We're tapping a keg of BFM Abbaye de St. Bon-Chien to Celebrate the announcement of Tannebaum!


On this dreary afternoon, we're excited to announce a very special beer event that we will be hosting throughout this holiday season.  It's our pleasure to bring you "Tannenbaum: a Celebration of Old World Strong Ales," an event that will run from November 21 through December 31.  During that period of time, we'll be dedicating five or six of our 14 taps to rare (and delicious) European strong ales from Belgium, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, France, and Italy, and decking out our tavern to resemble a European winter wonderland.  

After careful experimentation with some of the world's best scientists, we've concluded that the best way to cope with the pressures of gift lists, travel planning, actual travel, family functions, work-holiday-parties, rampant consumerism, and ugly sweater competitions is to drink a beer north of 8.0% alcohol by volume.  We'd like to share the results of our research with you, fair consumer.

Let's get down to brass tacks.  We're REALLY excited to announce this concept -- we're going to be be pouring some of the best beers in the world for those six weeks -- and we want you to start revving your engines too.  To help you build that same excitement (and because we have a few kegs that are burning holes in our pockets), we're going to tap a really special keg that is in the spirit of our event every Friday, starting TONIGHT.

So, without further ado, I bring you the nectar of the gods, a beer named after a canonized cat, and Switzerland's contribution to the world that surpasses its watches, knives, and bank accounts.  I bring you 2015 Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien from the Swiss brewery Brasserie des Franches Montagne.

Let's first talk about the brewery.  Brasserie des Franches Montagne, or BFM for short, is located in Northwest Switzerland in the mountains on its French border.  It was opened by its master brewer Jérôme Rebetez in 1997 with the stated goal "to create beers that are comparable to better wines."  He has succeeded in that regard, and few of his beers are a better example of that success than Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien.

Saint Bon-Chien is a strong sour ale, fermented with wine yeast, then placed into eight different wine, grappa, and whiskey casks for a minimum of 12 months, not just to pick up some of the character of the barrels, but also to begin secondary fermentation with new cultures.  The results from each cask are carefully blended for an incredibly rounded product that treads the line between port, beer, and wine to make a unique strong ale that registers at a (very sneaky) 11% abv.  What's more? The beer was named after the brewery cat, who the brewery claims to have canonized after its death, and, look, who are we to argue.  Why was the cat named "Good Dog," in French?  I don't know. You get the sense that these guys have to sample a lot of the product in the blending process.

Regardless, this is a special beer.  A VERY special beer.  And you should probably come have one tonight if you give a shit about all things holy (including canonized cats named after dogs).

See you at the Independent!



This Weekend at the Independent: The Manifesto


This is a long email, a summary of German-beer induced reflection regarding our goals and our identity.

In sum, we've decided that the next step for the Independent is to begin serving a small selection of the best available international and national beer in both kegs and bottles that will compliment our present "all-local" tap list.  This will be a minor deviation from our "exclusively local" beer theme, and many of you may not notice or may not care. But we've been at this for almost four years now, and, during that time, carrying an exclusively-local tap list has been a major part of our identity, so we believe that a change from that format requires an explanation to those of you that do care.  Moreover, I'm self-important and long winded. 

So, without further ado, I bring you This Week at the Independent: the Reflections and Manifesto Edition.  You may want to brew a cup of coffee, or, better yet, just quit reading.

For those of you who didn't have a chance to pop into the bar a few weeks ago, we mixed things up at the Independent. In honor of Oktoberfest, we served (for the first time in our history) international beer, specifically a selection of ten beers from Germany that we thought displayed the quality and breadth of German-made beer.

Last weekend we capped that experiment, which we extended due to its popularity, and we can't overstate how much we enjoyed serving those beers and how much our guests enjoyed drinking them. The feel in the tavern was special over the two weeks that the German beers lasted.  There was a sense of history and heritage in the beers that drove discussion and education. There was a childlike joy drinking beer out of our .5L German steins.  But, most of all, there was an abundance of what the Germans call "gemütlichkeit," the feeling of conviviality, warmth, coziness,and social belonging that one feels in the right place, with the right people, and over the right beer.  

For those of us behind the bar or table side, one of the highlights of the event was our ability to share these beers with our local brewers, who perhaps took the most joy at the opportunity to take a deep dive into styles of beer that aren't particularly common and are not always as well executed in the United States (that's not a slight to American brewers -- as my Dad pointed out over an Andech's Doppelbock, the Germans had a 500 year head start).  

In short, Oktoberfest caused us to reflect more thoroughly on an existential question that had been lingering in the back of our minds for some time.  What is the next step for a bar that was built to promote and help build our local beer scene now that scene is clearly thriving?

When we opened nearly four years ago, we were the only bar in Pittsburgh selling exclusively local beer.  There were only five Western PA breweries from which we could reliably source beer.  There were another two or three from which we could occasionally get beer, and, on the horizon, there were another three opening soon.  We figured if we could hold on for a few months, we might just be able to make this all-local-tap-list thing work, and that would be for the benefit of our entire beer community.

Looking back now, that landscape is nearly unrecognizable.  The map of Western Pennsylvania is decorated by local breweries, with more opening every month.  Bars all over Pittsburgh have either adopted an all-local or mostly-local tap list.  The breweries with whom we first worked have gotten bigger and better, adding more fermenters and brewing and selling more (and better) beer.  We no longer have to keep up with the new breweries in town (in 2014, I put untold miles on my car...untold...except to the IRS); new breweries come to us now on a daily basis.  And beer, overall, has improved locally in ways that could flood my eyes with the tears of a proud parent (or at least a bad drunk).  

This altered landscape, on some level, would make it easy for us to have our George W. Bush aircraft carrier, "mission accomplished" moment.  We could walk around the bar in our flight suit sharing chuckles with customers, resting on our laurels, and say "see, we told you so...this local beer scene blew up like a NUCULAR bomb."

But that moment would be as empty as declaring victory in Iraq in 2003.  

Up against the best German beers, American beer still has a lot of work to do.  A large range of styles remain under-represented or poorly executed.  American craft brewers need to pride themselves more on consistency and formal training as German brewers do.  Pittsburgh is no outlier in this regard.

And despite our rapid growth, our city still remains in a comparative blindspot nationally and internationally.  We can and should do more to promote beer tourism in this city, a goal around which the entire city should coalesce for our communal financial interest.  If we want to be mentioned among the ranks of Asheville, Vermont, Denver, Portland, Chicago, or New York City, we have to be better organized, we have to make better beer, and we have to have a broader and deeper national and international reach. 

Right now, we have major importers and distributors that stay outside of the Pittsburgh market based on historically bad business relationships.  We have others that are wary of Pittsburgh, believing it to be too much of a homer market to move small, internationally renowned brands that every other market routinely receives.  

You may read that last paragraph, and you may say, "Who cares!  Who Needs 'em.  We'll drink our own beer!  Isn't that the point that you've been preaching, Pete?"

Well, yes.  It is.  But I think that point needs to change ever so slightly for two reasons.  For one, it's unfair to you the consumer.  Why is it that those of you who are fans of Belgian beer don't get to enjoy Cantillon's Zwanze day, the day upon which the beer world unites together at the same time to release an annual bottling from Brussel's Cantillon brewery -- some of the best beer in the world.  It's a day celebrated in bars in 18 countries and is enjoyed by Americans who live in 24 cities, including ... (hold on, this may sting) ... Buffalo.

