2016 has been awfully rough. This year, single words could trigger sadness, anger and deep existential despair. Prince. Harambe. Trump. Clickbait with titles like “Why 2016 Was a Total Dumpster Fire” has become a fixture on our various feeds. With all its ups and downs (so many downs), 2016 gave us plenty of reasons to drink. And though it might be a small comfort, drinkers in Pittsburgh have never had better options than they did this year.
In 2016, beer went from good to great. Existing breweries hit strides and pushed limits, honing flagship brews and premiering some truly remarkable new ones. There is now a regional brewery to suit any palate. I know I can turn to All Saints for expertly executed lagers, Spoonwood for yeasty Belgian styles, and Brew Gentlemen for all things dank and hoppy. A question about my favorite local brewery inevitably yields a long and winding answer — there is just so much good beer to be found.
Plenty of new breweries made a splash this year. I’ve been consistently impressed with offerings from Levity Brewing, which opened in Indiana, Pa., in January. The friendly atmosphere and top-notch beers make it well worth the hour’s drive. A little closer to home, Dancing Gnome has given hopheads a new haven. Though it opened less than two months ago, the striking Sharpsburg brewery has made its mark on Pittsburgh beer with a series of juicy, fragrant IPAs and pale ales. And there are many more breweries on the horizon, from the hotly anticipated Southern Tier brewpub to Mindful Brewing, an ambitious restaurant and brewery slated to open in the South Hills early next year.
For Pittsburghers looking for a memorable night out, the options have never been broader. The best openings of 2016 didn’t just add another watering hole to the neighborhood — it brought entirely new concepts to Pittsburgh. Hidden Harbor introduced a mash-up of classic tiki and futuristic techniques to the unexpected neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. In Bloomfield, Apteka serves up comforting vegan pierogi alongside housemade cordials in a hip yet cozy atmosphere. Most recently, I was taken with the midday negroni and the casual yet classy service at DiAnoia’s in the Strip.
Whether brand-new or a longtime favorite, the city’s best bars, breweries and restaurants are the ones with a vision. We’ve all been to the places that attempt to be everything to everyone and end up feeling like a diluted, unfocused mess. I hope that 2017 brings more spots that find a hole in Pittsburgh and fill it, whether it’s brewing a perfect pilsner or making a space-age tropical cocktail. As we let the dumpster fire peter out and march hopefully into 2017, let’s raise a glass to the creative, hungry people who continue to make Pittsburgh a great place to live, work and drink.