Meet 15 under-40 professionals in Pittsburgh making your happy hour happier.
In our sixth Who’s Next class, we’re honoring bartenders and brewers, sommeliers and distillers and people launching pop-ups — and a museum.
Peers nominated honorees (and you can do the same for Who’s Next: Law), and The Incline’s editorial staff put together this list from dozens of nominees. Presented by S&T Bank, Who’s Next is our chance to recognize Pittsburgh’s rising leaders. Later this month, we’ll host a happy hour for the honorees at Alloy 26 — and you’re invited. Cheers!
Join us as we recognize stellar under-40 leaders shaping Pittsburgh's beverage scene. Your ticket includes local fare and an array of beverages from sake tastings to wine from Market Street Grocery and Blume Honey Water, as well as a chance to meet The Incline's Who's Next: Drink class.
Where: Alloy 26 at 100 S Commons, Suite 102 (North Side)
When: May 24, 2017 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
How much: $20 for public | Free for Who's Next: Drink honorees
Nicole Battle moved to Pittsburgh in 1997 with plans of going to art school and moving to New York. She started working in the restaurant industry and said “somewhere along the way it became clear to me that doing this was making me happy.” She stayed in Pittsburgh and is currently lead bartender at Tako and manager at DiAnoia’s Eatery. She’s also the president of the United States Bartenders’ Guild Pittsburgh chapter. She previously worked at G&G Noodle Bar, Benjamin’s Western Avenue Burger Bar, Spoon and others. “Pittsburgh has been good to me, it's a special place with wonderful people. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by talented people and have amazing mentors who have helped me grow in my profession,” she told The Incline. Battle lives in Observatory Hill.
Brian Bolzan is tasked with launching Wigle Whiskey's Threadbare Cider as head of production and cider maker. The cider and mead house is expected to open this year on the North Side. He previously worked as a cider maker for Jack’s Hard Cider in Biglerville for under a year and was a quality assurance and quality control technician for Frederick, Md.’s famed Flying Dog Brewery. “Brian is taking the lead on cider development at Wigle Whiskey's new company, Threadbare Ciderhouse,” wrote the person who nominated him. “Brian brings a knowledge of fermentation techniques, apple sourcing, regional agriculture and barrel-aging to the project.” Bolzan, a recent transplant to Pittsburgh, told The Incline he’s “excited to make waves in the craft beverage industry.” He lives in Pleasant Hills.
Cat Cannon, bartender at Smallman Galley, called her start in bartending “comical.” It was a bartending class through Groupon in 2012 in Montclair, New Jersey, she told The Incline. A Pittsburgh-native, Cannon spent about two years working in radio after graduating from Temple University. But she also worked in restaurants for extra money. In 2013, she moved back to Pittsburgh and fell in love with the city’s restaurant and bar scene. Since then she’s learned about craft cocktails, even competing in local and regional contests. Before working at Smallman Galley, Cannon was lead bartender at Wallace’s TapRoom at Hotel Indigo and senior bartender at Union Pig & Chicken. Cannon is secretary of the United States Bartenders' Guild Pittsburgh chapter and a volunteer tour guide at Wigle Whiskey. She lives in Lawrenceville.
Carrie Clayton is a bartender and co-owner of Subversive Cocktails, which creates pop-up bars and events throughout the city, as well as acts as a consultant for local restaurants and bars, helping them with bar menus and staff trainings. Clayton said one of her favorite recent events was the month-long Christmas pop-up bar Miracle Bar; $5,000 of the profits went to 412 Food Rescue. Upcoming summer projects include a Subversive Sideshow for Picklesburgh, pedal pubs for Pirates games and more, Clayton told The Incline. She’s also working on a neighborhood bar and wine shop Downtown called Mister Rogers, which is scheduled to open in the fall. Clayton previously worked at Poros, Bar Marco and others. She has multiple certifications and studied at the International Culinary Schools in Pittsburgh and the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Clayton lives in Polish Hill.
