I sat down with Leaning Cask brewer, Joshua Lipke, and his co-owner and wife, Stefanie Lipke, in Springdale, PA. The brewery has been open for a little over a year, but Joshua has been brewing a lot longer than that. He, like many others, started with homebrewing and eventually expanded upon that. The turning point for the Lipkes to take the step from homebrewing to opening their own brewpub stemmed from a trip to England in the mid 2000s. While there, they tried cask ales, which are a bit different than what you normally get in the U.S., in terms of brewing style and even how they are served. The brewery not only has three authentic English hand pumps, one of which is portable, Leaning Cask is also one of the only places in the Pittsburgh area that has a beer engine, which assists in pumping the beer from casks that are stored in the basement. Although their beers are stored in the basement, they are not at true “cellar” temperatures that you would see in England; Joshua says that while they do keep their beer warmer than most, it isn’t quite to the 50°F to 55°F that it would be served at overseas. The casks they have, versus the kegs, would be the closest to traditional temperatures at 45°F to 50°F, due to them being stored in the farthest corner of the cold storage.
When it comes to the beer itself, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t only English style beers that are brewed and put into casks. Stefanie says that they will put anything into casks, and they often use it as a way to try out a new beer or style of beer since it is initially released on a smaller scale. Cask beers aren’t the only types that they have, either; they have 12 taps that gives them a wide variation and allows them to have a little of everything. On most visits to Leaning Cask, you will see three to four different IPAs on tap, their own cider, a stout or porter, a wheat, English ale, some type of Belgian, and then depending on when you are visiting, various seasonal beers will come in to play, too. The names they come up with for what they brew are all dog themed, stemming from their love of not just their dogs, that are like their children, but all dogs. The Lipkes loved how dog friendly the pubs were in England and wanted to bring a little of that home with them, so not only do they have dog themed beer names, but they are very welcoming to dogs, as long as they are well behaved. They even go a step further than just allowing the dogs inside the bar and have an actual indoor bathroom for dogs only. While it is becoming more common for breweries to allow dogs, they are often limited to being outside only and they definitely don’t have their own bathrooms at most places.
Joshua, the sole brewer, says that he brews as close to the traditional English brewing style as his equipment allows. He has a thirteen barrel set up in the basement of the pub, as well as room to expand upstairs. He says this setup is relatively large for a new brewery; less than ten barrels are more common for somewhere that has only been open for a little over a year. Being so new, I asked if they would have any advice for homebrewers that may be considering expanding and moving on to commercial brewing, and Joshua said,
“Be prepared for the business adventure; it’s a lot more than just making beer. That’s the simple way to put it. Do your research, know what you are getting into, and really, if you don’t have a business background get some help or some education on it because the bottom line is you are running a business. Brewing is my downtime. That’s when I don’t have to think about the other things. Even if you are making stellar beer you’ll be able to make good beer at commercial stage but it’s everything else that goes into a business.”
At this point, Leaning Cask is Joshua’s full time job, but Stefanie still works as an elementary school counselor full time. It was refreshing meeting with a woman in the industry because the craft beer and brewery field is dominated by men. Stefanie says that even though that may be the case, she doesn’t feel that she’s been pushed aside or ignored and feels like she gets the same amount of respect as Joshua when she introduces herself as an owner, and while she is a member of the Pink Boots Society, an organization for women in the beer industry, says, “I definitely think there could be more recognition, awareness, and more females involved.”
With so many breweries in Southwestern Pennsylvania, The Leaning Cask offers a British twist that helps it stand out in a booming industry and provides a style of beer that was under represented in the area until now. They distribute to approximately 20 locations in the area, but with Springdale not being far outside of the city limits, why not go to the source to try their beer?
Leaning Cask is located at 850 Pittsburgh St, Springdale, PA 15144. They are open Wednesday and Thursday, 4pm to 10pm, Friday 4pm to 11pm, Saturday 12pm to 11pm, and Sunday 2pm to 7pm. New casks are released every Thursday. https://www.leaningcaskbrewing.com/
This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Pennsylvania Bridges Magazine.