Second, it's unfair to the local brewers.  They need places from which to draw nationwide and world-wide inspiration.  They need places for their customers to try the top-of-the-class products against which they want to be measured.  And, it's unfair for us to force Piper's Pub to do all of the heavy lifting on its own in that regard.  

All of this reflection lead us to ask and answer the following question:

Q:  What is the next logical step for the Independent Brewing Company, who's raison d'être is to provide only the best local beer to its customers and to provide unwavering support to our local brewing community.

A:  To serve a small, but well-curated list of the best national and international beers to which we would like to see the best beer in this city compared.

How are we going to do this without compromising our local-first identity?  We're going to take a three pronged approach:

1.  We are going to carry the occasional non-local keg.  The rules for this keg will be: (a) a style that we think is underserved locally; (b) a style of beer that transports well (something without a delicate hop profile and something that we know is packaged in a world class facility that will package the beer with a minimum of dissolved oxygen); (c) styles that say something about the region from which they originate, i.e. beers with a sense of geographical history or that have regional terroir (e.g. Kolsch from Cologne, farmhouse beers from Belgium or elsewhere, pilsners using saaz hops grown in the Czech Republic); (d) beers from responsible importers and distributors that we trust to care for the beer in transit.

2.  We are going to expand our bottle list to put together something in the range of 10-15 beers that are the best available bottle conditioned beers available that we can legally obtain in Pennsylvania at any moment.  These beers will likely be barrel aged or in the farmhouse family.  We began this process yesterday by adding 2016 Orval and Jolly Pumpkin "Rojzilla" to our bottle list.  Orval is a Trappist Ale that is a barnyardy saison with a crisp bitter finish.  It is the beer that kept this style alive (or brought it back, depending on how you look at it).  Rojzilla is a big cherry-tasting farmhouse ale from Jolly Pumpkin, a Michigan brewery that is highly acclaimed, and that recently became available in Western Pennsylvania.  It is sour, barnyardy, and cherry-tasting, but those flavor profiles are restrained and easy on the palate.  

3.  We are going to continue to do thematic tap focuses on a quarterly basis.  Next up, for instance, will be a European Holiday-season focus, with a sub focus on Belgian beer and strong ales generally.  That focus will begin the week of Thanksgiving.

We have spent three and half years being the biggest champions for local beer in Pittsburgh.  We remain the biggest champions of local beer in Pittsburgh.  And it is only because of this reason that we believe that these are the right changes to make.  We will remain a bar that provides a tap list of the best locally made beers from the best local breweries.  You can trust that we will remain that way. Where we deviate from that principle, we promise that it will only be where it is appropriate for the beer style, when we trust the distributor to take care of the beer between the brewery and us, and where we think that we can improve the local beer culture by sharing a well-executed example of a style.

Now that my manifesto is complete, I'll apologize to those of you that are still reading this email.  And I'll close by telling you that whether you are a brewer or a customer, we appreciate your support.  We want to continue to earn your support, and we will continue to work tirelessly to bring you the best beer experience that we can provide.  



"Oktoberfest" at the Independent

As American craft beer continues its march to fulfill its manifest destiny of acquiring the entire world's hop supply for production of One Last IPA to Rule Them All*, we here at the Independent could use a short break from the hops, and a little bit of time to enjoy beers that focus on malt, clean flavors, and precision engineering.  In short, after a hoppy summer draft list, we need some German beers (you know, the type actually brewed in Germany) in our life.  As such, we bring you the first annual Independent "Oktoberfest" starting next Tuesday, September 19 and running through Saturday, September 30th (or whenever we run out of beer).  

Oktoberfest isn't really a German thing; it's a Bavarian thing that has become somewhat of a worldwide thing.  A number of local breweries and restaurants do Bavarian-styled Oktoberfests well, complete with oompah bands, lederhosen, and beer tents.  We love those celebrations, and you'll likely see us at many of them (wearing lederhosen commando of course).  But that's not what we're going for at the IBC.  In fact, other than the name, we're going to drop most of the German stereotypes and focus on the beer and the food.

That means taking a brief departure from our "all-local beer" concept, and importing to Pittsburgh (in several cases for the first time ever) the best eight German beers that we could get our hands on.  To wit:

  • 1809 Berliner: a tough-to-find, traditional, dual-culture Berliner weisse brewed by legendary Bavarian brewmeister Dr. Fritz Breim at Weihenstephaner brewery

  • Einbecker Mai-Ur-Bock: a traditional Maibock brewed in the original home of bock beer

  • Uerige Doppelsticke: a stronger take on the classic Dusseldorf altbier

  • Schlenkerla Märzen: a big, bad smoked märzen from Bamburg that transports you immediately to a campfire on a crisp autumn evening

  • Weihenstephaner Krystalweiss: very similar to Weihenstephaner's acclaimed Hefeweizen, but filtered for startling clarity

  • Schneider Weisse: a unique, amber-hued hefeweizen that lends caramel from its middle malts to add to the traditional clove and banana tastes and aromas from the yeast. (We purchased this one at the special request of Roundabout owner/brewer Steve Sloan, who brews a beautiful take on this beer called "Ferdl Weiss").

  • Ayinger Oktoberfest: a perfectly-executed traditional Märzen
  • Reissdorf Kölsch: the gold standard of Kölsch, the cold-fermented ale that defines a night out in Cologne

Far from being a tap list of all Munich lagers, this list features a diverse array of beer, featuring a diverse array of styles brewed in geographically disparate parts of Germany.

Fan of hops and local beer?** Fear not, friends. We're going to devote the rest of our taps to hop-forward local offerings, so you won't be left out in the metaphorical cold of a Bavarian Höhle packed with Eisblöcke cut out of the Isar-Fluss in mid-März!***

On the food side, our kitchen team has been working on a fall menu that will include some updated German classics with an eye towards being a bit more contemporary than the caricature of Oktoberfest (e.g. currywurst and seitan currywurst, pork schnitzel sandwiches with apple-bacon chutney, shaved brussels sprouts and red-cabbage salad). And, Max has been working to overhaul the wine list to bring you some great (and diverse) examples of German Riesling and pinot noir.

Alright folks, that's all for now. In the meantime, we're going to be working hard this week and weekend to draw down our inventory to make room for these kegs of ... um ... "bier." Check out our Instagram (@independentpgh) for specials and remember to hit our happy hour ($2 off all draft beers until 6 p.m. every day) to help out the cause.

See you at the Independent,

Pete K.

Tap List

* It'll be canned, with a white label with a gold ring that simply says "Ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul."  $50/four pack.  Limit two per customer.  Bring a lawn chair, because line space is ... [wait for it] ... preeeeccccciouussss

**  Oh that's great!  We should talk!

***  Richtig!?!?

This Weekend at the Independent: New Summer Hours



The formal arrival of summer is next week, but this heat spell would suggest that it has arrived a bit early to the party.*  At the Independent, we're ready to open the doors a bit early for it this weekend as we roll out new (and simplified) happy hours and kitchen hours to make your summer drinking schedule easy to remember.


