Hitchhiking relies on trusting complete strangers to get you from here to there. Ironically, it’s not all about reaching that final destination- it’s also about enjoying the journey that gets you there.
We felt a little like hitchhikers, looking to take our taste-buds on an epic adventure. We wanted to savor new and unfamilar flavors. We wanted to be taken off the grid to some uncharted place; a place where our understanding and appreciation for well-crafted beer grew even deeper. We trusted Head Brewer Andy Kwiatkowski to get us there, and my goodness did he deliver us to that place.
The journey to Hitchhiker Brewing Co. started a few months ago during an event for Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week. Andy and his fellow T.R.A.S.H (Three Rivers Alliance of Serious Homebrewers) poured their highly anticipated homebrews at the PGH Tee event. We sampled Andy’s beer offerings and we were completely blown away. Speechless almost. This was not the work of a small time home brewer (we homebrew so we can attest to this). This was work of a full-fledged beer genius. After speaking with Andy for a few minutes, he told us something spectacular. He was going to be Hitchhiker’s Head Brewer, and they were setting up shop in just a few weeks. From that moment on, we knew we were starting an awesome adventure.
We decided to finally visit Hitchhiker Brewing Co. about a month after its grand opening. We wanted the authentic experience of Hitchhiker Brewing Co. when the crowds have died down a bit and the brewing process was functioning like a well-oiled machine. We wanted to see their locals- not just those who are interested in shiny, new things. We are so grateful that we did. The bar was packed with loyal locals, but we had just enough room to squeeze in the corner to grab a few colds ones and some tasty bites to eat.
Now let’s get to the good stuff; shall we? Hitchhiker Brewing Co. is a brewery/brew pub nestled in the bustling town of Mount Lebanon, about five miles south of Downtown Pittsburgh. Owners Gary and Serena Olden opened their doors May 10th, 2014 and have not checked their rear view mirrors since.
As we walked through their doors, we knew that this is exactly where we were supposed to be. The brew pub was sparsely decorated with only the fundamentals present. Personally, I loved the simplicity. I felt like I could take a long, deep breath in there. It helped that they had the large window and side door open to allow the summer breeze to filter throughout. The large main bar was adorned with reclaimed joists from an old Belle Vernon farmhouse. The walls were dotted with sacks of brewing malt and antique signage. The brew pub’s ambiance was classically comfortable. It’s a place where anyone could sit down, relax, and rest their bones for a little while.
Toward the back of the pub, there was a staircase that led down to the basement- where all the beer magic happens. The brewery uses a 3 barrel system run solely on electric power. If you know a thing or two about breweries- you’ll know this is extremely rare to find. The room right next to the brewhouse is the fermentation and conditioning room. A large walk-in refrigerator houses the beer served in the brew pub and all of their glorious hops. I had the feeling that Andy spends a good amount of time down there considering he turns out about 20-30 kegs a week. Discussions about expansion have already happened. But we know that these things tend to happen when you brew beer this good.
Speaking of beer; let’s discuss what we sampled on their tap list
- Alternate Route Altbier (5.5% ABV) Malty, German brown ale
- Cobblestone Kolsch (4.8% ABV) Crisp with earthy hops
- Soles Farmhouse Saison (3.9% ABV) Brewed with juniper berries and orange peel
- Roadie IPA (5.4% ABV) Perfection in a pint glass
- Rucksack Porter (5.5% ABV) Robust and full-bodied
- Centerline Black IPA (5.9% ABV)Roasty flavor w/ a hoppy finish
- Tumbleweed Oatmeal Brown (5.1% ABV) Balanced with a clean finish ** We grabbed a growler of this to cook with**
We worked up quite an appetite from sampling all of that great beer. And we were in luck because it just so happens that Hitchhiker serves some delicious small plates. Everything sounded really tasty, so we decided to just order it all. We started with the beer nuts; they were a perfect symphony of sweet and salty goodness.
Next, we devoured the fresh hummus and pita plate. Then, we sampled their local cheese and meat board. Life couldn’t have gotten much better at that moment. The meats and cheeses paired perfectly with the well-crafted brews resting in our hands.
Finally, we concluded our indulgent eating spree with their gourmet hot dogs topped with house-made giardiniera. Hot-Diggity-Dog! that was one mighty fine hot dog.
We came to Hitchhiker Brewing for reasons beyond the drawl of awesome Pittsburgh beer. We came to learn more about the genius behind the great beer- Andy Kwiatkowski.
Andy has been brewing for over four years now. He inherited his passion for brewing delicious beer from his father, who also was a homebrewer. Andy challenged and refined his brewing skills when he became a member of T.R.A.S.H (Three Rivers Alliance of Serious Homebrewers). Also, Andy was a cellarman for East End Brewing Co. where he oversaw sanitization and packaging. Currently, he is an active board member for Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week and The Steel City Big Pour. Plus, he’s a certified beer judge. Basically, he’s kicking arse and taking names. But he’s truly an artist. And he’s never completely satisfied with his masterpieces. He’s constantly looking to improve or shake things up. Every batch has been altered slightly in hopes to draw a little bit closer to complete perfection. I begged him to leave the Roadie IPA just the way it was. It was pure perfection in a pint glass. It seems like Andy lives in a constant state of forward progression, steadily evolving the craft beer scene here in Pittsburgh. Stagnation seems like an impossible concept at this point in his beer career. I’m eager and excited to see what the future holds for him and Hitchhiker Brewing Co.
We were travelers, looking to start a new adventure in this craft beer world. Andy was a stranger to us; yet he kindly let us “hop” in for an epic ride. He shared his personal journey which lead him to brew professionally for Hitchhiker Brewing. Through his mouth-watering beers, he reignited the passion we have for well-crafted, small-batch beers. We walked through Hitchhiker’s door thirsty, and we left with much more than our physical thirsts quenched. We now have an even deeper appreciation for one of the oldest (and tastiest) drinks known to mankind. Pittsburgh is so very fortunate to have brewers like Andy to revolutionize the craft beer scene here in our city. Start your own journey and pick up a Hitchhiker today.
** A big shout out and thank you to Hitchhiker’s servers Joe and Abbey for such an entertaining afternoon. We can’t wait to visit you guys soon!
Pennies, Pints, Pittsburgh
We are a husband & wife blogging team who loves beer, food, and Pittsburgh. We were both born and raised in the City of Bridges and now are proudly raising our own family here. Pittsburgh is going through a tremendous craft beer boom and we are beyond thrilled to be a part of it. We enjoy blogging about the local craft beer scene and also enjoy the challenge of effectively incorporating those local beers into some of our favorite recipes.