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Voodoo Brewery works its magic all the way from Meadville

"I saw the opportunity to take my years of knowledge and do something with it."

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The town of Meadville, 90 miles north of Pittsburgh, might not look like a nexus for Western Pennsylvania's craft-beer culture. However, Matt Allyn and his partners at Voodoo Brewery have been at the forefront of the regional beer movement since they brewed their first batch in 2007.

The Voodoo owner spent years travelling as both a brewer and a consultant before deciding that it was time to return home to Pennsylvania to open a brewery.

"Six years ago, I was looked at like a weirdo because I wanted to build something like this," Allyn says. Now, the region is home to a number of craft breweries, including Sprague Farm and Lavery Brewing.

"I saw the opportunity to take my years of knowledge and do something with it," Allyn says.

Voodoo Brewery produces just 1,200 barrels per year, but is building a larger production facility to expand its output. In Pittsburgh, Voodoo products can be purchased at the Carson Street Deli and D's Six Pax & Dogz, as well as at a handful of suburban locations.

Allyn's original six recipes — which include an India pale ale, a pilsner, a brown ale and three Belgian-style beers — are still produced year-round. But he's turned over day-to-day operations to Curt Rachacki, who's now responsible for creating the brewery's seasonal and specialty beers.

Voodoo also operates a Meadville brewpub where Voodoo products are the only booze sold (except for three wine choices). That too was seen as a risk, Allyn says: "People ... thought we needed to sell other products to survive."

The food at the pub is almost all raised locally, and the space is furnished with repurposed materials, high-efficiency light bulbs and a wood-pellet heating system. Voodoo's beers are cooled on-demand, instead of being housed in giant, energy-consuming coolers.

Allyn says he's not a tree-hugger; all of his sustainability measures are rooted in practical business considerations. "I don't like paying the electric company."

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