MON-WED:  5-11

THURS: 5-12

FRI-SAT: 4-12

SUN: 4-9



The net effect is not just to simplify our hours, but to expand our kitchen hours and happy hours, and we think you'll like that.

And what better time to try on those new kitchen hours and happy hours than this Saturday, for the return of the ...

Squirrel Hill Night Market!

The Squirrel Hill Night Market returns this Saturday at 6 p.m.  As your attorneys, we advise you to join us at The Independent at 4 p.m., before the market starts, to get some beers and brats in you before you take to the streets.  Sam is going to be grilling bratwurst for some sausage sammies all night, and we'll be pouring sweet, succulent beer at a $2 per glass discount from 4 to 6, consistent with our new happy hour schedule.

And, finally, that brings me to why you should probably visit Squirrel Hill this weekend:

Pittsburgh Magazine Best of Pittsburgh Reader's Poll:  Squirrel Hill Cleans Up

The Pittsburgh Magazine Best of Pittsburgh Reader's Poll results were released last night and the results were full of awesome Squirrel Hill establishments, including ours.

We were proud to be named the "Best Beer List," and our sister bar and next door neighbor, Hidden Harbor, won [takes deep breath]:  Best Bar, Best Cocktails, Best After Dinner Drinks, and Best Bartender (Head Bartender Max Stein to be specific).  

The rest of our neighborhood did great too!  Congrats to Gluuteny Bakery (Best Gluten-Free Snacks), Dobra Tea (Best Tea Shop), Orr's Jewelers (Best Jewelry Store), Pamela's Diner (Best Breakfast), S.W. Randall (Best Toy Store), and, of course, my second home, Jerry's Records (Best Record Store).

It's a damn fine time to visit (or get out in) Squirrel Hill, folks.  And we hope you'll join us this weekend.

See you at the Independent,


Current Beer List

*  Waiting outside the door; impatiently looking at its watch.

This Weekend in Pittsburgh: the Paris of the United States


This isn't an email about climate change or politics.  It's an email about Pittsburgh.  

When President Trump justified pulling our country out of the Paris climate agreement by invoking Pittsburgh, it was an antiquated and derogatory comment on our fair city's present based on unfair notions of its past and untrue assumptions regarding its future.  

President Trump used Pittsburgh as a symbol of past industrial glory with bleak future prospects in stark juxtaposition to Paris, an undisputed cultural capital of the world. We couldn't help feel the sting as a part (and admittedly a small part) of the cultural fabric of this city.

We are realistic about our contributions to the cultural infrastructure of Pittsburgh.  Our tiny bars pale in comparison to the incredible institutions of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Carnegie Museum of Art, the Warhol Museum, the Mattress Factory, and our educational institutions, all of which make global contributions to the cultural universe that are worthy of comparison to similar institutions in Paris (not in contrast to them).  But we still feel like we're doing something; and part of the reason that we did it in the first place was that we wanted to be part of the great things that are happening here with food and drinks.

When I moved back to Pittsburgh in 2005, I found a city that was miles ahead of where it was when I left for college in 2000.  Now, when I look back to 2005, it seems like a different century.  The store fronts that were largely vacant throughout Lawrenceville are full of small boutiques, restaurants, and bars now.  The ghost town that was downtown after 5 p.m. on Friday is now a bustling city center every night of the week.  There's a brewery on practically every corner and a new hip restaurant concept opening every week; and while our overly humble cocktail director will always be too modest to admit it, Squirrel Hill has a tiki bar making drinks that are some of the best in the country.  Our humble little bars employ young people who came here from places like Boston (gasp!) and New York (hush now!) and they're doing cool stuff like working on novels, working on movies, and starting small businesses of their own, right here in Pittsburgh -- a place that young people shunned for a generation.

We love this city; we are building our futures here; we're pursuing our dreams here; we're having fun here.  Together, we comprise a bustling little city on the rise.

And you know what else?  We're getting sick of explaining it to our friends and family who live elsewhere, and come to visit and say, "whoa...this is NOT what I expected."  And you know what's better yet?  We are finally getting to the point where we don't have to anymore, although President Trump apparently didn't get that memo (or more likely failed to read it).

So, Mr. President, next time you want to invoke a city to support a decision that a majority of people in every single state oppose, pick somewhere a little less tenacious and a little less hip than Pittsburgh.

See you OUT tonight.  Come to our bars or go somewhere.  Get a drink; get something great to eat; enjoy our nightlife; enjoy our restaurants and bars; keep this city and its neighborhoods looking and feeling more and more like Paris.


This Weekend of January 6th at the Independent


You've worked hard, and we're impressed.  But, after four excruciating days of adhering to your New Year's resolutions in the solitary confinement of your home, it's time to return to your favorite neighborhood joint for food and drinks.  Don't worry -- we're not here to bust your diet -- we just want to hang out.  Here's how we can make that work without running afoul of your resolutions.

Have you tried either of our salads?  

I hadn't either -- my 2016 resolution of gaining 10 pounds* required a more steady diet of Kafta Burgers and Fried Chicken Sandwiches.  But, with a new year come new resolutions, and this year I'm resolving to LOSE weight.  So I sat down and tried our salads on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.  It turns out they're really good.

Our grilled romaine salad is a surprising burst of texture and flavor, driven by olive tapenade, pickled onion, aged parmesan, and pita crisps.  You can dress it with any of three house-made dressings:  balsamic, creamy garlic, and honey lemon. On its own, it's perfect, but if you're craving some protein, you can add a confit chicken thigh, lamb kafta, falafel, or white anchovy for a little extra.

Our French Lentil Salad is spicy and peppery with radicchio, arugula, peruvian peppers, tomato, and bulgur wheat, all brought together with tahini lemon dressing.  It's vegan as is, but you can add feta or grilled eggplant to add a bit of Mediterranean influence.

Passing on craft beer for a few weeks?  How about some wine?

We work really hard to be a good craft beer bar, but, until recently, we were really phoning it in on wine.  That has changed.  If you like wine, why should you have to leave your neighborhood to have a good wine experience?  To that end, in addition to our five wines-by the-glass, we've added an additional seven wines-by-the bottle on a separate menu.  All seven of these wines are wines that are only available by special order in Pennsylvania; all seven of them are reasonably priced between 35 and 45 per bottle, and all seven of them represent the result of thoughtful consideration by Hidden Harbor's Head Bartender, Max Stein, who just so happens to be prepping for the introductory sommelier exam in March.  This is a bottle list for wine drinkers by a wine drinker -- not a list prepared by a beer and whiskey drinker** with no idea about what wine drinkers find interesting.  Our staff is embracing our new wine program as well, meeting regularly with Max on their own time to taste through wines (both on our menu and off of it) and learn about them.  

Sunday Funday Release of Our Annual Collaboration Beer with Hitchhiker

This Sunday, we're releasing our annual collaboration beer, "Broadside in a Cloud of Smoke," a bold and brazen smoked porter we brew with Hitchhiker in honor of Hunter S. Thompson.  We'll tap it on Sunday when we open at 5 p.m.  It will be available in pints for $6 and available to go for $10 in special, limited-edition crowler cans (with a label of which the good doctor of journalism would approve).

Thanks for reading folks.  See you at the Independent.


Current Tap List

*  I'm an overachiever, so I gained 15 for good measure.

