Thriving in the Strip and Lawrenceville

    You don’t have to travel too far in Pittsburgh to find some of the best-tasting and best-quality wine, beer, or whiskey—it’s right here in the Strip District and Lawrenceville. From thriving wineries and distilleries to hometown breweries, the Strip and Lawrenceville are home to an increasing number of businesses crafting tasty libations.

    That has not surprised some of the local owners of these establishments.

    Wigle Whiskey

    “A symbiotic community has grown in this area as we’ve begun to establish a distilling/brewing/fermentation district,” says Meredith Meyer Grelli, co-owner of Wigle Distillery and Threadbare Cider & Mead. Grelli notes that some of this is driven by historic land use—the Strip and Lawrenceville have light industrial buildings that are well situated for conversions to alcohol-production centers.

    “Now that a number of us have found an anchor in these neighborhoods along with great restaurants, retail, and other amenities, it creates more momentum for others to set up nearby,” she says.

    R Wine

    Kathy Russell, a co-owner of R Wine Cellar, along with her husband, Steve, and their four children, adds that there is a nice blend of young and mature people who want an urban lifestyle. “They are foodies and they appreciate locally made libations,” she says. “Some of our customers are hyper-local and support us over major large California wineries. And we greatly appreciate their support.”

    Arsenal Ciderhouse & Wine Cellar

    William Larkin, owner of Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville, states that its location has been one of the keys to its success: “The whole country is moving toward craft beverages; beyond that, the location is convenient to Downtown—and there are no bridges to cross!”

    A bulk of the customer base for Arsenal Cider House are 25-to-45 year-old professionals and creative types. “We love our customers,” says Larkin, who actually started the business in his home before moving it to its current location.

    Along the same lines, Meredith Grelli describes Wigle’s customers as endlessly curious and good-natured. “Our customers seek out interesting and idiosyncratic experiences and enjoy being connected to the community,” she says. “They take pride in and invest in their hometown and are dedicated to building back a regional identity around whiskey and cider with us.”

    Kathy Russell explains that R Wine Cellar has a wide range of Strip District customers: “We meet very sophisticated, well-traveled wine buyers as well as some local folks who ask, ‘What is your sweetest wine?’ Our current wine menu has 19 wines, so we can always find a wine or two or more that pleases the customer.”

    Russell and her family chose the Strip District because they could get grapes shipped right across the street to Consumers Produce or directly to their door. “We saw the growing interest and development in the Strip and wanted to be part of the vibrant activity here,” she says. “We have always enjoyed wine and made some wines at home. My husband and I always told our kids to ‘follow your bliss’ and after very different and demanding careers, we decided to take our own advice.”

    Grelli also finds that working with craft spirits and alcohol is incredibly satisfying. “We get to focus on taste and quality and beauty above all else. What a gift! Additionally, we love creating educational and fun programming that helps people explore the history, production methodology, and culture around our products.”

    When Grelli and her family started, they thought for a long time about the right home for the first distillery in the city since Prohibition, noting that distilling is an agricultural product, a food product, and a manufacturing product. “All of those processes have historically, through today, found a home in the Strip District, and so it made perfect sense that we should be situated in the Strip,” she says. “It took us two years to change a state law to be able to have a distillery and tasting room in the Strip, and we finished building out the space before the state had passed the necessary legislation. That’s how crazy and committed we were to having a public presence in the Strip!”

    Check out the list below for some of the wineries, breweries, and distilleries to visit the next time you’re in the Strip or Lawrenceville.

    Distilleries & Cideries

    Allegheny Distilling / Maggie’s Farm Rum
    Allegheny Distilling (3212A Smallman St., 412-709-6480) is an urban distillery located in the Strip District and maker of Maggie’s Farm Rum, the first commercially available Pennsylvania-made craft rum since Prohibition. Maggie’s Farm is an independent craft distillery founded without the support of banks, venture capitalists, and rich relatives. Visit maggiesfarmrum.com.

    Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar
    Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar (300 39th St., 412-682-7699) is a U.S. Civil War thematic winery specializing in small-batch, hand-crafted hard apple cider, “cider-style” fruit/grape wines, and mead. Located just a few steps from the historic Allegheny Arsenal, its namesake, they are dedicated to providing high-quality products in a friendly, nostalgic atmosphere. As the first cidery in Western Pennsylvania and also the first in the state to sell wine in beer kegs and growlers, Arsenal Cider has been an early pioneering influence in the craft hard-cider industry. Visit arsenalciderhouse.com.

