PITTSBURG — Though a determined consumer might be able to acquire pizza and beer under one roof at a local gas station, among other places, a decidedly more elegant option for those seeking this classic combination is now available in Pittsburg.
Drop The H — a new brewpub and pizzeria named for the convention of “dropping the H” from names of cities ending in “-burgh,” which the former city of Pittsburgh adopted in the late 19th century — is now open on East Rose Street just off of Broadway. It happens to be essentially just around the corner from the Jolly Fox Brewery at Euclid and Broadway, making it the second brewpub to open in Pittsburg in the past week.
Drop The H has hosted some pre-opening events this week, which were followed by a ribbon cutting Thursday to officially open the brewpub.
In the process of planning for Drop The H, Mark McClain — who owns the new business with his wife Cathy — was certified in the University of Vermont’s Business of Craft Beer Program.
“I was a homebrewer for decades,” McClain told the Morning Sun in July. “When I decided to take this up a notch if you will and go professional with it, I studied through the Siebel Institute in Chicago. They have an online version, so I took the concise course in brewing technology through them.”
Drop The H’s beer selection currently includes a pale ale, a Belgian wit, an India pale ale (IPA), and a dry Irish stout. Four more options are planned to soon be added to that list.
McClain, who in addition to brewing is a commercial pilot based out of New York, also studied there at Goodfellas Pizza School to hone his skills at the other side of his business — making pizza.
The menu at Drop The H includes 10 specialty varieties of New York-style, brick oven pizza along with a customizable option. Other than pizza, there are also salads, some appetizers, and charcuterie — a selection of meats, cheeses, fruits and crackers that comes in two varieties available at Drop The H.
“Charcuterie, you can eat that as an entree, it’s plenty of food, or you can share it for a table a table of four,” McClain said in an interview at a pre-opening event Wednesday. “It’s great either way.”
McClain said he’s been getting a “phenomenal” response so far from those who have visited Drop The H at pre-opening events this week, despite the somewhat narrow range of choices of food being served.
“I will admit it’s a very tightly-focused menu,” McClain said. “We’re not going to try to be all things to all people. We want to do what we do very, very well, and focus on that.”
Although Drop The H is in large part the result of Mark McClain’s vision, he could not have done it on his own.
“I’m blessed to be married to a wonderful wife who has not only been supportive of this but an integral part of this and probably the motive force that kept me on track and kept this project running,” he said.
Cathy McClain said Wednesday that opening the brewpub has been “terrifying and exciting all at the same time.”
Home Center Construction, Inc. of Pittsburg did a “phenomenal job” bringing together the project of restoring a very old building that was once an auto dealership, showroom and garage, she said.
“What was really neat toward the end was to walk in every day and you could see more of the brewpub come to life,” Cathy said, “because they just got so much done every single day, and you could see the vision finally come to actually be here.”
While Cathy is especially proud of her husband for having the vision to create the brewpub and following through on it, both she and Mark said they were particularly proud of their staff, who have been hard at work getting the business ready to open.
“This has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl, was to open a restaurant, so Mark and Cathy giving me this opportunity was just the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Becky Harris, 24-year-old general manager of Drop The H and about 20 employees working there, who graduated from College of the Ozarks with a double major in culinary arts and business administration and left an event sales manager position in Springfield, Missouri to work at Drop The H.
Bartender Maddi Webb, meanwhile, who is finishing a master’s degree in math at Pittsburg State University in December, is originally from Oklahoma but has lived in Pittsburg for the last six years. Since getting her job at Drop The H and an offer to continue teaching at PSU, however, she plans to stay in town at least through next semester.
“It’s a great place to work,” Webb said. “I think it’s super cool what they did with this really old building to make it look so nice the way it does and how open it is, and I’m excited to see how business goes.”
Blake Benson, president of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, attended Wednesday’s pre-opening event and commented on what a business like Drop The H can do for a community like Pittsburg.
“This is obviously a mark of a progressive community, you know, having a place like this,” Benson said, “especially with the university community, having locally-owned businesses, locally owned breweries really shows that Pittsburg is progressive and we appreciate people like Mark and Cathy McClain investing in our community.”
Benson was not the only prominent Pittsburg resident at the event, which was also attended by Pittsburg City Commissioners Sarah Chenoweth and Dawn McNay.
Chenoweth said it was her first time seeing the business.
“I didn’t even see the shell, so I walked in and everything is just shiny and new and bright and it’s exciting,” she said. “I hope that other people are excited that it’s this close to Broadway.”
Chenoweth was drinking the dry Irish stout on Wednesday.
“I like dark beer,” she said, “and it’s a damn good dark beer.”
McNay, meanwhile, said she liked Drop The H’s IPA, and thinks the brewpub is going to be a popular destination.
“I think it’s going to be a great complement to the Jolly Fox and I’m looking forward to coming back,” she said.
Other attendees at Wednesday’s pre-opening event also said they were impressed with Drop The H’s beer.
Jeff Steinmiller, director of the Overman Student Center at PSU said he is a big fan of IPAs, and Drop The H’s compare to the best he’s had.
“When you can get it freshly brewed like this, it doesn’t get any better,” he said. “I’m really excited about having something like this in town.”
Liz Lieberum, meanwhile, who lives in Wichita but was at Drop The H’s Wednesday event with her husband Al, said there was something for everyone at the brewpub. She likes lighter beers, she said, so her favorites were the Belgian wit and the pale ale, while Al prefers darker beers and liked the stout and the IPA better.
“But we travel a lot, we go to a lot of places and this fits right in with any one that we have seen throughout the country. We’ve been to Boise, we’ve been to Grand Rapids, Michigan, we’ve been to Portland. Those are big micro-brew cities, so this city of Pittsburg is very lucky to have this here,” Lieberum said.
“We’ve been to Founders, we’ve been to New Belgium, we’ve been to a lot of them, and the quality of beer that he’s offering, and the food, in the same venue, is pretty incredible at this level of his business. He’s just started,” she said. “Plus the building and the setting is very competitive with a lot of the things we’ve seen.”
Following its Thursday ribbon cutting, Drop The H will be open for its regular hours from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. It will be closed Mondays for brewing. Next Thursday, Drop The H will participate in Pittsburg’s first Oktoberfest celebration alongside the Jolly Fox — and will feature a newly available beer for the occasion.
“We’re happy to be a part of that,” Mark McClain said. “I think it’s going to be great for downtown. I’m glad that the Jolly Fox and we have made sure that patrons that come to either establishment will be given a discount on a beer and get to sample some of our offerings. The beer that I’m going to get on tap for that is going to be 15 barrels of our premium pilsner, and I think that will probably go perfect with the cooler temperatures and people with a healthy thirst.”