**  oh, hey, that's me.

Thanksgiving Week Hours

Hi folks:  

Here's our Thanksgiving week schedule:

Tuesday 11/24; 5p-11pm

Business as usual

Wednesday 11/25; 3p-12a;  3p-5p Day Drinking Appreciation Happy Hour; 5p-12a Tiki night!

Lest we lose a Tiki night due to a Holiday closure, we're moving Tiki Thursday to Wednesday for this week only.  Additionally, for those of you who want to start your Holiday a little early, we'll open at 3 p.m. with $2 off all beers from 3-5 p.m.  You left work early to start drinking.  You're a hero, and you should be treated as such.  #DayDrinkersAretheRealHeroes.

Thursday 11/26:  Closed

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday 11/27:  Tall Dudes with 'Tudes (Wes Shonk joins Max behind the bar)

On Friday, Wes Shonk of Wigle Whiskey joins Max behind the bar for a night of eggnog, Wigle cocktails, and general height-maximization.  Other guest appearances will include Yao Ming and Ralph Sampson, who will be available for autographs*.  Full menu and details to come later in the week.

In the words of Robbie Robertson at the Last Waltz, "Happy Thanksgiving!"

Pete K.


*  Not true

This Weekend at the Independent

Well folks, it's the beginning of November, and that can only mean one thing:  breweries around the country are JUST NOW releasing their long-awaited, seasonally-appropriate, locally-sourced pumpkin beers!  [pauses; presses finger to ear piece; blushes; cuts to commercial (for beer distributor pushing last of its pumpkin beer)]

We've got a nice, low-key weekend on tap for you.  After last weekend's Halloween festivities we, like Warren G. Harding* and post-WWI America, return to normalcy.  Business as usual here tonight:  only local craft beers, only well-balanced cocktails using the best ingredients, ony thoughtful, well-executed food by Chef Monique, and only the best music recorded on the most aesthetically and acoustically virtuous medium known to man.  Then, tomorrow, we'll tap a Four Seasons Brewing Company Firkin. at 8 p.m. (after you're done with Beers of the 'Burgh's Winter Warmer).  $5 pints of Kickin' It Kölsch conditioned with raspberries (or "Himbeere", for our Kölsch-swilling friends from Köln).

In general, you should know, things are busy (but good) here at the IBC, as we work hard to open our next-door, bar named _____.  We anticipate that space being open for business on _____. **

See you at the Independent.

Pete K.

*  You know -- the west-coast rapper.

**  We're happy to say that we'll (finally) be filling in these blanks very soon.   Thank you all for your support and patience.  We hope that we will bring you something that will be worth the wait.



Yes. We're televising the Pirates Playoff Game(s)


As we did last year, we are going to bring in our top-secret televisions to broadcast the Pirates game tonight, and the Good-Lord-willing*, any subsequent playoff games in which they play.

As I wrote in a blog post before last year's Pirates playoff game, we consider Pirates playoffs to be the "moon-landing" exception to our otherwise strict no-television rule.  These games don't come around often (see: 21-year playoff draught prior to 2013) and we have an obligation to our neighborhood, our staff, and our patrons to play them when they do.  

As with last year -- have no fears -- the televisions leave as soon as the game is over and we will return to normalcy at the Independent.

So, if you're looking for a place to watch the Pirates in Squirrel Hill and have a few pints of good beer while you do it, we're your huckleberry.

See you at the Independent!

Pete K.

*  Now that we're returned to sports-television, we're also embracing a new-found yinzer-sporting-team religiosity.

This Weekend of October 2nd at the Independent

It's getting chilly out there, folks.  Let us keep you warm at the Independent this weekend.  


It's the first Friday of the month, which means that it's time to tap another Four Seasons' firkin.  Tonight at 8 p.m., we'll tap a pin firkin of Four Seasons' Get Down Brown Ale that has been conditioning with coffee beans for the last several weeks.  Pints will be $5 each until there are no more pints to sell. I know, I know -- you love the nature of this event, but you're just not sure that it will contain enough "get down" for you?  Fair, which is why we'll honor the hardest working man in show business* with James Brown on the record player for the duration of the firkin.  Take it to the bridge!

Hey dad,  I can't see real good -- is that Tommy Cruise behind the bar?  No, that's our new bartender Max Stein, and he's bringing you a new cocktail list starting this Saturday.

Max joins us from Butcher and the Rye where he has worked and studied with some of the best bartenders in town, and where he has enjoyed his own fast climb up Pittsburgh's bartender ladder, earning such accolades as Rising Star Rookie Bartender from Hal B. Klein in last year's Pittsburgh Magazine.  Max is behind our bar five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, and has worked with Adam to develop his own cocktail list for the Independent, which he will premiere this Saturday, and which will then be available Tuesday through Saturday, that will supplement our current day-to-day cocktail menu.  The menu is, as Guy Fieri would say, "banging" -- but don't let Guy Fieri's limited vocabulary fool you -- this is a strong list that is going to add a lot of depth to our everyday offerings.  Take for instance the "Long." With Bluecoat gin, yellow chartreuse, lemon, blackberries, mint, apricot-raspberry marmalade, lemongrass, and seltzer, this fancy little number may be called "Long" for any number of reasons -- the list of ingredients, what it says about the size of the bartender's ... feet ..., or the fact that Max hasn't named it yet, so I'm just drawing from Adam's crib notes at 2:00 p.m. the day before we have to print the menu.  Either way, it's a delightful drink, and I know, because I've had one.**

Sunday Food Truck Series

This Sunday, we're open at 5 p.m. and joined once again by our friends at Berlin Street Food, who are back in Squirrel Hill to feed you the Sunday dinner you don't feel like making.   And, of course, we'll be serving beers, crowlers, and cocktails to wet your whistle.  Mo', Adam and I are going to be at Churchview Farms, where Mo is honored to close our their season of Farm Dinners with an amazing menu showcasing Churchview's amazing harvest.  Adam's doing a few cocktails and I'm pairing a few beers with the food in what should be a great night out at the farm.  

Have a loved-one, friend or mortal enemy that you'd like to add to the Independent's email list?  Just email me, or forward them to this link.

While I'm don't understand it, I get a number of requests each week for me to add someone to my spam ... er ... "email" list.  You can always email me, and I'll try to remember to add your friend.  Or, alternatively, your friend can fill out this nifty email-getter form on our interwebs:   http://www.independentpgh.com/contact-us/    Please feel secure in knowing that we will sell your information to the highest bidder (probably the Chinese) at our own benefit and, in the meantime, we will also sign you up to receive Trump campaign emails.***  

Additionally, if you don't want to get these emails anymore because you hate me or you hate me, then please let me know, and I will take it very personally before removing you from our list.****

That's all folks.  See you at the Independent!

Pete K.

*  I like to think that James Brown is still the hardest working man in show business.  I also like to think that James Brown still moves like this.

** One of my my most difficult duties as co-owner, general manager, baseball manager, steward, rear admiral, and resident drunk at the Independent Brewing Company is the onerous and oppressive obligation of my having to sample every single item that our customers could potentially order at the Independent as part of our rigid and highly-formal quality control process.  

