Glance at the flashy orange-and-yellow neon sign advertising "Buddy's Brews on Carson," and it's easy to suspect you're looking at a new bar. This is East Carson Street, after all ... and inside, you'll find polished hardwood floors and a flat-screen TV. Buddy's, however, is in fact a beer distributor, owned by South Sider Jake Nickman.
Nickman, who also operates another Buddy's Brews in Uniontown with his brother, wanted to fill a niche he thought the South Side, for all its alcohol purveyors, had left unfilled: "There was the need for a beer distributor that carried a lot of craft and import stuff." He also hopes to bring an ambiance that distributors in Pittsburgh often lack. "Most beer distributors are either a shopping center-type of thing, or a garage or warehouse type," he says. "Why can't it be a nice-looking retail store?"
Which is what Buddy's is. Formerly the home of T&T hardware, it features exposed brick walls and sleek, black metal shelves that suggest a high-end retailer. The TV, meanwhile, is tuned to ESPN and invites customers to linger a while. (The dog on the neon sign, by the way, is indeed named Buddy — a yellow lab whom Nickman found while working a construction job, but who died before the Carson Street location opened.)
The brews at Buddy's run the gamut of domestic giants — leaning heavily on MillerCoors brands — imports and microbrews. True to Nickman's desire, there is also a strong selection of craft beer, ranging from Great Lakes Brewing of Ohio to North Carolina's Duck Rabbit Brewery and California's Ballast Point ... with plenty in between.
Nickman has also just launched a drive-through service from Carey Way, the alley just behind the store. That effort was just getting underway as this issue went to press, but the South Sider says it, too, fills an important niche. "It's hard enough to find parking around here," he says.