Founded in 2006, in Export, PA Christian Fike and, brewmaster, Andrew Maxwell teamed up to open what is now one of the area of Pittsburgh’s most popular brewing company, Rivertowne Brewing. Maxwell, formerly a pharmaceutical chemist, is a sprite-ly gentlemen with a passion for quality craft beer, an infectious personality and my gracious host for this PA Brewery Tour!
Not knowing me from, well, Adam…I was greeted in the tasting room with a huge smile and immediate offering of fresh beer. Once our hands were fitted with a taste of Babbling Blonde, their 5.3% American Blonde Ale with light hop content and German malt base, we started to talk shop.
This 25,000 square facility houses a 4 vessel, 30 barrel system capable of producing 120 barrels a day of custom crafted beer. He uses his NB Northwest 15 barrel for recipe testing and experimenting. With an advanced system used to dial in recipes and the ability to force temperature changes and maintain quality controls, Maxwell and his team, not only have the ability to keep up with demand of their 6 signature year-rounds brews, but also are afforded the opportunity to experiment with future recipes and work with other breweries to collaborate on special and one-off beers.
Many of the beers they brew will find themselves canned. The experience I had of grabbing a Hala Kahiki, their pineapple ale made with fresh pure pineapple juice, straight off the line literally 3 seconds after it was canned is one I won’t soon forget. That’s fresh. Watching the canning process is almost mesmerizing as the intricately and meticulously timed belt goes through the stages of rinsing, filling, spinning and sealing. I won’t even get into the whole “beer in cans” discussion because that has been beat to death and if you are reading an article on this site you are likely savvy enough already to know that canned beer does not mean cheap beer.
While Maxwell himself is a fellow hop head with an insatiable lust for full flavor session IPA’s like myself, he won’t pin himself to a favorite style of beer to brew. “The goal is to brew quality beers and consistently deliver an experience to our faithful consumers and future fans alike”
The tasting room bar, where I first ran in to Maxwell, is a space that is actually slated for small renovations expanding its capabilities beyond the capacity of the patio, brew house seating and tasting room seating that currently proves to not be enough room to seat the sheer number of visitors the brewery sees on a given day.
While I could go through all of the beers we sipped on together, the highlight for me was a collaboration, almost session, pale ale that they brewed with Garin Wright of Buckeye Brewing, called OH-PA. Brewed in the Rivertowne facility, this 4.7% oatmeal pale ale is brewed with Warrior, Cascade, Centennial and then dry hopped at the end with Simcoe. A big hoppy beer with a grainy mid-palate from the oatmeal that is full flavored and low in AbV compared to industry trends.
I am also looking forward to the April 2014 release of Hop Lace, which Maxwell describes as “a modern, creative interpretation of a classic Belgian-white ale style that is hop forward, in flavor, or “laced” with hops. Hop-Lace, a White IPA made with sweet orange peel, Amarillo and Citra hops create a tight formation of “Belgian Lace” leaving an intricate flavor that will have you clinging on for more.”
If you want to head out and find these beers, and Export, PA is too much of a demand on your travel, you can visit them at any of their other 3 locations around North Shore, Verona and Monroeville.
Many thanks to Clay and Andrew for the tour as well as to all the other hard working individuals that I passed along the way through the facility. We appreciate what you do and keep making good beer. Speaking of which, I should probably go back soon….I could spend hours drinking with Mr. Maxwell.
Adam “AGtheDir” Greiner