The Open Road Bar Dry January Pop-Up. Through Fri., Jan. 31. Creative Coffee & Supply. 309 Smithfield St., Downtown. Search “Dry January Happy Hour” on Facebook.
Starting Wed., Jan. 15, Creative Coffee & Supply in Downtown Pittsburgh will be home to the city’s first pop-up bar for “Dry January,” a health initiative that encourages people to abstain from drinking for the month. The bar is a project of Mel Babitz, founder of The Open Road Bar, an alcohol-optional bottle shop she hopes to open in Pittsburgh by the end of the year.
Babitz’s idea for this alcohol-free bar has been “a long time coming.” She isn’t a big drinker but recognizes that bars are a huge part of the social scene.
“There are so many times when you’re at a bar, and maybe you want to have a drink or two and keep hanging out — or maybe you don’t want to have an alcoholic drink at all — but you want to be part of the experience,” she explains.
The happy hour pop-up will be completely alcohol-free. There will be cocktails — Babitz is using alternative spirits from Ritual Zero Proof (no-alcohol gin and whiskey) and Seedlip Spirits — but because Pittsburgh is a “beer city,” she’s focusing her efforts on non-alcoholic craft beer.
“If you’re a beer drinker but want to switch it up, it’s like three steps away [to] get an alcohol-free cocktail,” she notes. “[Non-alcoholic beer] is an easier transition.”
Babitz is carrying a variety of alcohol-free beer; her favorites are a stout from Athletic Brewing Company and a lemony sour by Gruvi. For hop-lovers, Babitz recommends Hoplark HopTea, which is “brewed like tea and hopped like beer.”
And she doesn’t hesitate to vouch for the flavor of these alcohol-free brews, noting that they aren’t too far off from their alcoholic relatives, though maybe thinner or sweeter (but that’s just a few varieties). “If you got five different IPAs from five different breweries, they wouldn’t be the same,” she points out.
Babitz’ Dry January happy hour pop-up runs Wednesday-Friday through the end of the month. This won’t be her last event; as she works towards a permanent location for The Open Road Bar — Babitz plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign this spring — the city can expect to see pop-ups and tasting events throughout the year.
As for The Open Road Bar, it will have alcohol, but Babitz aims for her brick-and-mortar to create a middle ground. Instead of sipping on one beer for three hours or sticking to water, guests at The Open Road will have the choice to switch to a non- or low-alcoholic drink. But if you want to get drunk, there will be an option for that too. Babitz plans to have something for everyone.