Instead of overpowering the drinker with a particular hop, the Single Hop Nugget profiles the hop in the aroma and front-end notes of the beer before finishing crisp and refreshing without any bitterness.
They’ll release their next single-hopped beer, a summit-hopped pale ale, in August.
“We want to do something that people haven’t touched yet,” Rice says referring to Milkman’s ongoing single-hop project. “Maybe we’ll eventually have some sort of horizontal tasting event where we’ll pour nothing but single-hop beer.”
Another among its popular initial offerings is the thoroughly Pittsburgh Dahntahn Brahn ale.
“We really wanted to do an ale inspired by Pittsburgh history,” Rice says. “We were thinking about the steel mills and all the smoke back in the day. We went with a cherry wood-smoked malt.”
The resulting brown ale is rich with a slight sweetness and finishes off with a hint of smoke on the back end—subtle enough suggest bacon, or chocolate mole without the bite.
Milkman’s planned releases include a double IPA based on Rice’s lone home brewing recipe, which will spend time with some local honey. Come fall, Milkman will release a peppermint porter, which Rice says has been in the works for quite some time. Next, though, keep an eye out for the peppercorn rye, featuring black, white and green peppercorns.
“It’s balanced,” Rice says, “and that’s really what we go for. We don’t want to overwhelm. No three-sips-and-done. We want to make sure that our stuff is enjoyable while still being creative.”
Milkman holds growler hours every Friday from 4 to 8 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.