Gary Olden sees beer as one of society’s great equalizers, an ethos which inspired the name of his new Mt. Lebanon brewpub, Hitchhiker Brewing Company.
“Beer is a product all different types of people from all walks of life enjoy,” Olden says. “Whether you’re in need of help or you’re willing to help, hitchhiking is sort of this concept that can bring all different types of people together for a journey toward a common destination.”
Fittingly, Olden’s space next to Luma on Castle Shannon Boulevard couldn’t be more homey or inviting. The pub’s bar stands only about four feet off the ground. Its front is made from the reclaimed tin roof of a barn in McDonald, Pa., and the top is refinished, 18-foot planks of well-distressed wood from another barn.
The barstools are short and reminiscent of the kind you probably sat on during high school shop class. The back deck and side garden could easily make Hitchhiker one of Pittsburgh’s most inviting new beer gardens.
“I can’t tell you what the different plants are, but the woman next door gardens for these few properties and the whole area just looks incredible in the summertime,” Olden says.
When Hitchhiker holds its grand opening —expected in June — the pub will feature seven house-made craft beers on tap, including a German-style kolsch, a black IPA, an oatmeal brown and a porter. On top of its beer selection, the pub will offer cider from Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville and wines from R Wine Cellar in the Strip. Olden also plans on making a homemade root beer for those less inclined toward alcohol.
“There’s really not anything like this out here, and I thought that bringing that sort of industrial-modern feel out to the suburbs was a good idea,” he says. “Part of the concept is sort of like it’s a coffee shop. We’ll have guest WiFi, and I’d certainly encourage people to bring their laptops.”
While it won’t serve full meals, Hitchhiker will have a limited menu of smaller offerings from local and regional farms, including hot dogs made from grass-fed beef set in local bread, a variety of organic local cheeses, house-made chili and soft pretzels.
While he might eventually try to feature his brews in a few local bars, right now Olden is concentrating on building up enough inventory to stock the pub.
“We actually ended up buying a fair number of kegs off of Full Pint, so we’ve got quite a large cooperage capability,” he says. “We’re going to have to see what the demand looks like here. We have some interest from a few different bars, though.”