Crappy jobs can yield unexpected rewards. You might become a trivia whiz thanks to idle hours on Wikipedia or turn into an accomplished artist after perfecting unflattering doodles of your boss. Or, like Greg Kamerdze, you might get serious about beer.
Kamerdze, co-owner and head brewer of Spring Hill Brewing, keenly remembers his nightmare job. “It kind of [crushes] your soul, so you try to find something you really enjoy doing and want to do for yourself,” he says. So, he decided to take a longtime home-brewing hobby to the next level. He drafted a business plan, researched other breweries, and, along with partner Mike Seamans, searched for a home for his fledgling operation.
In 2015, a friend approached Kamerdze with an idea. “He was like, ‘have you talked to Bill about this crazy building he bought up in Spring Hill?’” says Kamerdze.
Bill Brittain, owner of Shadyside Nursery, was renovating the Workingmen's Beneficial Union, a historic German social hall in Spring Hill. Though he had never even set foot in the North Side neighborhood, Kamerdze saw the potential right away. He struck a deal with Brittain and began to build his dream.
“So here we are, three years later … seems like yesterday,” laughs Kamerdze. Though the process of renovating the aging building took longer than expected, an end is in sight. Spring Hill Brewing held their soft opening in early-April, and they plan to be open for regular hours sometime in May. A small taproom features a bar made from an old bowling alley Kamerdze found in the building, and a large yard and deck offer plenty of space to sip and admire the cityscape.
As for the beer, expect an approach that differs from many American craft breweries.
“I like the kind of beers you can sit around and drink all afternoon,” explains Kamerdze. Rather than pursuing extreme IBUs and ABVs, Kamerdze aims to brew low-alcohol, easy-drinking beers inspired by traditional European ales. Spring Hill Brewing will offer four flagships, including a Belgian-style Witbier and a golden mild ale, alongside a handful of seasonal and experimental brews.
Spring Hill Brewing’s unique location offers plenty of opportunities for collaboration. The building houses ample event space, meaning Kamerdze will be able to provide beer for concerts and private events. And he plans to work with Rescue Street Farms, a small urban farm on the property, to grow hops and indigenous herbs and provide honey for making mead and honey-spiked beer. Though Kamerdze may not have been aiming specifically for Spring Hill, his pride in his adopted neighborhood is evident. “When I came up here, it reminded me of all the reasons I love Pittsburgh,” he says. “You’ll live here for almost twenty years, and one day you’ll make a left turn and end up in a great neighborhood you didn’t even know was there.”