"I swore I’d never do a PowerPoint,” said Gary Olden, owner of Hitchhiker Brewing Co., as he gleefully booted up a Jan. 15 press-conference presentation about the establishment’s expansion plans. After opening in May 2014, the Mount Lebanon microbrewery is taking a step inside city limits with a second location.
The future brewpub is a warehouse at 4 Bedford Square, on the South Side. Renovations are set to begin as early as March, giving the building new life after it’s sat mostly vacant for 10 years. When completed, the space will boast Hitchhiker’s primary brewing-production facility, which will take up around 10,000 square feet. The tap room, on the main floor, will be about three times the size of the original taproom.
“We’re very excited about the location. We think we can add to the entertainment in that area,” says Olden, referencing the building’s proximity to WYEP, City Theatre and Club Café. The brewpub hopes to be a destination pub, drawing in those looking for a Pittsburgh craft-beer experience.
The new space will house a 15-barrel system (compared to Hitchhiker’s current three-barrel system). Olden plans to use the expanded brewing capacity to form a tighter alignment around its five core beers, with a focus on saisons, sours and IPAs. Hitcher will also continue to brew seasonals and one-offs while pursuing special bottle releases. Perhaps most exciting are the introduction of a canning line and moves toward kegging that will make Hitchhiker’s beer available more widely outside the two brew pubs.
Olden hopes to open late this summer, although nothing is finalized. Thus far, Hitchhiker has met with the South Side Chamber of Commerce and the neighborhood’s city councilor, Bruce Kraus, and both have been supportive. For those who fell in love with the charm of the Mount Lebanon location, never fear: It will remain open, with the former production area re-dedicated to barreling and aging experiments by head brewer Andy Kwiatkowski.