Route 19 Beer & Cigar is hard to find, even from Route 19. The little Peters Township distributor sits behind a car wash and a muffler shop. But that's OK, with clients dedicated enough to consider paying, say, $200 for a case of Belgian-brewed Delirium Tremens.
Route 19 beer manager Chris Dayton is all for connoisseurship: Wearing a company shirt that reads "Beer Snob," he talks up the "apricot note" in one brew and calls another "the grand poobah of IPAs." The store holds four weekly beer tastings (Wednesdays through Saturdays) in a space lined with humidors and smelling pleasantly of tobacco, and sporting its "Beer Showroom," a walk-in cooler.
In 2003, owner Jim Platz bought an old car wash and later imaginatively added a cigar shop and beer distributorship. He started with domestic brews, but his cigar customers' fondness for unusual brands and limited editions led him, in 2009, into craft beers.
Now, crafts constitute two-thirds of his sales, Platz says. Customers travel up to 60 miles for special-ordered brews like Firestone Walker Double Jack Imperial IPA. Cases range up to $300, for the champagne-like Deus. "It's the Dom Perignon of beers," says Dayton.
Route 19 aficionados include Jeff DePaolis, who says he's sampled 132 different craft beers this year.
"Do we want the Wee Heavy?" Dayton asked at a recent tasting.
"What's that?" asked DePaolis.
"It's a Scotch ale."
3626 Washington Road (Rte. 19), Peters Township. 724-941-2345