West Newton may be site of microbrewery

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Two local brewers may soon be concocting different beer blends in a space owned by the West Newton Volunteer Fire Department.

West Newton fire department officials approved a tentative agreement for use of the 1,200-square-foot storage space that faces the Youghiogheny River at 100 Riverside Drive by Bloom Brew, owner Jeff Bloom of Rostraver said.

“It was the perfect opportunity for us to help one another,” he said, adding that the agreement would begin May 1 on a month-to-month basis at first.

Bloom and business partner Steve Denk of Elizabeth Township went to West Newton council a few months ago asking if zoning regulations would restrict a microbrewery to an industrial zone or allow it in a commercial district.

“We're dealing with a lot of archaic liquor laws,” Bloom said at that meeting, where council's reaction was generally favorable to a new business in the borough.

The borough's zoning hearing board will have to review the usage terms and Bloom said he needs to meet with an attorney to officially form the microbrewery.

West Newton fire Chief Craig Sanner said he met the pair in early March at a St. Patrick's Day dance at the ball room, where Bloom and Denk were giving out samples.

The firefighters agreed to allow the new business in the space, which is currently housing old equipment but has its own entrance and restrooms.

“It's all in the early stages yet,” Sanner said.

Bloom said he is planning to make a special ale named for the fire department with a portion of the proceeds supporting the organization and possibly organize a craft beer event at the ball room.

“They seem to be all for helping the community,” Sanner said.

Bloom and Denk became friends when they started to carpool together as linemen for a communications company . After all those car trips together, Bloom got Denk interested in making beer about two years ago; Bloom had already been brewing in his kitchen for three years.

“I'm really trying to find a niche where what I bring to the table is unique,” Bloom said.

Their suds have already been featured at Pittsburgh events like Barks and Brews and The Big Pour, both meant to showcase the best of local beers and raise money for charity.

Denk said he often only feels worthy to call himself Bloom's apprentice.

“Jeff's really knowledgeable,” he said. “We're trying to expand a good hobby and make a living out of it.”

The homebrewers, who can only give free samples until proper licenses and trademarks are in place, plan to brew in small batches at the Riverside Drive location and sell growlers, which are refillable 64-ounce glass bottles.

At a March 20 event, Bloom poured six different types of beer at Bocktown Beer and Grill in Robinson.

Choices included creative fare like Dante's Peak Saison, a Belgian beer featuring currants for wine-making with lemon and Belgian candy sugar; Mango Z Tango, a wheat beer with fresh mangoes and a “tart” yeast; and Motueka Bazooka IPA, a beer heavy on hops with a taste “hard to describe,” Bloom said.

Denk said at a tasting like that the pair's hard work and intimate knowledge of the end-result pay off when they can explain each beer and the thought behind each batch.

“There's time invested and it makes you appreciate it more,” he said.

Bloom has even taken the time to volunteer at Mt. Pleasant-based Helltown Brewing and North Versailles-based Full Pint Brewing, just to learn more about the trade.

He said he hopes to produce high-quality beer of all kinds as the first microbrewery in the Mon Valley.

“Everyone has their particular taste,” Bloom said.

The pair have another event planned at Bocktown Beer and Grill during Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week from April 19 to 26 and plan to participate in the Beer and Gear festival in June at Ohiopyle.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at sfederoff@tribweb.com or 724-836-6660.

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