Brandon McCarthy, head brewer at Rock Bottom Pittsburgh, credits his dad's good taste — and some youthful boldness — for getting him where he is today. "When everyone else was stealing Miller Lights from their dad, I was stealing Victory and Dogfish Head," he says.
After a stint apprenticing at Church Brew Works, McCarthy has worked at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery for more than six years (the past two-and-a-half as head brewer). He's intent on turning his branch of the brewpub chain into a producer of creative, tasty beers worthy of local respect
Having "a corporate thing attached to our name" is a struggle, he acknowledges.
Although many of us are eager to support the smaller operations in town, being part of a chain — Rock Bottom has 34 locations across the United States — has certain advantages for an intrepid brewer. With a bigger budget, he says, "I probably have more creative freedom than a lot of other brewers in the city."
"My only creative constraint is, I know I have to please our clientele," he says. "I have to have something for people that come in not knowing we are a brewery and wanting a Coors Light."
So McCarthy, an avid home cook, decided that one way to introduce his more conservative clientele to new flavors is to cook for them. "Flavor is a holistic theme in my life. It's not just beer or just food. I've always been a flavor-driven person," he says.
Once a month, for the "Brewer's Happy Hour," McCarthy cooks a meal to match with one of his seasonal beers. October featured a pumpkin soup enhanced with maple and curry, laced with the brewery's pumpkin beer, and garnished with toasted walnuts and gorgonzola. He's still working on the menu for the next happy hour, on Wed., Nov. 12. He says that a fruited, spiced bone-marrow spread will likely be served.