In a small wooden cabin on Zelienople's Main Street, every stool at Shu Brew's bar is filled. It's cozy, with a Cheers-style atmosphere, and it's easy to spend an hour or two enjoying the ever-rotating selection of beers created by brewmaster Zach Shumaker. As a recently certified cicerone, he has completed an extensive examination, and demonstrated expertise in beer service. Shu's new three-barrel brew system sits just behind the microbrewery's bar, shiny with the promise of meeting increasing customer demand.
Erika and Zach Shumaker opened the place in September 2013; after a successful first year, they plan to keep expanding. Just last week, they began distributing kegs to a local restaurant and Cranberry's Giant Eagle. In the next few years, Shu Brew hopes to start bottling.
After months of hearing whispers about the great beer out in Zeli, I was excited to sit down with Erika Shumaker and a flight from Shu Brew. All the beers' titles play on the couple's surname, and feature bottle art by Brentwood High School art teacher Benny Miller. "Cindy Lou Shu," the brewery's nod to Christmas ale, ignores the standard clove-and-cinnamon approach. This Belgian Strong Dark Ale begins smoothly with fig flavors and finishes with a malty sweetness from brown Salvadoran sugar. Jungleboot, the flagship IPA brewed with six kinds of hops, is clean, grassy and simple. It's difficult to stop drinking, even for someone who usually opts out of hoppy beers. Mosaic Marathon, a session IPA with 100 percent Mosaic hops, starred on the rotating tap. Citrusy with hints of pineapple and honey, it lingered just long enough to make me wish for a hot summer day.
The new year holds exciting changes, and new beers. In early 2015, look for No Woman, No Rye, a 750 mL release, as part of Shu's bottle program. This rye IPA, produced in Wigle Whiskey barrels, is a beer to look forward to from the Shumakers — surely one of many.