First barrels soon could roll out of Rivertowne brewhouse
By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 8:59 p.m.
Fourteen years ago, Andrew Maxwell chose beer, not drugs.
An analytical chemist working for Smith-Kline Beecham, Maxwell was one of the researchers responsible for developing sinus medication Sudafed. But when the opportunity came to leave a fully-funded doctorate program to make $8.50 an hour as a craft brewer, Maxwell chose the art of brewing beer.
“Brewing is chemistry – it's just driving reactions in various ways,” said Maxwell, of Murrysville. “It was a calculated risk.”
It was a risk that could start paying off later this month. Maxwell, the brewmaster for Rivertowne Brewing, is set to distill the first batches of beer at the new Murrysville brewhouse as early as Monday.
Maxwell and his business partner, Christian Fyke, began preparing the former Universal Welding building along Old William Penn Highway in the spring. The company operates a smaller brewery and restaurant in Monroeville and brews 24 beers throughout the year.
Unlike the Monroeville operation, the Murrysville facility will not be a restaurant. It only will brew the company's six signature beers – the RT Lager, Old Wylie's IPA, Hala Kahiki, Babbling Blonde, Scottish Ale and Grateful White.
“The idea is that we're making beer for each demographic – a hoppy beer, a sweet beer, something for everyone,” Maxwell said.
“If all goes well, we'll have the product in package form by the end of December. We don't rush our beers.”
The facility does house a testing room, which will have limited hours. Primarily, the brewery will sell cases and kegs of beer to businesses. Limited cases and kegs will be sold to consumers after a tasting, Maxwell said.
Maxwell said he plans to be in Murrysville for the long haul. He and Fyke have a 30-year plan for the brewery that includes continuing to expand and update the technology used to create the beer.
The brewery won't just brew beer, he said. It eventually will produce crème soda and root beer. One adjustment will be moving from bottling to cans. The technology Maxwell bought to prepare the beer for cans will ensure the proper oxygen level and help the brew to be “better and fresher,” he said.
“We're adamant that we produce a quality product,” Maxwell said. “In this economy, people need to watch where they spend their money. If they're kind enough to invite you into their house with your beer, you have to make it perfect.”
The brewery has a capacity of 53,000 barrels annually, Maxwell said – the equivalent of 106,000 kegs of beer. Each day, the brewery can produce about 150 barrels, he said.
Murrysville was the missing piece to the puzzle, he said. Once he and Fyke saw the Universal Welding building, they knew it would be the right move for their expansion. He expects to create several manual labor jobs at the facility and to keep adding more as time goes on.
The move will help Rivertowne get its brand of beers into more facilities and to fully stock its four restaurants.
Currently, the Monroeville restaurant is the only one of the four to exclusively sell Rivertowne beers, Maxwell said. With only the Monroeville brewing facility available, Maxwell said he couldn't make enough beer to meet the demands at the Verona, North Huntington and North Shore locations.
“Standing here, looking at the system, it's hard to believe this is real,” Maxwell said while workers installed the brewing equipment last week. “It's actually happening.”
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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