    Wigle Whiskey
    Wigle Whiskey (2401 Smallman St., 412-224-2827) is working to restore a Pennsylvania tradition championed by rebellious distillers such as Phillip Wigle, who defended his right to distill in a tussle with a tax collector. He unwittingly helped spark the Whiskey Rebellion. Today, Wigle Whiskey makes spirits much the same way Wigle and his friends did when Pittsburgh was the center of American whiskey—with a copper pot and local ingredients. Visit wiglewhiskey.com.

    Wineries

    Courtyard Winery
    Courtyard Winery, based in Erie, PA, has a satellite location in the Strip District in the Pennsylvania Building between Smallman and Penn (108 19th St., 412-408-3237). This winery was built with an intense focus on quality winemaking from the incoming fruit-sorting table to high-tech lab procedures used to evaluate each wine. Visit courtyardwinery.com.

    Dreadnought Wines
    Dreadnought Wines, located in Lawrenceville (3401 Liberty Ave., 412-391-1709) sells boutique and interesting wines from around the world to the public. In 1992, the winery partnered with Deb Mortillaro and launched the Butler’s Secret, a retail store, to expand the non-wine component of the business by adding wine accessories and Riedel stemware. Responding to the demands of their clients, in 1995 they created Palate Partners to market gift baskets and to promote wine-appreciation classes. Visit dreadnoughtwines.com.

    Engine House 25
    Engine House 25 is a beautifully renovated firehouse conveniently located in the heart of Lawrenceville (3339 Penn Ave., 412-621-1268). The old engine house fire station houses a huge main room on the first floor, a large event space that doubles as a commercial photography studio on the second floor, and the Clemente Museum. The winery sits in the basement where volunteers press grapes in wooden barrels. Visit enginehouse25.com.

    Pittsburgh Winery
    Nestled in the cellar of an old bank building, Pittsburgh Winery in the Strip District (2815 Penn Ave., 412-566-1000) offers onsite production, storage, and seating among the barrels of aging wines. Taste world-class dry wines in its quaint little California-style tasting room or in the romantic cellar setting as they provide you with a unique up-close and personal experience with the winemakers. Visit pittsburghwinery.com.

    R Wine Cellar
    Located in the Strip District, R Wine Cellar (2014 Smallman St., 412-562-9463) is a family urban winery established to bring a world of wine tasting and experiences home to the region. Its goal is to produce premier wines from the best grape-growing regions—including California, Pennsylvania, and South America—using minimal additives and preservatives. Each wine is handcrafted and carefully blended to produce a distinctive yet very approachable product. Visit rwinecellar.com.

    Breweries

    Church Brew Works
    Located in Lawrenceville (3525 Liberty Ave., 412-688-8200), this former turn-of-the-century cathedral church is now a lofty space for handcrafted beers, plus a mix of eclectic American menu items, including pizza, pierogi, and bratwurst.
    Visit churchbrew.com.

    Cinderlands Beer Company
    Snuggled in Lower Lawrenceville, Cinderlands Beer Company (3705 Butler St., 412-251-0656) is a craft brewery and scratch kitchen. At Cinderlands, they make beer and food that reflects the diversity its community—both contemporary and familiar, high quality and inventive, serious and fun. Visit cinderlands.com.

    Eleventh Hour Brewing Co.
    Eleventh Hour Brewing Co. (3711 Charlotte St., 412-699-4074) brews balanced, reliable, and delicious craft beers. Its brewery and taproom is located in the heart of Lawrenceville, right down the road from theUber tech center. Visit 11thHourBrews.com.

    Hop Farm Brewing Company
    Hop Farm Brewing Company is an independently partner-owned brewery in the Lawrenceville neighborhood (5601 Butler St., 412-408-3248). Its focus is on sustainability and local sourcing while producing hoppy ales, farmhouse ales, sour ales, and various other interesting brews. Visit hopfarmbrewingco.com.

    Roundabout Brewery
    Roundabout Brewery offers customers a small tasting room located in Lawrenceville (4901 Butler St., 412-621-0540). Stop in for a pint or grab a growler to go. They also have 12 oz. and 16 oz. pours available and a limited food menu. The tap selection changes constantly, about every three to four weeks. Visit roundaboutbeer.com.


    Daniel Casciato is a full-time freelance writer and social media specialist from Pittsburgh. In addition to writing for The Strip!, he writes health, legal, real estate, and technology-related articles for trade and consumer magazines and has his own copywriting business. His website is DanielCasciato.com.