***  We won't sell your email address or give it to Donald Trump or anyone else.

**** I get it, dude.  I won't take it personally.

This Labor Day Weekend at the Independent


We're closed on Monday, to celebrate our nation's labor movement, but we've got an action-packed weekend at the Independent that includes outdoor parties, Taco Truck, firkins, smoke beers and more.  Details below.

Saturday Afternoon (3-7 p.m.) -- Beer, 
Bands, Punch, and Lawn Games on the River: Now Free Admission!

Our Millvale Riverfront Park event with Grist House and Wigle this Saturday is now FREE ADMISSION.  If you were one of the zero people who bought a ticket for the event, don't worry, we'll be refunding your money.  Folks -- this is going to be a fun outdoor event to celebrate the end of summer sun, and, like the summer sun itself, it is now free.  Bring your family; bring your dog; bring your thirst and your appetite.  It's a freakin' river party and there will be good beer, booze, and food.  Moreover, unlike your last river party, your creepy Uncle Donny won't be there getting drunk, gawking at young women, questioning the birth certificate of our 44th President, and setting off M80s in tree stumps.  

Saturday Evening (9 p.m.)  -- First Saturday, Four Seasons Firkin Tapping

You may remember this event as the highly alliterative "First FRIDAY Four Seasons Firking Festival."  Why the change of days, you ask?  Routine scheduling problems, dude.  This Saturday, our Four Seasons Firkin is an Oatmeal Stout conditioned with habanero peppers and cocoa nibs.  That's a dark beer drinking, spice braving, chocolate loving woman or man's dream, guaranteed to put so much hair on your chest that you'll look like wookie by the end of a pint. 

Sunday (6p-10p) -- Taco Truck Comes to Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill is a neighborhood for great food, but many kitchens (like ours) are closed on Sunday evenings.  The Independent wants to help bridge our neighborhood's Sunday gap, and we're going to do that by bringing you food trucks every Sunday evening.  Squirrel Hill Sundays just got better: we'll bring you beer and cocktails and the trucks will bring you Sunday dinner.  We'll all be home to watch Walking Dead spin-offs, commercial free on our DVRs at 11 p.m.  Go team!

This Sunday, we're really proud to work with our first truck (a truck I hope you'll be seeing quite a bit of), which is Pittsburgh's (now legendary)Taco Truck.  The bar will open at 5 p.m.  Taco Truck will be ready to roll at 6 p.m.  Your Sunday evening happiness will arrive shortly thereafter.  

September is Smoke Beer Awareness Month

There was a time not long ago in Pittsburgh, where finding a smoke beer in a bar was such a rare occasion that I would (figuratively) fall down to my knees and praise the good lord and then (literally) purchase the beer with a nod and a "thank you" to the publican for his or her good taste.  Smoke beers are not actually themselves "smoked," instead they are made with malts that have been smoked, and they come in many colors, tastes and smells, ranging from East End's rich and dark Heritage Smoke Stack Porter to Hitchhiker's light and clean Grodziskie, a smoked wheat beer.  Regardless, I'm a sucker for them, and as I do the purchasing for our extraordinary mediocre establishment, I'm going to force these beers down your gullets.  I still remember the meager years of smoked beers, and I'm still compensating.  So, yes, there is a chance (in fact a likelihood) that you will see multiple smoke beers on our board at once over the next month, coming from Grist House, Lavery, Spoonwood, Hitchhiker and anyone else who wants to sell us one.  But I will make no apologies for it.  it may be 90 degrees right now, but, as the Stark family will happily warn you, winter is coming.  A bit of smoke in your beer is just what you need. 

See you at the Independent,

Pete K.

Riverfront Party! Saturday, 9/5, 3-7 p.m.


This Saturday, motivational-speaker Matt Foley's van won't be the only thing down by the river.  The Independent will descend from its perch atop the Hill of Squirrels to join our good friends Grist House Brewing Company and Wigle Whiskey for a party at Millville's Riverfront Park from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.  The event is billed as a "Corn Hole Finals," but, don't let that pretense distract you from the true purpose of the afternoon: an outdoor, end-of-summer celebration of beer drinking, punch imbibing, live-band listening, and street food gorging.  In other words, let us offer you the perfect way to celebrate your Labor Day weekend --. by reaping the benefits of our labor.  

Admission is $20 and tickets can be purchased in advance here.  Tickets not only gain you admission to an afternoon of live music and lawn games, they also come with your first two drinks (a cocktail and a beer respectively).  

Now, while some of you will doubtlessly spend your hard-earned money with nothing more than my mere suggestion that you do so, others may be more skeptical.  Allow me to address your questions with an FAQ:

I like fun and sunshine, but why should I pay $20 for it?  

My friend, my friend -- we're bringing you far more than fun and sunshine; we're bringing you a scene ... man (dig?).  We've got food trucks, we've got live bands, we've got a pavilion, and we rented a freaking park by the river and obtained the necessary permits from the powers that be at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to provide you alcohol in said park by the river.  Speaking of providing you alcohol, we're also giving you your first beer and your first glass of punch with your admission.  

Fair point, but I'd feel bad leaving my dog at home while I go enjoy the aforementioned fun and sunshine.  Can I bring my pooch?

Yes.  You can bring your pooch.  Or your kitty, if you're into kitty leashes.  Or your parakeet (although, be forewarned that parakeets and kitties don't coexist particularly well, at least from a parakeet's perspective).  

I like street food!  What food trucks will be there?

Our buddies from Berlin Street Foods (mmmm....Bratwurst), the Steer and Wheel (mmmm...Burgers), and Leona's (mmmm....Ice Cream Sandwiches).  

Will I be judged or mocked if I get a brat, a burger, AND an Ice Cream Sandwich?

No.  In fact you'll be saluted as a hero and your service will be commemorated by future generations.  When historians write of that day, they'll begin with your efforts.  When revisionist historians re-write the history of that day, they'll still begin with your efforts, but will likely cast us as greedy profiteers.

What type of beer will there be?

Grist House is bringing warm-weathered favorites with their light-and-hoppy Horizon Shine and their easy-drinking Kolsch.  Your know, river-party beers, n'at. 

What type of cocktails will there be?

The Independent is serving a highly-drinkable and highly addictive punch, using Wigle-produced spirits, tea, citrus, and a number of other secret and proprietary ingredients.*

Hey man, I really like corn hole, but I missed the semifinals at Grist and Wigle.  Can I still play?

This isn't Russia, Danny.  (Is this Russia, Danny?)  Of course!  We're bringing corn hole and other drinking-friendly lawn games for the masses (not just the competitors).  

OK, you've sold me.  I really want to attend, but I distrust the internet and would prefer not to purchase tickets online.  Can I pay for them somewhere in person?

Yes!  We're selling them in all three of our tap rooms/pour houses at Grist House, Wigle, and the Independent.  And, yes, we accept unmarked, non-consecutive bills, and, no, we don't ask questions. We'll also sell tickets at the door, but we will be CASH ONLY at the event. 

One last thing:  I'm probably going to consume more than two drinks, will you sell me extra drinks so long as I'm not visibly intoxicated?

Yes.  You can purchase additional punch and beer after your complimentary beverages.  Just please keep in mind that due to our location, we are CASH ONLY for the event.  We apologize in advance for any inconvenience.

Wait, wait, seriously, one more thing:  what should I wear?

I mean, look:  you're not an animal and it's still pre-Labor Day, so wear whites, of course.  This isn't 'Nam; there are rules here.


