Fiore Moletz just took locally made to a new level.
“Everything in this restaurant was made in Pennsylvania,” Moletz, owner of Burgh’ers in Lawrenceville, told me Tuesday night inside his newest restaurant. “That includes the table tops and the bar.”
And the beer — as the sign out front at 3601 Butler Street declares.
Brewing in-house kept with Burgh’ers co-owner Fiore Moletz’s desire to serve only locally-made food and drink. It also saved him a serious pile of cash.Chris Togneri / For The Incline
The in-house brewer, Neil Glausier, rolled out three of the four beers that will become staples of the new burger joint, including a bitter, a hazy IPA and an oatmeal stout. He’s also planning a pale ale, but that batch wasn’t quite ready for Tuesday night’s debut.
Moletz believes in the power of local, he said, because his customers do. They want to know that their money is being spent on their neighbors, who is growing and preparing their food and beer and where that food and beer is grown and produced. Moletz is happy to oblige.
That’s why, when he decided to expand into the city — Moletz also owns an Italian restaurant called Della Terra and the original Burgh’ers, both in Harmony — he asked Glausier, a test engineer by day, to moonlight as his brewer.
Glausier agreed, Burgh’ers bought Hitchhiker Brewing Co.’s old brewing system when they upgraded during their recent move to a new Sharpsburg facility, and Glausier got to work in western Pennsylvania’s newest craft brewery, Burgh’ers Brewery in Zelienople.
The move made sense. Beyond keeping with his locally made mantra, Moletz also saved tens of thousands of dollars.
The plan, Moletz said, was to get a liquor license and then serve only locally-made beer, wine and spirits. But that liquor license would have cost him $80,000.
A brewer’s license, on the other hand, costs around $10,000. And that license still allows him to serve other locally made beers, wines and spirits. The only catch was that he must also make beer in house.
So … easy decision.
“I had no intention of opening a brewery,” said Moletz, a self-proclaimed wine guy. “But this worked out nicely.”
So on Tuesday afternoon, I sat down with Glausier, who calls himself a “glorified homebrewer,” to sample his beers.
Don’t let his humility fool you. This beer is good. Damn good.
“Public House” Extra Special Bitter
Low carbonation, low foam, a touch roasty, some caramel notes. The aroma is lovely — a smell that brings you back to a simpler time, before beers became known more for their citrusy tones, Belgian yeasts and rich coffee odors of a big stout. It smells like … beer.
And Glausier’s version is an easy drinker.
It didn’t turn out exactly how he’d envisioned — he’s still learning and tinkering with his new system — “but I like it, so we went with it.”
Glausier pours a “Hipster Tone.”Chris Togneri / For The Incline
“Hipster Tone” New England-style India pale ale
Cloudy with little to no sediment. Hints of papaya, peach, and even pineapple, followed by a healthy dose of grapefruit on the back end. Eight varieties of hops went into this beer, including many that have become staples for home brewers: Columbus, Citra, Mosaic, Amarillo and El Dorado.
“I change the hops based on how I’m feeling,” Glausier said, thus proving that brewing is more an artistic process than the mundane routine of simply following a recipe. “The bitterness is a bit high, but I do like bitterness.”
Glausier will “absolutely” explore other IPA styles, he said, including the less hazy West Coast and Colorado variations.
“It’s such a huge style, I’d like to go through every one,” he said. “Having the same old IPA on tap all year is pretty boring. I want to play with variables and keep it interesting.”
“Oat Black Water” oatmeal stout
Inspired by a Doobie Brothers song — “Old black water, keep on rollin’, Mississippi river won’t you keep on shining on me” — the first sip of this stout reveals vanilla and coffee, a deep roastiness and a deceptively light body.
Glausier hails from Hattiesburg, Miss., and this beer was a nod to his hometown. He also designed it to be light-bodied, he said, because it pairs nicely with a Burgh’ers burger.
“And if I serve you a burger, you should be able to have two pints without feeling like you ate a potato and need to find a couch afterwards,” Glausier said. “You can drink this beer without committing yourself to a nap.”
Glausier has several seasonal beers in the works, including an Oktoberfest and a rosemary saison (more on that later).
Meet Neil Glausier, a test engineer by day, craft brewer by night. “I’ve burned the candle on both ends,” he says.Chris Togneri / The Incline
A little history
Glausier, 38, is an Army veteran who served in Iraq and landed in Pittsburgh in 2008 after following his wife, Jill, to Emory College in Atlanta, and then here when she got a job at UPMC. They bought a house in Brighton Heights, and Glausier began homebrewing. He joined Three River Alliance of Serious Homebrewers, or TRASH.
Moletz, 36, is a classically trained Italian chef. He and his wife Michelle, the co-owner of their three restaurants, live in Prospect.
Glausier and Moletz met at a public crawfish boil (yes, really) following a volunteer cleanup of the Connoquenessing Creek, which runs past Della Terra in Harmony. Glausier and his wife, Jill, went because they’re southerners and love a good crawfish boil. The event was free, but as a gesture of gratitude, they brought a couple growlers of Glausier’s homebrew — plus a bottle of moonshine.
“Did you make the moonshine?” I asked.
Glausier put his hand over my phone, which was recording the interview.
“Yes,” he said quietly. “That’s where spent grain goes to die.”
(And here I am tossing my spent grains in the composter out back. Sigh.)
Glausier and Moletz became friends, because obviously.
A couple years later, Moletz needed a brewer. He asked Glausier to help him find one, figuring Glausier wouldn’t want to give up his well-paying engineering career to make beer for him. Moletz and his business partner interviewed candidates, but couldn’t find the right fit.
So Moletz called Glausier again.
“Dude, I just want you to brew for me,” Glausier said, recalling Moletz’s words.
“And then he showed up with this rosemary saison,” Moletz recalled, “and it was ridiculous.”
And that, dear readers of Four One Brew, is how a Mississippi moonshiner teamed up with an Italian chef to create a story that is 100 percent Pittsburgh.
It’s also why you now have the Doobie Brothers stuck in your head.
Keep on shinin’ your light, gonna make everything, everything, gonna make everything all right …