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Steelers, Pirates, Penguins … and fresh beer for everyone

Where Steelers, Pirates and Penguins vie for the favour of sport fans, conviviality is the clear winner. That, at least, is my impression after a few hours in Pittsburgh – not least, perhaps, because during this time I hardly ever emerged from the gigantic shadows of the two huge sport stadiums.

This is not surprising because Pittsburgh’s North Shore satisfies anyone’s basic needs, in the shape of American football, baseball, a concert hall and various taverns and bars. And there, precisely mid-way between the two stadiums, a new gem has sparkled since the beginning of 2017: the brewpub of the Southern Tier Brewing Company.

Originally, the Southern Tier Brewing Company comes from Lakewood, New York – this is where the main brewery is still located. When it was founded back in 2002, the focus was on regional sales of small output quantities. Nowadays, “small” would be a highly inaccurate adjective: meanwhile the STBC is selling more than 100,000 barrels a year in over 30 states of the USA. To enable this demand to be met, the brewery was upsized and modernised in 2012 – since March, the beers have been brewed in a 110 barrel brewhouse from Steinecker.

During recent years, Pittsburgh’s beer-drinkers have repeatedly shown that they rather like Southern Tier’s creations – that’s another reason why the location of the first “satellite brewpub” was a good idea. “The brewpub is a brewery and at the same time a restaurant as well,” explains David Harries, the brewmaster in Pittsburgh. “For us, it’s a way to reach some of our guests and fans who can’t get to our main brewery in Lakewood. But when they come to Pittsburgh for a baseball or a football game or for a concert, then we have the opportunity to interact with them – and to serve them a beer or a sandwich. And if they like the taste, perhaps next time back home they’ll drink a Southern Tier beer in their local pub.”


In Pittsburgh, too, Southern Tier has opted for the Krones technology it’s already familiar with: the heart of the tavern, ever since it was opened at the beginning of 2017, has been a MicroCube with a brew size of eight barrels. At present, four different beers are being brewed directly in the brewpub, and served only there, together with the beers from the brewery in Lakewood. Thanks to its compact dimensions, the MicroCube, together with its associated fermentation tanks, is fully visible inside the premises – so the guests can see where their beer is coming from. And at least the four types that are currently being brewed in the MicroCube really arrive in the glass directly – since it’s only the beer from Lakewood that’s filled in cans, bottles or barrels. Besides the craft-friendly dimensions, the MicroCube has another advantage that David Harries particularly appreciates: “Because the brew size is so small in comparison to our production brewery, we’re able to have more fun here and make more beers that are maybe not a sure thing. So before we brew 110 barrels, we can make eight and get some feedback.” This delight in experimentation is facilitated by the MicroCube, not least because it supports the brewer with a software package only in some individual steps – during the remaining, manual process, brewing is still a truly craft occupation.

Whether the mixture of a convivial atmosphere, good food and rather special beers is proving a hit is not a question I need to ask, since even during the week the brewpub is full to bursting; many of the guests are there not for the first (nor presumptively the last) time. And when I take a look inside, I can well understand why charming Stevie from the staff enthusiastically relates how multifaceted the clientele is: from families with kids, beer aficionados to passionate sport fans, everyone really finds a place here – provided they turn up early enough.

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