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Photo: Courtesy of Coven Brewing
One of the great aspects of Pittsburgh’s beer scene is its variety. Walk into any local brewery, and you’ll notice its differences: in the menu, atmosphere, and what it's trying to represent. And sometimes, like during my recent visit to Coven Brewing, you just walk in and say, “Holy shit, this is some good beer.”
Coven has immediately established itself as one of the very best producers of beer in the city. The new brewery, which took over Roundabout Brewery’s old lease in February, officially opened for service on April 6 in Lawrenceville.
The taproom space is simple, in the best way possible. The focus here is togetherness, and the intimate setting works for it. You still feel the traces of Roundabout’s pioneering taproom, but Coven has modified it with some sleek touches, and the patio is still fully functioning as a great gathering spot.
However, Coven isn't reinventing the wheel of what it means to be a brewery. What it is
doing is focusing on high-quality beers and the service to enjoy them properly. And the early returns are stellar with an initial draft list containing three Coven beers.
“Curses in Cursive,” a 7.2% saison,
was the first one I tried. A notoriously tricky style to nail, this beer was pulled off effortlessly, a debut beer that didn’t feel like one. It leans further into the fruity, hoppy ends of the style as opposed to the funky and wild elements of some saisons, creating a beer that feels light enough to crush throughout the springtime, yet complex and high enough in ABV to still pack a punch.
Next up was Freestanding Plinths, a 5.8% pale ale and probably my favorite beer of the evening. A pale is always tricky because it’s such a ubiquitous style. What more can you offer in such a crowded field? Well, it turns out you can offer up one of the best examples of the style in Pittsburgh, a beer that feels like it will be a draft staple far into the future. Dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin, Simcoe, and Hallertau Blanc, plinths give huge fruity notes, all grapefruit and juice. Coven’s version is so smooth, it's almost comical.
Finally, there was Swanky, a 6.8% IPA. Coven is going to be heavily focused on its IPA program — after all, its owners Trevor Greer and Caiti Sullivan come from local IPA giant Dancing Gnome brewery in Sharpsburg — and it's easy to know why when tasting this beer. Swanky doesn’t do anything too crazy, it just drives home its balance of drinkability and hop-forward expressiveness.
Coven will continue to evolve as a brewery, in its beer and in who they are and what they do as a taproom space in a busy part of the city. But for a place to come so fully formed, so confident and defined in its work during opening week, is a testament to the owners spending years at the craft in anticipation of this moment.
If this is the opening draft list, I absolutely can’t wait to see what’s next.
Coven Brewing. 4901 Butler St., Lawrenceville. Open 4-10 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 4-11 p.m. on Fridays, and 1-10 p.m. on Saturdays. covenbrewingpgh.com