What happens when you have a designated driver and want to check out the Butler County Beer Circuit in Butler, PA? You hit as many as you can – in 24 hours, of course. Here’s my take on why you need to check out the BCBC including brew standouts and what sets each brew pub apart from the others.
When you head out on a beer circuit or brew trail, it’s always fun to let someone else choose the brews. So, keeping that in mind, I asked both the barkeeps and my wife to choose the beer for me. What I learned was to not always go with the familiar – and found some new favorites along the way.
And while we don’t recommend visiting them all in one day, it was a fun experience.
Heading to Central Ohio? Here’s why you need to check out the Route 33 Brew Trail near Columbus.
Stick City Brewing Company felt so earthy in a very comforting way. As soon as we walked in, I noticed the tall brewing kettles in the airy space and the bars constructed from polished, hewn wooden slabs atop stumps of small trees.
The thing that made me feel so very much at home was the people. As soon as we sat down at the bar we were greeted right away and struck up a conversation with one of the owners. It was so much like we were just talking to a cousin that we maybe hadn’t seen in a little while that I was immediately at ease in a place that I had never been in before.
At Stick City, they don’t pour flights specifically. What they pour is 5, 10, and 15 ounce glasses. When I asked about flights I was told to just order a few 5-ounce pours and they would bring as many (or as few) as I liked.
So I ordered a couple, finished those and ordered a few more. I sampled five beers in all at Stick City:
- Moon & Mars – Pale Ale
- Cabotsquatch – Brown Ale
- Overbrook – Porter
- Handsome Boy (w/ Nelson Sauvin) – Pale Ale
- Lenticular Galaxy – Imperial IPA
Stick City has a wide enough style selection for just about anyone to find something that they will like. And while I enjoyed all of the beers that I tried, the one that really stood out for me was its Handsome Boy Pale Ale. This beer was just so light and fruity and refreshing that I could imagine having a couple while doing yard work in the heat of mid-summer.
The hops selection is also a nice reminder that every pale does not have to simply be a clone of every other pale ale.
ShuBrew is in downtown Zelienople, PA. The room that it’s located in is narrow, but long with a nice butcher block bar and a few tables. The place is very clean and well lit.
In addition to some truly remarkable beers, ShuBrew has a full kitchen with a range of offerings that you might not expect to find in a brewery, or even on the same menu for that matter.
I had a flight of four beers at ShuBrew:
- Jungleboot – IPA
- El Zapato – Mexican Chocolate Stout
- Shumrock – Irish Stout
- Denim Denim Denim – NEIPA
I really truly enjoyed every one of these beers immensely. If I absolutely must choose a top beer, I would have to go with Denim Denim Denim. I was fortunate enough to have tried this beer less than a day after its initial tapping. This beer is a lovely, hazy Northeast IPA with a playful name (picture yourself playing Super Mario Bros. and you have just gotten to level 1-2, now sing the name of this beer Denim Denim Denim to that tune. True story).
Denim Denim Denim also has a distinct selection of hops varieties (Enigma and Vic’s Secret) that really make it delicious and memorable – and like no other NEIPA that I have ever had.
Butler Brew Works has a sort reclaimed, industrial-sleek feel to it. The front windows let in loads of natural daylight. There are high-top tables made from the side slabs of cable spools and beautiful raw-brick walls.
There’s also a very sleek bar with metal chairs and the brew works is isolated but visible behind a glass wall. Add in the super-friendly and knowledgeable staff and it’s a place for everyone.
At Butler Brew Works I tried five different beers:
- Pitfall – IPA
- La Noche Triste – Milk Stout
- Coastal Warfare – NEIPA
- Adventurer’s Log: Entry #26 – Berliner Weisse
- Spelunking – Imperial Stout
I ordered a flight of four to start. Under well-informed recommendations from another patron I had a small sample of a fifth, and I am very glad that I did. I really like the available variety here. In fact there are three beers here of three completely different styles of which I have hard a time deciding which I liked the best.
There was one beer that truly blew me away though: Spelunking Imperial Stout. I love stouts, especially in the cooler months of the year.
However, I did not order this on my flight as it rings in at >10% ABV and I was trying to stick to smaller beers for the day. I was told that I had to at least sample the Spelunking. So I did, and was not disappointed. This beer starts with a nose like root beer (it’s brewed with sarsaparilla) which is something new in itself (at least for me).
