It took longer than four friends ever imagined, but their brewery taproom in Dormont is finally opening Thursday evening.

Back Alley Brewing Co. invites guests to sit and drink the house beer starting at 4 p.m. and will continue to celebrate its grand opening until 10 p.m., then 4 to 10 p.m. again Friday and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday.

It’s going to feel good to them and their friends to sit down and sip a brew. They started the journey to these moments five-plus years ago.

“In 2018 we came up with a crazy idea while homebrewing in a back alley in Dormont. We wanted to bring a brewery to our neighborhood,” friends since elementary school Cody Hoelleman and Lee Sifford, with college (where they started brewing) friends and now married couple Pat and Patty McKinley, recently posted on Facebook.

“In 2020 our dream was taking on life and our vision was becoming clear. We had a plan … and then a pandemic hit and turned the world upside down.

“In 2021 we signed a lease on the old Dormont Municipal Building. That fall we brewed four back-to-back batches on our pilot system and introduced our beer to the neighborhood at the Dormont Street and Music Festival … and sold out in a few hours.

“In 2022 we started selling 4-packs out of our brewery, hosting and attending events, distributing to local beer shops, bars and restaurants and doing everything we could to get our beer into the hands of our community.”

Finally opening the taproom? “A dream come true.”

One can’t help but ask, What was it that took so long?

“It’s a long list of things,” from the global pandemic to construction issues, says Hoelleman. He still has a day job — as director of communications for Animal Friends and lives in Brookline. His partners, all still in Dormont, have day jobs, too — Pat McKinley is an engineer, Patty McKinley manages supply chain logistics. Sifford was an engineer but now his full-time job is Back Alley’s general manager.

The place is not on a back alley but right on West Liberty Avenue, a Dormont and South Hills main drag. The taproom itself, on the first floor, has room, in two big rooms, for 100 people, with space for more guests outdoors and, eventually, upstairs.

The bar side of Dormont’s Back Alley Brewing Co. during a soft opening. (Courtesy of Back Alley Brewing Co.)

There are a dozen taps, which, for the opening, will start out pouring the flagship
Back Alley IPA, a “Pittsburgh-style” lager called Mountain of Gold (Dormont), Snowed In spiced winter ale, Beauregarde​ blueberry wheat ale, Doggie double American IPA, MacKinlay Irish Stout, Through the Fog New England IPA, Aqua Space Rock Belgian witbier, Hair of the Dog Scottish ale, as well as a cider as one of the guest drafts that will be offered.

The house beer is brewed in the shiny seven-barrel brewhouse, which sits in the garage bay that once housed Dormont fire trucks. The vault behind the concrete bar used to hold Dormont tax revenues. The two jail cells behind a door on the other side of the tap room?

After it was the municipal building, this was an upscale bridal shop, so lots of people come in and say they bought their wedding dress here. Others recount spending a night in the jail, Hoelleman says with a laugh.

The other seating area of the taproom at Dormont’s Back Alley Brewing Co. (Courtesy of Back Alley Brewing Co.)

Also available are beers to go in four-packs of 16-ounce cans, which the brewery has been canning itself and then selling on-site and at other places for about a year now while they worked on the taproom. Hoelleman acknowledges that many people think they already have been open for a while, in part due to social media going back to when they were just home brewers.

There is no kitchen, but there will be food from food trucks, including each day of this grand opening weekend: Stone Craft Pizza/Wood Stoked BBQ on Thursday, Dos Reyes and Hummus Pittsburgh Friday, and Chip and Kale Saturday. And people are welcome to bring in food from the neighborhood’s many restaurants.

Their plans include eventually adding their own kitchen. But if anything, the past five years have taught them all how “plans” can go. Just as they were going to banks for financing in 2020, banks were pausing making loans to restaurants and bars and breweries, due to COVID-19. Their lease on this grand old building was contingent on getting that. But it all worked out much better than it could have.

Hoelleman recounts a pivotal day when they decided to seek funding from Honeycomb Credit, which gave them a loan repayable to a crowd of investors. “What was good about that,” he says, “we immediately had 200 customers.” They’ve already supported them by buying the beer to take home, but many of them have been saying how much they can’t wait to sit here and sip one or two.

Dormont is a small borough, but it has good beer bars, and an Arsenal Cider House, and not far away, other brewery taprooms such as East End Brewing Co.’s Mt. Lebanon taproom that also is officially opening this Thursday through Sunday — with a St. Patrick’s Day-themed Pizza of the Week called the Colcannon with buttery mashed potatoes, mozzarella and cheddar, sauteed cabbage and leeks, bacon and parsley (that can be adapted to be vegan and vegetarian).

How does Back Alley find its place on the Pittsburgh-area beer map?

These partners are all about being Dormont’s brewery first, Hoelleman says. But, “People don’t go to one brewery. People who love craft breweries like to bounce around to them.”

By whatever long and circuitous route they may take.

Back Alley Brewing Co. is located at 2975 W. Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15216. Learn more at

A night view of the entrance to Back Alley Brewing Co. in the former borough building on West Liberty Avenue in Dormont. (Bob Batz Jr./Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Bob, a feature writer and editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is currently on strike and serving as interim editor of the Pittsburgh Union Progress. Contact him at

Bob Batz Jr.

Bob, a feature writer and editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is currently on strike and serving as interim editor of the Pittsburgh Union Progress. Contact him at