What if going to work could be as fun as playing a video game? For Zach and Erika Shumaker — the husband-and-wife co-owners of ShuBrew — and their small crew, it just might be. Take one look at the names on the draft list from the Tap Room at their Harmony brewery or Zelienople restaurant and you can tell they’re passionate about what they pour … and what they play.
Case in point: King ShuBoo, the latest release from their video game-inspired Pixelated IPA series. The Halloween-themed, blood orange-infused New England IPA, we proudly featured in our First Friday Keg Release program for November.
As Zach describes King ShuBoo, “it comes off as really citrussy. That bitter orange shines through and you get a lot of really nice, fresh citrussy character that’s complimented with hops that have their own citrus character.”
It’s a flavor profile we think might take the throne on your list of seasonal favorites, so we sent kegs to stores all over the area to give more of our craft beer fans a chance to try it before it’s gone.
“We’re really excited to be part of the First Friday Keg Release program. It’s cool because we already have our cans in a lot of Giant Eagle stores, but this will get our beer to even more. We’re a very small brewery and our distribution footprint is limited by how far we can drive the beer ourselves. With this program we can reach people who want to try our beer but don’t have access to it and people who never heard of us at all.”
To mark the occasion of King ShuBoo’s arrival, we shared a drink with Zach and Erika while they shared ShuBrew’s story of local brewing success.
Although Zach grew up just outside of Pittsburgh, in Cranberry Township, his journey to becoming a local brewer technically started on the other side of the country. While stationed in San Diego with the Marines, Zach got a part time job at Stone Brewing Company.
“They had a really great beer culture. Everyone who worked there was really integrated into it, which made me fall in love with the whole craft beer movement.”
The market in Southern California was already saturated, so Zach decided to move home and open a brewery. But first he took a job at a telecom company. It was there that he met Erika, who gave him the push to chase his passion.
“She sort of steamrolled the whole project from me telling people I was going to open a brewery to us actually opening one,” Zach said.
They put together a Kickstarter campaign as Zach continued home brewing and taught himself how to taste beer and fine tune his brews on the fly. Then they held a proof-of-concept, beer and food pairing event that helped build their fan-base and attracted investors.
In 2013, the concept became a reality as ShuBrew opened as a small restaurant and brewery under one roof. Growth and success soon followed, and brewing operations were moved to the current brewery location in 2016.
ShuBrew sources beer ingredients locally whenever they can. And they always use the very best ingredients found in whatever region a particular style of beer is from. That allows them to capture the perfect mix of genuine flavor and freshness.
“We’re making the freshest possible beer people in western Pennsylvania can buy. You can go to a local brewery and get beer that was packaged the day it came out of the tank,” Zach said.
This dual focus on freshness and giving the local community food and drinks of the highest possible quality has not gone unnoticed. ShuBrew’s restaurant doesn’t serve anything processed or frozen. And, everything they make is either made from scratch in the restaurant or made from scratch somewhere nearby. Such commitment to quality is a big reason why they recently became the first Butler County restaurant — and one of few in the wider region including Allegheny County — to be awarded a Platinum designation by Sustainable Pittsburgh.
“Sustainability goes back to not just having minimal waste and a lower impact on the environment. It’s also how you treat your employees and how you treat the things you’re using,” Erika said. “It’s really important to us because we’re giving back to the local community by giving grains to farmers, using recyclable products and treating our employees fairly. Our kitchen staff took the initiative for the award so we’re really excited that we got it and that our staff is the reason behind it.”
The beer is certainly worthy of awards, too. From creative cans designed by local graphic artists and art teachers, to the inventive combinations of ingredients inside them, ShuBrew seemingly always has something even the most seasoned aficionado could try for the first time. Especially when it comes to the Pixelated Series.
“We like to base ideas off of nostalgia because it connects with people,” Zach said. “We try to make this brand representative of ourselves. If we’re just following trends all the time, we’re being disingenuous to why we opened. We feel that we have something worth sharing so we try our best to do that. It makes our ideas feel authentic.”
The ideas taste authentic, too. Grab a round or a growler of this blood orange IPA at your store before the kegs are all kicked and see for yourself. Or, look for the familiar Mario Bros. ghost on the can. After all, as video game fans like Zach, Erika and the rest of the ShuBrew crew know, you should never turn your back on a Boo.