It then it moves on to the rich, full, bourbon-barrel-aged flavor that just hints at its rye nature. But most surprising is that it finishes like it’s pretending to be a much smaller beer than it actually is. There’s just no way that it seems like a 10.5% beer, but it is. What a gem.
From the beer cap mosaic logo, to the large bar, to the whimsical lighting, Reclamation Brewing makes it very easy to stroll right in and sit down to have a beer (or few). You can also grab a bite to eat if you are feeling peckish.
The high ceilings make the narrow room feel very roomy. There’s tons of space at the bar, too, if you’re feeling chatty.
While at Reclamation, I had a flight of four beers:
- Lupulin Rex – IPA
- Peppermint Mocha Latte Stout – Dessert Stout
- Smoked Porter – English Porter
- Butler Brown Ale – English Brown Ale
For me, the Peppermint Mocha Latte Stout was a clear standout as it was undeniably a one-of-a-kind experience. There were a ton of different flavors happening all at once and they played nicely together.
It’s always fun when you have to check to make certain that you are, in fact, drinking a beer and not actually eating a dessert. That’s a really nice treat.
Recon Brewing is another place with a room that really makes you want to be there. There is a large bay door in the front that, even when closed, lets in tons of daylight through its window.
Huge timber barn-style pillars, and the tap stand that’s constructed from heavy duty iron pipe, let you know that you are in a place that’s here to stay. The super cool, corrugated metal wainscoting and festive fiesta lights let you know that you should feel right at home.
I had a flight of four beers at Recon Brewing:
- Illusion of Light – Stout
- Raven Tail – Schwarzbier
- Azote – Milk stout
- BRC – IPA
For me, the Raven Tail was the clear standout. I found it to be toasty, nutty, and a little bit smoky at the end. I was very pleasantly surprised as these are qualities that I’m not used to finding in a lager.
This beer taught me a thing or two about expectations, and I’m and very happy that it did.
North Country Brewing in Slippery Rock was a really neat experience for us. It felt like visiting someone’s eccentric grandmother’s house. The decor is very eclectic and there’s something to see around every corner.
It was very, very crowded the night that we were there and with good reason. We decided to have dinner with the beers and the food was downright outstanding. Where else have you seen freshly-baked brown bread in a terra cotta pot? Exactly.
While I could barely stop gushing about the food, I did find a few moments to try four beers at North Country:
- Orange Blossom Honey Wheat Ale – Pale Wheat Ale
- Station 33 Firehouse Red – Irish Red Ale
- McCleod’s Ewe – Scottish Export Ale
- Liquid Love – Imperial Stout
I really enjoyed the Station 33 Firehouse Red. It was malty, biscuity, and flat-out delightful. I also have to mention that it paired well with the fish that I had for dinner.
The building that Missing Links Brewery is in is a little bit of a departure from other breweries. The interior reminded me very much of a country kitchen. It’s a large, well-lit room with tons of wood trim.
It also has a good-sized bar and plenty of tables. While we didn’t eat here, we did see servers carrying pizzas to tables that looked fantastic. There are plenty of options on the menu if you’re hungry.
I had a flight of four beers at Missing Links:
- Bigfoot ESB – Extra Special/Strong Bitter
- Big Head Dubbel – Belgian Dubbel
- Dunkelweizen – Dunkelweizen
- Arrowhead Ale – Altbier
At Missing Links there are plenty of American-style pale ales, but they also have plenty of the more traditional European styles of beer as well which gives a variety that can keep you coming back often and never having the same thing twice.
Clearly I went with more Euro styled beers and I loved every one of them. It was hard for me to choose a favorite.
I really love altbiers but the Bigfoot ESB was simply too good to not call it the standout of the bunch. Bigfoot ESB is exactly what an ESB should be; Full bodied with a nice bitter finish. I want more of this beer for sure.
Sadly, we ran out of time to check out Cellar works, but it’s absolutely on our radar. We do want to get all eight stamps and claim that prize, after all.
Disclosure: We were graciously hosted by Visit Butler County, PA, to give you fine folks the scoop on the Butler County Beer Circuit. All opinions are our own!
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