A former dry borough until May 2015, Bellevue now boasts an awe inspiring brewery and kitchen. Here’s our walkthrough with founder Grant Saylor.
ABV is our weekly series that highlights a different beer from a local Pittsburgh brewery every week. Check out our past picks here.
Located inside a former dentist office that sat empty for (at least) three years, downtown Bellevue is home to a small business that would have been demonstrably impossible to open four years ago: a brewery.
Until May 2015, Bellevue existed as a completely dry borough. Just five miles up the Ohio River from downtown Pittsburgh, the community’s firm opposition to alcohol was rooted in – among other things – fear.
“There were community groups like ‘No Bars in Bellevue’ who believed that establishments selling alcohol would lead to (deviant) things like strip clubs and people peeing outside,” says Grant Saylor, founder and head brewer at Lincoln Ave Brewery. “It was nonsense.”
Bring Business to Bellevue
Saylor and his wife Lisa live in Bellevue within walking distance of the brewery. Together, they began having conversations with local business owners. They knocked on doors, got petitions signed and did their homework.
“We did a ton of research, which started with learning the ins and outs of the LCB (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board). I had to get my facts straight so we could build a grassroots movement that people would buy into,” explains Saylor.
The “Bring Business to Bellevue” movement gained enough steam to land a spot on the May 2015 Primary Election.
“We set up an open house style Town Hall at the church next door,” Saylor continues. “I invited the LCB; they needed to see that we weren’t a nuisance. Bottom line: you shouldn’t have to LEAVE Bellevue to go out and have a nice evening.”
July 27, 2019 – Bellevue Births a Brewery
With the support of their community, the Saylors teamed up with Joel and Amy Haldeman.
“It was really like the stars aligned. We got to work on opening a brewery with a HEAVY sense of community.”
Logging over 2000 volunteer hours from local residents, the borough’s efforts paid off. Lincoln Avenue Brewery opened in July 2019 and Saylor’s community-forward vision is taking shape.
“We’re seeing more young people move to the area and they are actually buying houses, versus renting. Those same young people are getting involved in the community. Things are open past 7 pm. The enthusiasm has been amazing.”
Food and Beer Inspo
Saylor – whose background is in food and hospitality – is passionate when he speaks about folks that inspire him.
“My wife and I love going to San Diego Beer Week. One of our favorite spots is Bagby Beer in Oceanside, CA. Jeff Bagby (the owner) is an amazing guy.”
“On a more local level, I connected with Scott Smith at East End Brewing about 10 years ago. I bought a half barrel (keg) off him and I’ve kept it ever since. In fact, I still use it.”
“To be honest, everyone in the (Pittsburgh) beer industry has been super gracious.”
First-Timers at Lincoln Avenue Brewery
If it’s your first time heading to Lincoln Avenue Brewery, Saylor invites you to ask for him by name.
“I’m always here; just ask for me – Grant. I love talking with guests at their tables. I want to share the story of how we came to be. A lot of people are curious – if you want to chat, I’m here.”
Although you won’t find food trucks at Lincoln Avenue brewery, their innovative kitchen offers a hearty food program. Their beverage program is diverse, offering Pennsylvania made wines and spirits on top of the in-house craft beer menu, curated and produced by Saylor and his team.
What can folks expect in the future?
Expect lots of stouts and porters, especially in the fall.
“You’ll see some seasonal stuff sprout up too – including our coffee dunkel.”
“And although I don’t brew some styles very often, I will start to experiment with new styles, including goses.”
Saylor also has plans to roll out a collaborative beer project with local homebrewers.
“A lot of people homebrew, but don’t have the chance to take it up a notch.”
By reserving a tap line or two at Lincoln Avenue for this project, it allows the Bellevue community to try something more experimental and give honest feedback about someone’s beer.
How does Lincoln Avenue Brewery name its beers?
Saylor laughs as he shares a couple of stories around how his beers got their names.
“So, I had another brewer here during an event…I gave him a small taste of our porter straight from the brite tank and he asked: ‘Oh, is there coffee in that?’ And I responded: ‘No, it’s Just A Porter.”
The 5/11 New England style IPA got its name from Saylor’s daughter’s wedding.
“My daughter and son-in-law had locked in their wedding date for May 11. Well, at the time I was homebrewing; so they came over and we brewed this New England style IPA for their wedding. She wanted to call it ‘Hoppily Ever After’ and I said: ‘No, we’ll call it the 5/11.”
Date Night in Pittsburgh
When Grant and his wife Lisa enjoy a night out, they love to keep it local and – more often than not – try to hit other local breweries.
“So, we love Thai Tamarind for dinner here in Bellevue but we really enjoy popping in to visit our friends at Allegheny City Brewing (Northside), Abjuration Brewing (McKees Rocks) and Grist House (Millvale) as well.”
ABV, volume XXXV
Bulldog DIPA – available now at Lincoln Avenue Brewery
Beer Name: Bulldog DIPA
Style / ABV: Double IPA, 8% ABV
Why we recommend it: When I see ‘west coast style IPA’ on a tap list, my mind immediately associates this categorization with the word ‘BITE.’
The Bulldog DIPA from Lincoln Ave certainly carries a bulldog bite.
Named after the former Bellevue High School’s mascot (The Bulldogs), this Double IPA is hopped with Simcoe, Columbus, Cascade, Amarillo and Centennial (hops). A strong, hop-forward force of flavor, you’ll note the pronounced aroma and relatively high ABV. It carries a lovely red hue in Lincoln Ave’s glassware and it’s my favorite IPA the brewery is currently offering.
When is it available: Since its opening, Lincoln Avenue has been doing its damndest to keep up with demand (not a bad problem to have).
As Grant himself told us: “I thought we had enough beer (for our grand opening). We just got crushed. The enthusiasm was unlike anything I’d seen.”
Although Bulldog DIPA is a flagship mainstay on their taplist, don’t be surprised if it kicks or is replaced by something else. On September 30, Saylor expanded his brew capacity; he aims to keep as much beer on draft as possible at all times.
All of this to say, the beer IS available now, but – like any microbrewery – everything depends on their day to day supply.
Now this should definitely help to ramp up production. Thanks to Shane Saylor Zachary Maykuth Robert Mancuso Jonathan Bruening and Shawn for the assist getting these bad boys in place.
How is it served: Lincoln Avenue will serve you beer in a taster-size (5-oz), a half pour (half pint) or a full pour (pint). Depending on availability, you can fill a growler to take some home with you as well.
Where is it available: Lincoln Avenue Brewery (Bellevue)
Honorable Mention Beer: Just A Porter (Porter, 7.4% ABV). A simple and seasonally-relevant Porter for our friends who prefer darker beers.
Visiting Lincoln Avenue Brewery
First Time Visitor?
Parking: On street parking is available. My advice: since the brewery is at a major intersection in central Bellevue, jump off Lincoln Avenue and browse for spots along Hawley Avenue. You’ll find one.
Food: Stellar in-house food program. We highly recommend the charcuterie board.
Interior: The key takeaway here is the way Grant has positioned his fermenters. They are literally on an elevated platform, clearly visible from the bar and seating area. Natural light pierces through the large windows, filling the taproom with a warm, sunny hue.
Pro Tip: Heading out for a solo beer? On a date? If you have a small group, the barstools along the windowsill provide a lovely view of downtown Bellevue. Love those seats.
All photos by Pat Hogan. Follow Pat on Instagram.