Pete K.

* We'll level with you: it's mostly crack.  

Ain't Nothing Like a Zombie Party


This Saturday, August 29, from 5 to 10 p.m., join Maggie's Farm Rum and the Independent underneath the 31st Street Bridge for our Zombie Party spectacular.  Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door and include admission, as well as three drink tickets for any beer or cocktail.

Enjoy live music from DJ Zombo, the Turbosonics, and the Royal Shakes.  Drink Zombie cocktails featuring Maggie's Farm Rum made by some of Pittsburgh's best bartenders.  Eat great food from Taco Truck, PGH Po' Boy, Blowfish BBQ, and PGH Crepes.  Drink local, craft beer from Full Pint, East End, Hitchhiker, and Grist House.  

Do all of these things with your favorite undead friends in the perfect city-scape for the Zombie Apocalypse:  The no-man's land beneath the 31st Street Bridge, dramatically (and responsibly) lit for the occasion by our good friends at Zero Fossil Energy Outfitters, who bring you sound, and lighting with no carbon emissions.  

Additional drink tickets good for any beer or cocktail can be purchased for $6 each at the event.  Every effort will be made to accept credit cards, but based on the nature of outdoor events, bring cash to be safe.   Tickets will be available for $30 at the door until the event sells out. This event is 21+ with no exceptions.

See you at the Zombie Party,

Pete K.

This Weekend at the Independent: Hold Onto Summer

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light." 

Legendary drunk and all-around "really happy guy,"  Dylan Thomas, wrote that line about the end of summer, most unqualified scholars agree.  And friends, Dylan's right:  don't let summer go gentle into that good night.  Instead, resolve right now to squeeze every last drop of juice out of that sucker, like a cost-conscious bartender squeezing the last drop out of each one of his 79 cent limes.   At the Independent, we've got great opportunities the next three weekends for you to suck the marrow out of the summer of 2015.  

This Weekend: Summer Beers, BBQ Ribs, Summer Cocktails:

Tonight, drink wheat one way or the other with a "Smoked Wheat Everyday," a smoked wheat beer from our (clearly anti-marijuana) friends at Hitchhiker, or a "Wheat Hop," a hoppy wheat beer from our (I'm sure equally anti-marijuana) friends at East End.  Both are wheat beers with fresh, clean flavors (smokey and hoppy respectively) that are perfect for a summer evening.  Similarly, Mo's BBQ Baby Back Ribs do summer BBQ justice with local ribs, a house-made BBQ sauce, and a refreshing black bean salad.  Tomorrow, drink Greek with Carrie Clayton (returning after last week's Saturday success) who is again previewing and honing her drink list for Poros, a great new Greek restaurant slated to open downtown soon.  Think you hate Ouzo?  Think again.

Next Saturday, August 29th:  Zombie Party with Maggie's Farm Rum and House of the Dead, 5-10 p.m. (Underneath the 31st Street Bridge)

At the Independent, we're always thinking ahead, and a good deal of that forward thinking revolves around our plans to keep you drunk and happy during a prospective zombie apocalypse.  Now you may think that we'd have better things to do (or more probable contingencies for which to plan), but I assure you that when you're on a lounge chair enjoying a high-gravity West Coast Stout ("Night of the Living Stout") from Full Pint Brewing Company while carnage of the undead ensues around you, you'll get it.  Next Saturday, from 5 to 10 p.m. we join similarly forward-thinking  distillery, Maggie's Farm, in throwing a Zombie party to put our plans into action.     Maggie's has secured a safe zone on 31st Street, underneath the 31st Street Bridge.  We're bringing beer and making cocktails (you guessed it, Zombies) with some of our good friends around town, to celebrate the release of Maggie's Double-Barrel Queen Share Rum.  Don't miss this outdoor party, which is a perfect way to get weird before the end of summer.  DJ Zombo (DJ Zombie?) will be there with two bands to keep you moving among the rush of the undead.  Tickets are $25 and include three (3) drink tickets.  They are available for purchase here.  Buy your tickets now, as this event is sure to sell out.

Saturday:  September 5, 2015:  Corn Hole Tournament with Wigle Whiskey and Grist House 3-7 p.m. (Millvale Waterfront Park).

The following Saturday, we join more of our distilling and brewing friends to keep your summer going, when we play the Gentlemen/womenly spectators to a corn hole tournament between Wigle and Grist's best contestants.  Now look, if you're the type of competitor who wants a crack at playing in that type of high-level, grueling battle, there's still time for you to try your hand.  The Wigle round has been played, but the Grist House battle will take place on the 27th at Grist House (tickets and more info here) .  But, if you're the type of person (like us) who prefers to get your outdoor day drinking on without having to sully your shoes in the mud of "exertion" or "effort" (to the extent that Corn Hole can ever be accused of being either of those two things), you won't be alone.  The Independent proudly introduces its role as the Day-Drinking Spectators.  We're not here to compete; we're here to make bold assertions and claims regarding how well we COULD compete, without having the arduous requirement of actually having to back those claims up.  Sun, cocktails, and cold beer are our pursuit, all while hanging out in Millvale's riverside park in the sunshine.  What type of shoes does one wear to a cornhole tournament?  We cares?  We only own boat shoes anyway.   Come join us for this ultimate labor-day weekend hang out.  Tickets are $20, and include a drink ticket for one cocktail and one beer.  

See you at the Independent!

Pete K.


This Weekend at the Independent (8/14/2015)

It's restaurant week in Pittsburgh.  And, in my opinion, that's cause for reflection and celebration.   When I moved back to Pittsburgh in 2005, Pittsburgh's food culture was barely on the map nationally.  And, to the extent that it was, its largest landmarks were huge-helpings of fries and coleslaw atop sandwiches and pierogies stuffed with cheese, potatoes and sauerkraut.  Those things aren't bad (in fact they're great), but the landscape has evolved so much in the last ten years; and its evolution has put Pittsburgh firmly on the map nationally for good food (and not just for hearty helpings of Eastern European food that are best enjoyed before, after AND during a Steelers game*).  Over the last 10 years, we've watched our food culture become larger, more diverse, and more integrated.  Our city has produced talented young chefs and has helped developed star chefs and restauranteurs, sure.  But more importantly, our city has produced the foundation of any good food scene:  farmers and artisans that range from local cheese makers to great local bakers to (of course) local brewers and distillers.   This integration has not just spurred the growth a mature food and drink culture, it also has laid the foundation for great things to come.  And, you need only glimpse at Melissa McCart's Post-Gazette food blog to know that the pace of growth is accelerating rapidly.  New restaurants are opening every month, bringing us more and more diverse offerings and adding to the richness of our city.  

Take some time this weekend to celebrate what has happened (and what's about to happen) to food in Pittsburgh.  Enjoy restaurant week.  

Our PGH Restaurant Week Special (available Friday and Saturday):

Middle-Eastern Spiced Skirt Steak
Served with farm-pepper salsa and lemon & goat cheese risotto.
Pair with a 7 ounce pour of any beer for $20.15

Chef Monique does right by her Egyptian heritage with big and bold Middle-Eastern flavors complimenting a perfectly grilled steak.    Pro Tip:  I highly recommend pairing (if you like big hops and big malts) with the Big Hairy Monster from Hop Farm or (if you are feeling just malty) the Black Lager (Schwarzbier!) from Lavery.

