Photo: courtesy Coven Brewing
A coconut double IPA from Coven Brewing
Taking over for a staple in the Pittsburgh beer community is no easy task. But if there was anyone up for it, Trevor Greer and Caiti Sullivan are ready. For years, the two have been in working in the craft beer industry, including at the popular and recently expanded Dancing Gnome brewery in Sharpsburg
And now, they are opening a new brewery in early 2022. Coven Brewing
will be run by Greer and Sullivan and it will be taking over the Roundabout Brewery space
in Lawrenceville. (Roundabout will still be open during the transition.) Pittsburgh City Paper
corresponded over email with Greer and Sullivan on the new space, their plans for the future, and what it means to be a part of the Lawrenceville community.
Coven is entering a crowded and thriving Pittsburgh craft beer scene. What is your plan to stand out, and what are you hoping to achieve opening up your own space?
Greer and Sullivan: We’re thrilled to be part of the Pittsburgh craft beer community. As equal-opportunity drinkers, we find inspiration anywhere from classic beer styles to a wide range of flavor profiles found in beverages, including spirits, cocktails, wine, cider, as well as food. We’re looking forward to making creative beers and drawing from our influences to craft high-quality, thoughtful beer. We are also planning to offer Pennsylvania-produced mixed drinks, spirits, cider, and wine to welcome guests who may not drink beer or may like to have several different types of beverages over the course of a night. While we expect this range of offerings to start small, we are excited to explore and expand our non-beer menu alongside our own offerings over time.
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but you guys are taking over the spot currently occupied by Roundabout Brewery in Lawrenceville after they move on. Are you able to say anything official about that? What is the timeline on that front?
Greer and Sullivan: That’s correct, we will be moving into the current Roundabout Brewery space. The owners of Roundabout worked with us to take over the location with their brewing equipment in place, which is an incredible opportunity for us to hit the ground running. We will take over the lease in February 2022, and have plans to open quickly in the spring after some taproom updates. We are very lucky to be moving into a storied location and look forward to continuing a tradition of brewing in our space.
Are there any particular styles, or things that you guys want to focus on from the brewing side?
Sullivan: We love New England IPAs and plan to focus on regular soft, juicy, and fruit-forward offerings. We’re also looking forward to flexing our creative muscles and exploring a range of styles including kettle sours, adjunct IPAs, fruited beers, stouts, and saisons. Over time we are interested in developing a barrel cellar and farmhouse program — prior to Dancing Gnome, I [worked] in mixed fermentation and I’m excited to create in that space again. Ultimately, we’re excited to offer a flavor-driven range of beers.
As I understand it, you both are coming over from Dancing Gnome, which obviously has been a mainstay on the beer scene here for years. What have your experiences there taught you guys about both the brewing process, but also running a taproom and being a part of the Pittsburgh community?
Sullivan: I have been a brewer at Dancing Gnome since 2019 and have learned a lot brewing the range of styles made there. On one hand, DG produces everything from classic German and British styles to rich adjunct imperial stouts. I’ve always found it interesting to work with varied ingredients and try different brewing techniques; it’s like adding new colors to your paint palette.
On the other hand, Dancing Gnome makes great hazy IPAs and I liked continually honing our techniques to produce the best beer in that style that we could. I also really enjoy collaborating with other breweries, especially when other brewers visit — talking with other brewers about their processes, equipment, and recipes is a great way to learn from your peers to create something new for both breweries. I carry that atmosphere of constant learning, experimentation, and improvement with me.
Greer: Even prior to joining the team at DG (when I was still working at Triple Crossing in Richmond, Va.), I would bounce operations ideas back and forth with [DG founder Andrew Witchey]. Figuring out how the other brewery handled certain things and seeing if it made sense to incorporate said methods into our own systems was always beneficial. It’s been great to work at two busy and similarly sized breweries that handle customer facing operations a little differently.
There are a lot of things that Dancing Gnome is doing, and has done, that I didn’t see in Richmond. Or in other breweries here in Pittsburgh for that matter. We don’t want to copy how Dancing Gnome does things, but there is a good amount that can be taken away from watching the tasting room staff handle a busy Friday night or a can release. I look forward to creating a taproom experience of our own that offers a similarly efficient and welcoming standard of service to what has become expected from DG.
Finally and more broadly, what do you hope to add to the Lawrenceville community?
Greer: Just that. We are looking forward to adding to the community that has been building itself up over that past handful of years. As a Pittsburgh native whose family is from just up McCandless Avenue, it means a lot to me to have this opportunity. Lawrenceville has become a great mix of different local businesses, especially ones that focus on food and beverage.
Certainly we will have both similarities and differences with the breweries in the neighborhood that predate us, and we’ll likely have some similarities with some of the restaurants and bars that have opened over the past five or so years. Bridging the gap between being “a brewery” and “a bar” in an effort to become simply a welcoming gathering place with a curated list of flavor-driven beverage options is one of our main goals.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Sullivan: I’m really proud to be leading this brewery as a woman brewer. In my time in the beverage industry, I’ve increasingly seen more professional participation of women, people of color, and LGBTQ people — but we have a very long way to go towards a truly welcoming and diverse craft beer community of professionals and drinkers. At Coven, one of our biggest priorities is to offer a welcoming, safe, enjoyable space for all drinkers to enjoy craft beer.
Hopefully, we’ll even welcome guests through our doors who may not have felt like craft beer was for them before but feel comfortable exploring our offerings and our space. We believe that craft beer is for everyone and I’m looking forward to finding more and more ways to invest in the diversity of our industry and community.
Greer: We’d love to publicly thank Roundabout again for this opportunity. It’s pretty special to be moving into a space that has played such a major role in the evolution of Pittsburgh craft beer over the past decade. It’s been a bittersweet ride on this emotional roller coaster the past few months, but we look forward to trying our best to follow the great act that has been Lawrenceville’s Roundabout Brewery.
Follow Coven Brewery on Instagram @coven.brewing