Since July 2013, Mary Coryea has worked at Pino's Contemporary Italian Restaurant, where she is currently the sommelier. In that role, she educates guests about wines and helps manage the bar and wine program. She’s a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and studied wine in Paris. Coryea was previously a server at Palazzo Ristorante. “She is one of only a handful of certified sommeliers in Pittsburgh,” wrote the person who nominated her. “With extensive training in both wine and spirits, she has helped restaurants design their wine inventory and trained servers in pairing with food.” Coryea lives in Squirrel Hill.
Brian Eaton and Kyle Mientkiewicz are co-owners of Millvale’s Grist House, but they also share other connections: Both men grew up in Erie, graduated from Penn State and are brothers-in-law. They were homebrewers for many years before they “decided to take the love for a deliciously handcrafted beer and couple it with our deep-seated entrepreneurial spirit and make our dreams come true,” Mientkiewicz told The Incline. They moved to the Pittsburgh area and opened Grist House in 2014. “These two are the epitome of fresh, quality, local beer. Their first concern about anything they do is optimizing quality and freshness,” wrote a person who nominated the duo. “In my time working with them, they have never compromised the integrity of the brand for a profit or recognition. They are modest and keep their noses down and focus on producing quality beer and an enjoyable atmosphere at their taproom.” Eaton lives in O'Hara Township. Mientkiewicz lives in Millvale.
Andy Kwiatkowski went from homebrewer to head brewer at Hitchhiker Brewing in just a few years. The brewery, which opened in May 2014, is expanding from its location in Mt. Lebanon to a much bigger space in Sharpsburg that formerly housed Fort Pitt Brewing. “If you haven't been to Mt. Lebo to check out this beer, you're missing out,” wrote a person who nominated him. “Love the beer options and the ambiance. It has truly become a gathering spot for the neighborhood, and it will be fantastic as it becomes the same in another area of the city.” Kwiatkowski is the former president of the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Alliance, the group behind Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, and is currently a member of the Three Rivers Alliance for Serious Homebrewing (TRASH) and Three Rivers Underground Brewers (TRUB). He lives in Mt. Lebanon.
Elina Malkin is the bar manager at Pirata Caribbean Restaurant x Rum Bar, which boasts a collection of more than 200 varieties of rum. Before that, she was a bartender at the Ace Hotel’s Whitfield and bar manager for Club Cafe. Malkin, a native of Philadelphia, has lived in Pittsburgh for 15 years. “Her customer service and attention to detail is second to none in Pittsburgh, and she is one of the next leading ladies of the Pittsburgh bar scene,” wrote a person who nominated her. “In addition to her skills behind the bar, she volunteers with Making Safer Spaces, a organization that prevents and combats sexual assault and harassment in the restaurant and nightlife scene of [Pittsburgh].” Malkin has a bachelor of fine arts in Industrial Design from Carnegie Mellon and a master of fine arts from the University of Pennsylvania. She works with her all-woman art collective dadpranks and helps run digital media arts studio and event space Wet Look Studios. Added the person who nominated Malkin, “Pittsburgh is in the middle of a Renaissance, and Elina is a true Renaissance Woman!” She lives in Polish Hill.
Rob McCaughey is a wine and spirits educator for Palate Partners, a Strip District-based school that offers classes for everyone from casual drinkers to experts. McCaughey has spent the past two decades working in the hospitality and beverage industries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East and described himself as a “British interloper corrupting the drinking classes one sip at a time.” Palate Partners is one of only a few schools in the U.S. that teaches the Wine & Spirit Education Trust level 3 sake course. McCaughey himself has a WSET Level 3 award in Wines and Spirits and is an Advanced Bartender graduate of the United States Bartenders’ Guild’s Master Accreditation Program. “Rob has worked tirelessly to further his education in the area of spirits, wines and sake,” wrote the person who nominated him. “He has shared this knowledge with both consumers and folks in the trade.” He lives in Morningside.
