Last Updated on August 27, 2020 by Angie
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Although new breweries have been popping up all over the region the past few years, a newer trend is breweries that have their own restaurants. Cinderlands Beer Co. in Lawrenceville is one such brewery/restaurant hybrid that offers creative and delicious beers with interesting small plates and entrees.
Cinderlands Beer Co. has two locations, one right on Butler St. in lower Lawrenceville and a second in the Strip District- both in really cool buildings.
While the bulk of this review is based off our visits to the Lawrenceville location, we've also enjoyed The Warehouse in the Strip District many times as well. The Lawrenceville spot features cozy wooden booths along the length of the restaurant, an upstairs seating area, an exposed brick wall with a huge Cinderlands logo painted on it, and of course, the sophisticated bar that makes you feel like you've been transported back in time.
But Cinderlands has more than just good looks. We visited shortly after they opened (and several times since) and one thing that strikes is just how interesting and good the beers are for being such a young brewery. Tea kolsch, coffee double IPA, and strawberry sour IPA are just some of the unique beers you'll find here. And although the food menu is somewhat small, we really appreciate the effort they're putting in to crafting and creating these dishes.
Cinderlands Beer – Great Out of the Gate
One of our biggest complaints about Pittsburgh breweries is that their beers are just average right out of the gate.
This is to be expected as in many cases breweries are working at making the leap from home brew recipes to novel creations, and the cash injection from opening allows freedom in experimenting with new brews. At Cinderlands, however, the beer met a high bar on day one which has us returning time and time again.
Now the brewery features about nine beers on draft at any time and is an interesting mix of European style beers, east coast and west coast IPAs, and flavored creations like a sour strawberry IPA and coffee double IPA that were found on the menu in our last visit.
On many visits we've found they've had at least one regular IPA and one flavored IPA available (in our last case it was the Stack double IPA and Stack Overflow coffee double IPA). If you spot this, try a side-by-side to try and spot the flavor differences that can come out of twisting a base beer!
Another aspect we love about Cinderlands is that they are very forthcoming with their ingredients, and each beer has their grain, hop, yeast, and “adjunct” ingredients broken down so beer lovers can really take a dive into the creations.
Since publishing this review, it is worth noting that the Lawrenceville location has been changed to be a Foederhouse and feature a rather strong menu of Saisons. These run the gamut from using various different grains and yeasts to take a deep dive into unique flavor profiles, and others we sampled were re-fermented on various juices (such as carrot juice) with some pretty impressive results.
We note this here because the non-Saison menu at the Foederhouse is now much smaller as a result, and those who are looking for other styles of beer like their acclaimed IPAs, tartshakes, or berliner weisse whippers may want to consider hitting up the larger Strip District location as a result. The Saisons are not available on draft at this location at this time, but you'll get a more robust look at their brewing portfolio visiting this one as an alternative.
Cinderlands is as Much a Restaurant as it is Brewery
While we do love a good food truck and brewery combo, sometimes you just want to sit down and have a good meal while drinking local beer. The menu here certainly enables this- it's way more than just bar food. The menu is somewhat small but changes frequently and features small plates, sandwiches, and one or two entrees.
On our visit there were appetizers as varied as octopus and pierogies, sandwiches like burgers and fried chicken, and entrees that included short ribs and pasta.
We ordered a few small plates to share: the spent grain chicharrones and buffalo chicken rillettes. Now, the chicharrones weren't technically chicharrones because they were completely vegan and only made using grains. But they had the extreme lightness and crispiness of traditional chicharrones, and they were served with a creamy, rich beer cheese.
The buffalo chicken rillettes included slices of dense beer bread, the buffalo chicken spread, blue cheese, and pickled celery. It was a fun take on this classic flavor combo.
We also tried a few entrees including the short ribs and the fried chicken sandwich. While the short ribs sounded interesting with goat cheese, rye berries, olives, fennel, and red onion, overall we just weren't that into this dish.
The fried chicken sandwich was the winner overall with its soft potato roll, broccoli cheese sauce, and pickles. The chicken's fried coating was incredibly crispy while the broccoli cheese sauce was velvety and coated every nook and cranny of the chicken. All this richness was offset by the sweet bread and butter pickles. The sandwich was served with decent fries that were excellently crispy.
On a return visit to Cinderlands in the Strip District (many returns later), we had an issue worth highlighting regarding Angie's tree nut allergy as there was some confusion on both the menu and in the kitchen. The first issue was that it took the kitchen about 20 minutes to tell our server that the falafel contained cashew cheese (which was not noted on the otherwise very detailed menu) and then when a kitchen employee brought out food for others in our party they incorrectly noted a salad for another guest as the one for the tree nut allergy- despite having both the falafel and pine nuts visibly on it (it was only later clarified which salad was nut-free). As such, if you have a food allergy you may want to be extra careful here.
That being said, there aren't too many breweries in Pittsburgh that offer a full food menu like Cinderlands, so whether you're looking to head out for a meal or simply want a round or two of delicious beer, Cinderlands Beer Co. will have what you seek.
Cinderlands Beer Co. has their Foederhouse located at 3705 Butler Street in Lawrenceville and a second, larger location at 2601 Smallman Street in the Strip District. Cinderlands' Strip District location validates parking for the garage at The Hub at 3 Crossings (next door) with a minimum $20 purchase.