They say the cream rises to the top. And as Draai Laag Brewing has proven, so do funky Belgian ales. Despite eschewing advertising and refusing to make anything resembling an IPA, the five-year-old Millvale brewery has built a loyal following in Pittsburgh and beyond. And this summer, Draai Laag is offering more ways to enjoy its delightfully unconventional beer.
"It's very humbling to realize that we have yet to push what we can do in this field," says founder Dennis Hock. That's an impressive statement, considering that Draai Laag already specializes in all things strong, sour and strange. Unlike most craft breweries, Draai Laag focuses on the yeast, which Hock calls "the most important thing in beer." He harvests wild yeast strains and subjects them to rigorous testing and experimentation, blending varieties to create layers of deep, challenging flavor.
Draai Laag's boundary-pushing ethos and devotion to a great product rather than the bottom line — "we're not money-hungry people," says Hock — has paid off. The brewery already sends tons of wild beer to Philadelphia and regularly fields requests from distributors in other states. This summer, Draai Laag will expand production to a facility in Allison Park, allowing more room for barrel-aging and experiments with fermentation. It is also in the midst of a brewery-wide rebranding, which includes overhauling its labels and switching to better-quality bottles.
And from Thu., July 9, to Sat., July 11, Draai Laag holds the grand opening of its Biergarten, complete with food trucks and plenty of wild beer. This adds about 2,000 square feet of outdoor drinking space, and the barnlike structure is meant as "a farmhouse presence" in concrete-heavy Millvale. The Biergarten, like the taproom, will be open on Thursdays and Fridays from 5-10:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 3-10:30 p.m. The free grand opening takes place during regular hours.
And all this is just the tip of the iceberg. "We haven't hit our peak yet," says Hock. "You're going to see a lot more beer in 2016."