After working as a bartender at Pizzaiolo Primo for more than a year, Eric Moorer became beverage manager at the Italian restaurant in Market Square. He previously worked at Sonoma Grille for several years, first as a server and bartender then as wine coordinator, creating a list of 300 domestic options. He’s currently taking diploma-level Wine & Spirit Education Trust courses. “When I first moved back to Pittsburgh in 2013, Eric Moorer provided me one of the best dining experiences I've had to date,” wrote the person who nominated him. “I stopped in late on a slow, Sunday evening, and instead of being annoyed or rushing me through my meal, Eric created an experience. He had an incredible knowledge of both the food and wine selection, and as I knew nothing about wine, he used information on other things I liked to seek out the perfect combinations. He fed off my energy, was constantly engaging and it was an experience I've never forgotten.” Moorer told The Incline he loves to travel and is “constantly searching for cheap flights to anywhere, though France has become my favorite place to stay.” He lives in the Mexican War Streets.
Robert M. Ricci has been working in Pittsburgh restaurants since 2004 and he’s currently the head distiller at Pennsylvania Pure Distillery, which produces Boyd & Blair potato vodka. He is one of the founding members of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild and currently serves as chair of the membership committee. Ricci was previously a bartender at DiAnoia's Eatery, Senti and Point Brugge, among others. He’s also lent his time to charities like the Movember Foundation and Sweetwater Center For The Arts. “Rob is one of the quiet figureheads of the Pittsburgh service industry,” a person who nominated him wrote. “Not only has he bartended at some of the most iconic restaurants and bars in the city, but in 14-plus years of bartending he's the guy you call when you need help opening a place. … His willingness to help build up others in this community and industry is unparalleled.” Ricci lives in Friendship.
Matthew Sherwin is trying to do for Pittsburgh what the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame did for Cleveland by opening Brew: The Museum of Beer. While the actual museum is still in the planning stages, Brew has already released its first beer, Interactive Exhibit, a collaboration between Hop Farm, East End Brewing Company and Southern Tier. Sherwin was previously a junior associate for Pittsburgh’s 501(c)3 Squared, where he drafted grant proposals and managed grant-writing teams in order to raise more than half a million dollars for low-income communities. He also works as an adviser to start-ups and hedge funds across the country. “Matt has an ambitious vision: to build a state-of-the-art beer museum unlike anything that exists in the U.S., and he's making it happen right here in Pittsburgh, which has beer deeply rooted in its history,” wrote the person who nominated him. “This is no pipe dream — he's a skilled entrepreneur with the drive and ability to make Brew: The Museum of Beer a reality, finding innovative ways to create value for the community each step of the way.” Sherwin lives in Squirrel Hill.
Max Stein is the head bartender at Hidden Harbor, the city’s best tiki lounge. He’ll help represent the bar at tiki festival and conference Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale this summer. He was previously a bartender at Meat & Potatoes, Butcher and the Rye, Acacia and The Independent Brewing Company, and is currently studying for his Level 2 sommelier certification. “A true student of the art of mixing drinks, Max is constantly learning and evolving,” wrote the person who nominated him. “His brain is encyclopedic. Seriously, ask him to rattle off a tiki recipe with 12 ingredients. He'll do it from memory and include several variations across the drink’s history. … If I was opening a bar, there’s no one in this city I'd rather have on my staff, period.” Stein lives in Highland Park.
Cecil Usher III got his start at a bar in State College and, in just a decade, has become one of the most respected bar experts in Pittsburgh. He’s currently bar manager at Butcher and the Rye and vice president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. The person who nominated Usher said he has been a mentor to many bartenders in the city. “Watching Cecil Usher work behind a bar is inspiring. He captivates an audience by his skill while making cocktails, his knowledge of any question whether related to work or current events and his unparalleled hospitality for every guest that sits at his bar. He, himself, is a master class for all bartenders,” wrote that person. “Cecil isn't just a positive force, he's one to be reckoned with and has helped take the service industry of Pittsburgh and the hospitality it provides to another level in the seven years he's spent here.” Usher lives in Lawrenceville.