There are hundreds of jokes (and even a movie) about a lawyer walking into a bar, but in Squirrel Hill, a lawyer — two, actually — decided to walk into the bar and buy it.
In the process, brothers Peter and Matt Kurzweg rebranded the recently shuttered Fanattics bar as the Independent Brewing Company. But don't let the name fool you; while the brothers are avid homebrewers, this is a bar, not a brewery.
The original Independent Brewing Company was a pre-Prohibition consortium of small Pittsburgh breweries that were struggling to keep up with Pittsburgh Brewing Company, the once-mighty regional brewer of Iron City, and large national brands. "That concept of supporting the little guys is exactly what we want to do," says Peter.
Although it's nothing new for a Pittsburgh bar to have a few locally brewed beers on tap, at the Independent, all the beer is small-batch and local. "There's something you get from being able to visit the breweries, and from knowing the brewers," says Peter. "There's a sense of pride in serving good local beer."
There are some advantages in knowing the brewers, too. When the bar ran out of IPA on opening weekend, Peter called Matt Gowanus of Hop Farm Brewing for an emergency delivery. He says he "basically dragged Gowanus out of bed," but once the brewer arrived, he stayed and chatted about his brewery with customers.
Local spirits are highlighted on Saturday nights, when cocktail guru Adam Henry, a Princeton classmate of Peter, steps behind the bar with an ambitious drinks program featuring Pittsburgh distilleries.
Still, beer is the focus at the Independent Brewing Company. And, though the bar might appeal primarily to beer geeks, Matt says his highly educated staff is ready to make suggestions for the uninitiated. "If a beer is lingering, it's not because it's a bad beer," he says. "It's because people might not know that style. If you can turn people around, you can change their lives."