Creekside Beer recently had the privilege of meeting with our newest brewery partner, Trace Brewing, based in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, and touring their just completed facility. Owner and founder Dave Kushner was an incredibly gracious host for this visit, providing us with extensive background on the brewery, the process, the staff, and their plans. Dave said he had relocated to Pittsburgh several years ago after a stint in the Boston area, where he learned all of the mechanics of brewery operation while working at John Harvard’s Brew House, Harpoon Brewing, and Lord Hobo Brewing, and then successfully launching Remnant Brewing in Boston, which is still in operation. The location that Dave found for Trace Brewing was a perfect venue for this venture, just a block from the Bloomfield bridge in the heart of the neighborhood, in a building that initially housed a brass and bronze foundry when it was built in 1910. After extensive design sessions with his architects, Dave said he kicked off the construction phase of the project in December of 2019, with plans to open the following spring. Then 2020 happened, throwing their plans to open their brewpub a real curveball. As a result, Trace is unique in that they began canning their products from the outset, rather than offering these in draft, in order to get their products in the hands of customers more immediately – and safely, during the pandemic.
The facility that Dave and team created is quite literally a stunning design, pulling together architectural points from the building’s history, repurposing and reclaiming components of the original structure, and making what was old new again, without losing any of the charm. We were extremely impressed with their eye for detail, and how they created a warm, inviting space out of a more than one hundred-year old metal factory, where patrons can watch Trace’s products being brewed firsthand. Some of the major renovations that Dave pointed out include where they:
restored the original wooden roof to provide a lofty cathedral ceiling in the brewpub;
sealed the exposed brick to maintain the original look and feel of the factory wall;
cleaned and polished the original glass block windows;
added new garage doors that open up to their outdoor beer garden;
removed the roof in what is now the beer garden to open up the space;
added pendant lights that hang from the cathedral ceiling, reminiscent of the molten metal that used to be poured inside the original factory; and
accented the lounge area with neon lights that shimmer through the glass block windows behind the bar.
And in repurposing more of the original building, the winch from the factory that was used to move metal onto the shop floor is still being used to load bags of malt into the new brewery.
When we visited, we saw the barrel wall on the side of the lounge being filled out with the wine and bourbon barrels that are used to age some of Trace’s products for anywhere from six months to several years or more.
Dave tells us that the inside of the brewpub can be curtained off to allow for separate events or to provide more privacy, or opened up to incorporate the beer garden.A fireplace inside the brewpub will provide some cozy ambiance, with multi-level seating in the beer garden providing even more flexibility for patrons and events.
The bar at Trace is outfitted with over a dozen taps, some of which are fed directly from Trace’s serving tanks, providing the freshest products possible.
And as if that weren’t enough, they also feature a full coffee and espresso bar, with coffee provided by Redhawk Coffee of Pittsburgh. All of their bartenders are also trained baristas!
During our extensive tour of the facility, Dave showed us his gleaming new ten-barrel brewing system, with five fermenters capable of handling up to twenty barrels each and adding the carbonation, along with two ten-barrel wooden foeders to age beers and provide some of the “funk” that Trace is focused on.
Finally, Dave showed us their coolship room, separated from the beer garden by a series of floor to ceiling windows to allow for viewing of the entire process.Dave explained that this coolship process is the same process used by Russian River Brewing, Allagash Brewing, and other breweries to create spontaneously fermented sour beer, without adding yeast directly – somewhat similar to creating a lambic.Instead, the coolship can use what is in the air itself to start the fermentation process, and produce wild, sour beers that will be unique to both Trace and the time they were brewed.
Trace also lined the walls of the coolship room with shiplap; designed a table top that can be placed over the coolship vessel to allow it to be used as a conference table capable of seating twelve people; and hung an awesome chandelier over the coolship itself, resulting in an extremely cool vibe.
The Team and Products
The team at Trace is extremely adept at their craft as well. Augmenting Dave Kushner’s expertise, Head Brewer Zach Colton, formerly of Trillium, Dancing Gnome, Four Points, and Strange Roots is producing some brews that are simply outstanding. We sampled Trace Brewing Coal Hill, a Dortmunder that was a smooth, easy-drinking and refreshing lager, currently rated at 4.0 / 5.0 on Untappd; Trace Brewing Hop Royalty, a NE IPA brewed with Mosaic, African Queen and Amarillo hops that showcased some nice berry flavors without being too over-the-top (4.17/5.0 on Untappd); and Trace Brewing Meteor Remote, a wonderful NE DIPA brewed with Citra, Mosaic, and Galaxy hops (4.13 / 5.0 on Untappd). All of these were top-notch brews, and showcase some of the brewing talent that Dave Kushner has built at Trace Brewing.
General Manager Katie Rado comes to Trace with 20+ years of service industry experience, including stints in Las Vegas and throughout Pittsburgh. She was most recently shift manager and offsite events manager at Spirit Lodge in Lawrenceville.
On the digital side of the Trace brand, Aadam Soorma is head of marketing and guest experience. He comes to Trace after two years at Very Local Pittsburgh where his weekly beer column (ABV) won the 2020 Western PA Press Club Golden Quill for best non-daily column in the region. He also drove the Porter Brewery Tours bus to Pittsburgh-area breweries for tours and tastings from 2017 to 2020.
Finally, Dev Johnson is Trace Brewing’s first-ever Vocational Brewer. The six-month paid vocational program at Trace is geared toward preparing the next generation of brewers by giving them the experience, skills and backing of Trace to secure a job in the beer industry. The vocational program is open to anyone (no experience required) and is focused on selecting candidates who are women, people of color or folks in the LGBT community - all of whom are underrepresented in the beer industry.
The Creekside recommendation? Trace Brewing in Bloomfield is a must-visit venue (reservations recommended during COVID). To make reservations, please call the brewery directly at 412.904.3555 (landline only - no text option). Their products should be on your shortlist of what to try next. The venue and the products are simply phenomenal! We are anxiously awaiting our next delivery of Trace products at Creekside Beer!