Speaking of new restaurants, our Saturday night guest bartender is Carrie Clayton, who is soon to head up the bar program at Poros, a greek-inspired restaurant opening soon in PPG 2 (on the corner of Market Square).  Join Carrie Saturday night as she mixes a sure-to-be-delicious menu of Mediterranean flavors and spins on classic cocktails.  

Thank you folks and see you at the Independent (and if I don't, it better be because you're trying the Restaurant Week vegan versus meat menus from our good friends at Root 174...)

Pete K.

*  I apologize for nothing

This Weekend at the Independent (August 7th)


If you, like me, find yourself in need of a stiff drink or five in the wake of the first Republican debate, we're here to help.  We've got a big weekend ahead:

Four Season's First Friday Funky Firkin

Tonight (and every subsequent First Friday of the month), at 9 p.m., we're tapping a pin firkin from our friends at Four Seasons in Latrobe.  Tonight we've got a special firkin of their Local APA, which Mark has finished and cask conditioned with Citra and Amarillo hops.  If you like fresh, citrus-forward, hoppy beers, well, my friend, this beer's for you.  Supplies are limited and will go fast.  On the player, we'll transition to all funk records until the firkin kicks.  Why funk?  Because much like Four Seasons, Firkin and Friday, it beings with "F" and we like alliteration.  

Also, if you don't have early plans, consider pre-gaming the Four Seasons firkin by stopping in at Wigle Whiskey's barrel house, where Adam will join Sean Enright (1947 Tavern) and Greta Dunn (Meat & Potatoes) behind the bar for a "Cocktail Cup, Round 4." The three cocktologists will compete for "best cocktail" using Wigle's Landlocked Spiced, a honey-based, rum-like spirit.  If you recognize Sean and Greta, it might be because all three of these fine contestants are part of the IBC family, with Sean and Greta both having done Saturday guest bartending stints at the IBC.  With this spectacular field, the competition is sure to be fierce and probably very, very friendly and hospitable.  There's only one sure bet for the winner:  you, the drinker.  Entry is only $15, and includes one cocktail from each competitor.  More information is here:  https://www.wiglewhiskey.com/cocktail-cup-round-4

Saturday Cocktails

Hopefully riding high off a victory tonight, Adam reclaims his position behind the bar on Saturday, with a five-drink list that includes the "Jose and Rose," a cocktail name that, in an ideal world, would contain accents above both "e's."  Yes, the Rose (again, pretend there's an accent there) refers to the wine, and yes, the Jose (ditto) refers to Tequila.  And yes, the drink is pink.  His menu also includes the Dr. Funkenstein (or is that Funken-STEEN, Herr Doctor?) which features Haitian, Jamaican, and Demerara rums -- a grown up drink, at least for the type of grown ups who like P-Funk and Mel Brooks references under one drink umbrella.


We're closed, as Team IBC is taking a much-needed staff retreat to the Pirates game.  But that ESPN-broadcast game starts at 8:08 p.m., you say?  Tailgating, dude.  It's, like, a thing -- especially when the people doing it serve you animals drinks for a living and when your executive chef just picked enough (locally-sourced and made) hot sausage to feed a small army of actual pirates. 

See you at the Indie!

Pete K.   



This Weekend at the Independent (7/31/2015)

If you managed to survive the rain of the last month and the heat wave of the past week, it appears that you'll finally be rewarded with sunshine, reasonable temperatures, and cloudless skies this weekend and early next week.  That's what I like to call "prime sidewalk sitting weather," and not just because I'm financially motivated to encourage you to sit on our sidewalk.  We've got a great weekend coming up for you, but first, a word about food, farms, and our Chef Monique

Monique's Churchview Farm Dinner

We could probably do a much better job trumpeting the fact that we source (especially in the summer) a great deal of our ingredients from local providers.  One of our favorite of those providers is Churchview Farm, an organic, small "farmette" just outside of the city limits in Baldwin.  Churchview and its owner, Tara, are just wonderful.  Every Pittsburgher who care about where their food comes from needs to take a trip there to see them.  The farm is an idyllic, rural-feeling oasis only a short trip away from the city.  And Tara's fruits, vegetables, and hen eggs are featured in our dishes all growing-season long.

You do have a chance to make it out to the farm this fall when our beloved and talented chef, Monique Ruvolo, is honored to join the ranks (as she has the last several years) of many of Pittsburgh's other top chefs to cook at the summer/fall farm-dinner series.  Monique's dinner is the last on the schedule this year, and falls on the evening of Sunday, October 4.  It's an ideal time to work with Churchview's harvest, and, as she did last year, Mo' will hit it out of the park with a multi-course meal using the farm's bounty.  Beyond just the food, the dinners at Churchview are phenomenal -- Tara sets a beautiful dinner right in the middle of the farm.  And the ingredients are, of course, as fresh as it gets.  Support hyper-local farming.  Support Monique.  Tickets and more information are available here

This Weekend's Food Specials:

Speaking of Monique, farms, and food, here are this weekend's specials:

Stuffed baby eggplant:  black lentils, feta, auburn rice & spinach, finished over a cauliflower puree.

Curry-chicken phyllo:  curry bechamel, beer-braised chicken, onion & kale.

Middle-Eastern grill:  skirt steak with farm tabouli

Saturday Cocktails:

Will Groves is back behind the bar on Saturday with a neat and clean set of his take on four classic cocktails, Tommy's Margarita, the Clover Club, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (a gussied-up daiquiri), and the vieux carre.  

Super Punch!

Shots are for animals.  Shots of Jannamico Super Punch (a sweet and bitter amaro) are for intelligent (and generally Italian-speaking) animals.   But shots of chilled and carbonated Super Punch, served on a draft, out of a faucet adorned with a bronzed boxing glove are for really, really good-looking animals who are fluent in five languages, shop only in Paris, can solve a partial differential equation without a computer (or even paper) and who bed a different partner of equivalent intellectual and linguistic aptitude, style-sense, and natural beauty every night.   Are you that animal?  We've got your drink on tap.

See you at the Independent!*

Pete K.

* Obligatory footnote.


This Week at the Independent (July 20th)

Fair readers:

It's been a while since you last heard from me, but now that I'm on the other side of a beery and boozy family vacation*to Asheville, NC and Louisville, KY, I'm back and fatter than ever.

My friends, I have been to the mountaintop of Craft Beer, I'm pleased to report that, regardless of the hype, Pittsburgh lays as much claim to it as Asheville does.  

As many of you know, in the last several years, there has been a considerable amount of (well-deserved) press, hype, and accolades heaped upon Asheville's beer scene.  Asheville boasts more breweries per capita than any other city, and by a considerable margin.   As of the date of our visit, the city limits contain 15 Breweries -- some of those breweries have multiple production locations, so the actual, physical brewery count is, in fairness, actually closer to 18 breweries.   Asheville is a small city, with a population of roughly 80,000 people living within 45.3 square miles.  To give you a sense of perspective, there are more than 300,000 people living within 58.3 square miles in Pittsburgh, and there are (within the city limits) 6 breweries making beer:  Costar, Church Brew Works, East End, Hop Farm, Penn Brewery, and Roundabout.  Of course, Pittsburgh relies quite a bit on its suburbs and countryside to add a lot of volume and diversity to its brewing scene, but so does Asheville.  Western North Carolina has dozens more breweries, including two huge production facilities (with tap rooms) for Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues, which are contributing a lot of jobs and volume to the Asheville area.

