Local craft brewery marks opening
Though patrons have been enjoying Noble Stein Brewing Co.’s crafty selections since October, on Saturday the owners celebrated their foray into the world of brewing with a ribbon-cutting.
So far, it’s been a good ride, said Alex Varner and Zachary Morrow, while speaking at the taproom along Wayne Avenue in White Township just before they opened for business on Friday.
They, along with Max Varner and Ben Harley, worked for a year and a half to make their vision come true.
Of course, the four started as many do: in a garage with home-brewing kits, experimenting for years to create the flavors and styles they enjoy from the pros.
Now they are the pros.
They began construction on the space at 1170 Wayne Ave. in August 2015, and Varner and Morrow said the four did the majority of the work themselves. After extensive research, a 45-hour round trip to Maryland to acquire some of the equipment and long nights working on drywall, trenches, HVAC and the myriad other things required to get a brewery going, they have a comfortable space for pouring beers for thirsty guests.
“The taproom has been exceeding our expectations on a consistent basis,” Morrow said.
Their distribution game is also growing, with the farthest account at Pig Iron Public House in Cranberry Township, Allegheny County.
“We’ve developed what I would like to consider a great set of bar accounts that represent our brand well and really are advocates for craft beer,” Morrow said.
He also said they’ve got plans for some limited bottle releases.
“That will be down the line. We’re excited to do those types of special events.”
A part of that is a recent acquisition of barrels, in which beer can be aged to bring out different flavor profiles.
There aren’t currently any plans to expand the taproom itself or open another location, but there are plans to increase beer production to go along with increasing Noble Stein’s regional footprint.
“The most important thing for us, for all four of us, is we want to build a place that gives us the opportunity to share our passion with people and provide an opportunity for us to provide for our families without kind of going off the deep end,” Varner said. “Because we don’t ever want to lose touch with the intimate nature that you have within the taproom. We’re four hometown guys, right? So every single weekend we get people coming in and we know 98 percent of them. And it’s just so cool to sit down and have a beer with your ninth-grade English teacher.”
The ribbon-cutting on Saturday also kicked off their Expedition Series, which they hope will introduce people to underrepresented and unfamiliar beer styles. This month, it’s their extra special bitter, Mallard’s Landing.
Morrow said some people might be turned off initially by the idea of the ESB since it’s an English-style pale ale.
But he said it’s a far more balanced flavor profile than some of the pale ales popular in the U.S. that hit the palette hard with intense hop flavor.
Next month, Noble Stein will be taking people back in time a bit with a smoked maple porter.
Varner said burning wood used to be the only means for brewers to get the heat required, and that beers had a smoky flavor.
The maple syrup will come from Andy’s Own Maple Syrup in Rayne Township. Morrow said he hopes to partner further with the maple syrup company, under the direction of Andy Kinter, and bring them into the taproom and perhaps serve pancakes and waffles along with the beer release.
As for where they see themselves within the national beer culture, Morrow and Varner said education is a crucial part of getting people’s attention and getting them to try different things.
Morrow said it’s important to make the beers accessible to people who are unfamiliar with craft beer.
“It’s not only from a production perspective, but it’s also a conversational thing,” Morrow said. “It’s vital to be communicating the elements that make this product something that you can enjoy.”
The number of craft breweries jumped in the early 1990s, but was then stagnant for years, according to the American Brewers Association. Then, in the mid-2000s the number exploded. In 2015, there were an estimated 4,200 craft breweries compared to about 1,500 in 2000.
PHOTO: Patrons enjoyed drinks Saturday afternoon as part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Noble Stein Brewing Co. along Wayne venue in White Township. (Kevin G. Stiffler/Gazette)