357 Freeport St., New Kensington
Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-midnight
Date Visited: Wed., Dec. 1. Years in Business: Since 2006 at its current location and function. (The establishment began as a beer distributor in 1974.) Crowd: A couple dozen convivial folk, many established "club members" (see below). Décor: Utilitarian cinder-block building, with a concrete floor and fluorescent lights; half-a-dozen seats at the bar and an assortment of no-nonsense tables and chairs. But you won't notice or care, after you see the shelves and shelves of available beer; one "wall" is an 18-door glass cooler. The décor here is "beer bottle." Food: A selection of bar snacks (cheese sticks, poppers, nachos); some nights feature heartier help-yourself fare, like sloppy joes, supplied by the bar. Noise: Just lively chatter. Smoke: Bar is smoke-free, but there's a tiny, closed-door "smoking room." Most Popular Drink: Beer. The bar has 30 taps; about a third are Belgians, plus a rotating selection of craft beers. Bartender Megan confirmed the seasonal pours are very popular, as are the Belgians. Its name notwithstanding, the joint stocks nearly 1,100 beers, many of which are chilling in that wall of coolers. Best Drink Special: Monday through Thursday, 5-7 p.m. happy hour; Thursday is $1 off Belgian drafts. Overall, prices are cheap: Most bottles are $2.50. I had a pint of cask-conditioned Red Seal Ale, for a shocking $2.25. And get it to go: Mix-and-match six-packs of craft and import bottles (choose from hundreds) are $9.95. Most Unusual Drink: For the discerning beer-ologist, the bar stocks hundreds of limited brews, from micro-batches made by Trappist monks to one-off beers from breweries both well known and obscure. My bar neighbors were splitting a big bottle of Bitches Brew, the Miles Davis-inspired potion from Dogfish Head Brewery. Drinks Other Than Craft Beer: A modest shelf of spirits, plus wine coolers and a respectable selection of beer-beer (Coors, Bud, Miller, etc.) If you want to chase a $40 bottle of hand-crafted ale with a 40 of Mickey's, it's all good. Join the Club: The House rewards the steady beer-adventurer: Drink 16 different drafts, and get a T-shirt; 25 drafts, your name on the wall; and at 50, a polo shirt. When you hit 100 different drafts, you get a personalized beer mug and $1 off all draft beers. (A similar club exists for bottles.) The bar keeps your scorecard. (I'm 99 drafts away from my mug.) Available Diversions: The sheer volume of beers suggests months-long quests, such as drinking beers: from each of the 50 states; with dogs on the label; named for bodies of water; A through Z; and so on. The Last Word: "Your first visit?" I was asked this three times, as I stood goggling at the walls of beer. But mentoring is available: Each time, I was taken on another tour of the beer shelves. This is a real brotherhood of beerdom, where after only one drink, you're in the club.