Yes, the shear magnitude of the craft beer scene in Asheville is impressive.  And, yes, it's also envy inducing.  At one point, we unwittingly passed** three other breweries in our walk from our car to the our first brewery destination of the day.  But, after getting over my initial puppy love, I started to recognize that with all that beer, we didn't get a significantly better product.  I had just as many mediocre beers as I had great beers.  I saw a lot of very similar tap lists and tasted a lot of very similar beers.    At the end of the day, I didn't see anything*** that we don't have here in Pittsburgh, readily available and made with the same high-level of brewing acumen, right here in Pittsburgh.  

That's not a knock on Asheville --  I tasted some very good beers of a wide-range of styles there, in some beautiful, hip, and laid-back spaces.  No, instead, that's a credit to Pittsburgh, and, specifically, that's a credit to what has happened in Pittsburgh recently.  We have caught up, folks, and it's time to acknowledge that fact.  In the last four years, we've closed the gap with a lot of new brewery upstarts.  We've watched a lot of existing breweries expand their facilities (and with those expansions, expand their range).  We've added beer festivals and other ways to engage not only our community with our brewers, but also to engage brewers with each other on a more frequent basis.  In short, if Asheville, as a city, marks the height of a beer scene's maturity, we're there.  Could we add some volume?  Probably.  Will we need to as more and more people change their tastes from macro beer to craft beer?  Of course.  But, right now, do we have a mature enough brewing scene that us nerds can wake up one morning, crave a particular and esoteric style (within reason), and find a well-brewed one on tap somewhere within a reasonable driving distance?  Yes.  That's a wonderful feeling, and we have our local brewers to thank for that.  

Thank your Pittsburgh brewers the best way you know how.  Go to their breweries. Buy their beer.  Take your friends.  Order their products when they're on tap at your local bars.

This Week:

Wednesday 9p-12a:  Live at the Independent:  Our very own (and very talented) Victoria puts down her server book and picks up her guitar for a solo, acoustic performance.  Come support live and local music as you support local beer.

Thursday 5p - 12a:  Lucky's Last Tiki Night:  Fear not, tikiphiles, Tiki Thursdays will continue with friend-of-the-bar Will Groves, but Lucky is moving on to a full-time gig at Acacia and we couldn't be happier for him.  You'll recognize him as Lucky's "intern," i.e. the guy who has joined him every Thursday for the past several months.  Previous to being Lucky's intern, Will was the bar manager at Butterjoint.  We'll miss our painproof man, but he'll always be part of the Independent family, regardless of what side of the bar he's on.  Come enjoy a few more Tiki drinks made by the man who has an exotica vinyl collection that Rhode Island would struggle to contain.

Saturday 5p-12a:  International Rum Cocktails with Adam :  Adam is back behind the stick again on Saturday and will be making International rum cocktails.  Have the feeling that we're using a lot of rum lately?   Seeing a lot of internationally inspired drinks?  Wondering what all this Tiki stuff is about?  Think that might be a sign of things to come next door?  You're probably right.

Thanks folks, and see you at the Independent!

Pete K.

*  Vacationing with a 20 month old is more akin to combat than vacation.  Anytime you enter an establishment, you must have an exit strategy.  Your failure to do so will result in scorn and extended casualties.  

**  Why didn't we stop, you ask?  They were closed as it was 11 a.m., which is the exact time that it is socially acceptable to start drinking with your toddler who woke you up at 4 a.m. that very morning ("Happy Birthday, daddy!")

***  One exception (and something I'd like to see happen here in Pittsburgh):  Wicked Weed's "Funakatorium," a separate brew facility and barrel house devoted to Wicked Weed's sour program.  The volume, diversity, and quality of the sour beers produced there is unlike anything I have seen in Pittsburgh or any other city.  That, my friends, is cause for you to go to Asheville, even if the rest of the city were dry. 

This Weekend at the Independent

At the Independent, we're filling the long summer days as we always do with good beer, good food, and good cocktails.  No corners cut in our operation.  We make things from scratch, in-house (well, except the beer, which we, you know, buy), and we showcase the finest local ingredients Pittsburgh has to offer.  What's more, we've got some great events in store for you this weekend, including a really interesting event with the Carnegie Museum of Art, with which I shall lead.


Sunday:  "Outside Art" with the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Skibo Society 5 p.m. until 9 pmish; tickets are $5.

On Sunday, we're very honored to host "Outside Art" in conjunction with the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh, and the Skibo Society, a group of young folks working to engage a new generation of art lovers with the museum.  This event will (predictably, in light of our involvement) be booze-centric, and will feature works of art from the the CMOA's art lending collection that will temporarily adorn our walls (each work of art will be booze related).  The official event will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will include (short) presentations (two minutes or less) from a number of various artists, curators, and other community members (including a comedian) regarding a specific piece of art.  Tickets are available here.  One dollar from every alcoholic beverage sold that evening will be donated to the Carnegie Museum of Art.


Saturday Cocktails: Classic Sours

Fans of citrus rejoice!  Adam is back behind the bar on Saturday, giving you his take on classic "sour" drinks.   What's a sour?  Allow Adam to explain:

The “sour” (or “sahr” in the local dialect) is a broad category of cocktails which rely upon a balance of sour citrus — typically lemon or lime — and sweetness. Fear not: “Sour” cocktails are not actually sour.

One of the drinks Adam will be offering is the tiki classic, the 1963 Zombie, which Adam warns if you do not agree that it is the best drink ever, he will fight you (or finish your Zombie).


Friday Food Specials

When you walk into the Independent, don't forget to take a look at the Chalk Board (or listen to your server) to check out our daily food specials.  Monique has been hitting them out of the park, and tonight is no exception.  Goat Meatballs (with gilled pineapple and green tomatoes) and Crawfish (with grits, of course -- we're not animals) highlight tonight.

Thanks folks, and see you at the Independent!

Pete K.



July 3rd is ... Independent's Day

On July 4th, the Independent will be closed so that we (and you) can enjoy backyard BBQs, create dangerous home fireworks displays, and observe the anniversary of the day when a group of wealthy, white men decided that they'd rather start a war than keep paying taxes.

But, on Friday, July 3rd, the Independent will host the box office event of the summer: "INDEPENDENT'S DAY:  THESE COLORS DON'T RUN ... OUT OF BEER."  

Join us for an all day affair (open at noon for lunch) that celebrates the best of America:  Barbecue, cold beer, booty-shaking funk and soul music, and George Washington's bender beverage of choice, the Fish House Punch.

A True story regarding Fish House Punch: Notorious booze hound, and first president of the United States,  George Washington once went on a three-day, Fish-House-Punch-induced bender at Philadelphia's legendary fishing club (and claimed inventors of the Fish House Punch), "the State of Schuykill." following the close of the Revolutionary War.   In fairness, when you've defeated the World's most powerful empire, you've earned the right to get hammered for a few days.  A note to the early-American barman:  Just don't try to cut the good General off.

See you on July 3!

Pete K