New craft brewery taps into British beer traditions | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

New craft brewery taps into British beer traditions

“I loved everything about what they were trying to do with what they call ‘real ale.’”

click to enlarge Stefanie and Josh Lipke - CP PHOTO BY DREW CRANISKY
CP Photo by Drew Cranisky
Stefanie and Josh Lipke

With the explosion of American craft beer, new breweries are always looking for ways to set themselves apart. This often comes in the form of innovation: experimental hops or new strains of wild yeast. Josh and Stefanie Lipke, however, are making a splash by turning to tradition.

The Lipkes are the husband-and-wife team behind The Leaning Cask Brewing Company, a new English-style brewpub in Springdale. Josh (who runs the brewing side of the operation) fell for British beer during a trip to England in 2007. “I just loved the way they served it, I loved how it tasted, I loved everything about what they were trying to do over there with what they call ‘real ale,’” he explains. 

The term “real ale” refers to beer served from a cask without the use of additional carbonation. While it’s common in England (you may have seen the distinctive hand pumps and swan-neck spouts in British pubs), cask ales are few and far between in American craft brewing. When the Lipkes couldn’t find true British brews in Pittsburgh, they decided to make their own.

The Leaning Cask opened in early June in the space that formerly housed B&D Records. The British influence is evident the moment you enter, from the large Union Jack on the wall to the name itself. Equally obvious is the Lipkes’ love of dogs. Beers sport names like Pointer Porter and Alsatian Abbey Ale, and the canine-friendly taproom even boasts a doggie restroom sandwiched between the human ones.

Though serving all of Leaning Cask’s beer out of casks would be impractical, Josh Lipke draws heavily on traditional British brewing techniques. “I’ve come up with a bit of a hybrid method of naturally carbonating and naturally aging the beers — very similar to how casking is done — for all of my beers,” he explains. It’s a method that results in uniquely smooth brews. The lineup ranges from beloved British styles like an ESB to American favorites like a double IPA. And if you don’t like beer, he also makes a dry English cider.

The Leaning Cask always features one beer served from a wooden cask. Each Thursday, it taps a new cask and serves it with the imported hand-pump system. In addition to providing a glimpse of an authentic British pub, the small size of the casks allows Lipke to try out experimental batches that could grow into flagship brews.

With a 13-barrel brewhouse (considerably larger than that of many fledgling breweries), Leaning Cask will avoid the common craft-brewery problem of not being able to keep up with demand. And its large building offers room for expansion. The Lipkes are already considering adding a rooftop beer garden and replacing the rotating food trucks with a kitchen of their own. But don’t wait: Grab a pup and head down to The Leaning Cask for a new (yet very old) take on craft beer.

850 Springdale St., Springdale.

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