Breweries have popped up all over the region, the North Hills included. But a few local breweries have unique beers, programming and/or missions that make them stand out from the rest.
Stick City Brewing Company is a family and brewer-owned and operated brewery located in the heart of Mars, which opened in 2018. According to Nick Salkeld, co-owner with his parents, Ron and Elaine, they are dedicated to nature, thus the name.
“Our name ‘Stick City’ celebrates the natural spaces we all go to to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. A place where one can recharge in nature,” he said. Their dedication to nature is matched by their dedication to producing their own style of beer.
“We are different in the sense that we do not follow hype or fashionable trends with our beer. We focus heavily on process and detailed care for every style we look to produce,” Salkeld explained. “We aim to highlight aroma, flavor, and overall drinking experience.”
Salkeld said that their vision as a company is to inspire people to not only connect with nature, but to protect it for future generations. “We focus on three main aspects for our mission: to act as curators of both local and global raw materials to showcase terroir in beer; to generate inclusive communal pride through the enjoyment of beer; and to use business as a means to protect wild and natural areas and waterways,” he said.
As part of this mission and dedication, Stick City participates in the 1% for the Planet movement. “With this, we donate volunteer time and at least 1 percent of our annual sales to environmental nonprofits that focus on protecting and increasing access to wild areas and waterways,” Salkeld said.
Stick City recently partnered with the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy, an organization dedicated to the creation and preservation of trails in western Pennsylvania, to raise money with a special beer. They donated 20 percent of the proceeds from RCTC 25, a beer created to celebrate the organization’s iconic event, the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, to the organization.
“I’m not sure of any other brewery that captures these aspects so clearly—it’s truly why we are in business,” Salkeld said.
Stick City also features local food trucks every day that they are open, as well as sponsors pop-up boutiques, crafters, artists, and florists on occasion.
“Every other Thursday we hold a bluegrass jam session; anyone with a stringed instrument of any skill level is welcome to join. It is truly unique to witness music this way where the artists are trying new things and effectively playing for themselves,” said Salkeld.
Visit www.stickcitybeer.com to find the schedule for upcoming food trucks and events.
Both coffee and craft brew lovers will find something at Trace Brewing, located in Bloomfield. “We treat beer making and coffee making the same—they are both a unique craft that takes special care to make,” said co-founder Dave Kushner. “All of our bartenders are also trained baristas.”
Trace first opened in 2020 in the midst of COVID, and offered beer-to-go. In March of 2021, they were able to begin welcoming guests to their Bloomfield location, a unique setting in its own right.
“The space is its own experience. We have the fireplace room, an outdoor space, and the Cool Ship room that features a table made out of the tank where were brew our Belgian-style beer, which is open to the public,” said Kushner. “We are one of the few places in the country that does that.”
The coffee arm of Trace is under the direction of Joe Burns, who also owns a coffee bean roasting company, Ghost Beans. Those ingredients are used to make their coffee offerings. Trace also uses locally roasted coffee bean Red Hawk.
Trace opens at 8 a.m. seven days a week for the coffee crowd. “Having a brewery/coffee shop is very unusual for Pittsburgh. In other cities, it is quite popular, but as far as we know, we are the only ones in our region,” Kushner said.
As far as their craft beer offerings, Kushner said they have something for everyone, and it’s not just a cliché. In addition to what one might expect like Saison, stout and IPA selections, they have Belgian-style sour beer which is made in the above-mentioned Cool Ship room. Only a couple of breweries in Pittsburgh make this type of beer, which is fermented with wild yeast.
Another unique aspect of Trace is their vocational program, a training program dedicated to creating opportunities for those who may face challenges getting into the field. “Let’s face it, the brewing industry is mostly white males. We want to open the door for populations that are marginalized and underrepresented in our industry,” Kushner said.
The six-month long paid internships were created for those who have no previous education or experience in brewing with the intent that they are ready to be hired upon completion of the program. Trace has already graduated three interns, and all have found immediate employment. “It is our effort to diversify brewing and create opportunities,” he said.
In addition to their own brews, Trace offers hard seltzer, local hard cider, wine, nonalcoholic beverages, and features food trucks. They also feature many events including live music, game night, drag shows and more. “We welcome everyone and are family friendly. This is such a great, unique space that we want to make sure everyone has a great time here,” Kushner said.
Visit www.tracebloomfield.com for more information.
The Dented Keg Brewing Company, Mars/Seven Fields, opened in late 2019. Owned by brothers Travis, Derek, and Matt McCullough, along with friend Corey Gibbons, they deem themselves a “family-and-friend-owned-and-operated brewery.”
The Dented Keg features a unique SmartBrew® system of brewing that saves time and labor, but doesn’t affect the quality of the product, according to Travis McCullough. “SmartBrew® takes some of the labor-intensive steps and condenses them. The technology allows a consistent product that saves time,” he explained.
SmartBrew®, which was invented by a brew master, allows each brewery to create their own style of beers using the advanced technology system. McCullough said that Dented Keg also uses a smaller full mash system for small batch beers and to develop recipes.
Dented Keg Brewing Company offers a wide variety of beer selections ranging from a double IPA to orange agave lager to Adams Family Stout, and hard ciders along with a full menu. Cider flavors vary according to season but include blueberry yuzu and strawberry rhubarb flavors in the summer and apple in the fall.
“We want folks to come in for a great brewery experience with good food,” McCullough said. The brewery offers special pairings with food specials and often partners with Freedom Farms for off-site events.
McCullough said they have created a “community hub atmosphere” and offer game nights, dart leagues and live music Thursdays and Saturdays. The Dented Keg will soon open a second location in Clearfield in the fall.
For beer, cider and food offerings plus events, visit www.dentedkeg.com.