Originally, Dustin Jones and his wife, Melissa, had planned to open a Carnegie convenience store that sold six-packs to go. But that was before they saw a niche opening in the market: Carnegie was lacking an establishment that had a diverse offering of beer.
So Jones expanded the list of bottles he was going to offer. Right after the store opened, he noticed that customers were also interested in a casual place to hang out for a few beers, and the convenience store was quickly scrapped. Now, Jones is busy reconfiguring the store, 99 Bottles, into a hybrid "drinks for here and to go" establishment.
Jones believes the location, along Route 50, is the perfect spot for attracting a cross-section of Pittsburgh residents. "You'd think this would maybe be in Shadyside, but it's here in Carnegie," he says.
"99 Bottles" actually sells the store's offerings short: The bottle selection in the refrigerators nearly tops 200. There's a selection of big-name breweries ($2 per bottle), but also a large offering of American microbrews and tough-to-find imported specialties, like the bottle-fermented Orval Trappist Ale ($8.75 per bottle).
But the crowning glory at 99 Bottles is the growler bar. Customers can purchase a growler ($5) and get a discount on the 30 beers that are on tap, buying four 16-ounce pours for the price of three. Just like the bottle selection, the beer on tap ranges from macro to micro, and Jones pledges to rotate the selections. If taking home a growler isn't quite your style, 16-ounce mason jars (with handles) can also be filled, capped and taken home.
In any case, Jones wants to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and try something new. "We have a lot of people questioning stuff, so we give out samples," he says. He adds that his patience for educating the customer is pretty limitless ... "unless you're just sitting here pounding free beer."