When is the last time you or one of your queer friends suggested going to a brewery for a fun activity? Has it been a while? Does it happen often? Probably not, right? Going to a brewery just seems like a straight guy type of activity and because of that, you just don’t see queers rushing to craft breweries. Well, Necromancer Brewing Co. in Ross Township is trying to change that fact and other aspects of the brewing industry. One of their methods of doing this is by creating their own Queer Beer Club!
Founder Ben Butler opened Necromancer Brewing Co. in May of 2021. Necromancers are known for bringing the dead back to life and that is one of the main focuses of Necromancer Brewing: resurrecting dead styles of beer. Since opening, some of those styles have included the Kentucky Common, the Lichtenhainer, and the Pennsylvania “Swankey”. The person behind these delicious resurrections is head brewer Lauren Hughes. Hughes is just one part of an all-queer production team that also includes brewers Nina Santiago and Brooke Austin. In an industry that is absolutely dominated by men, this is nothing short of remarkable. But that was just how Butler wanted things to be in his brewery.
“When I had my interview,” Hughes says, “one of the things he mentioned was that he wanted a really diverse staff and that he didn’t just want to sell beer to straight white guys. That was one of the reasons I took the job. And we made that part of the ethos from the very beginning.” Hughes had another ulterior motive for accepting the title of head brewer though. “For me, breweries always seemed a bit intimidating. So for selfish reasons, I want Necromancer to be a brewery where queer people want to go. I work here and I make beer here so it would be awesome for this to be the brewery I could go to and feel safe with my friends, where I can go and be myself.”
According to Hughes though, Butler, who doesn’t just want to sell beer to straight white guys, just happens to be “a straight white guy and he knows he doesn’t know much about what people who aren’t straight white guys want to do.” Knowing his limitations, he lets his team be creative.
“The really cool thing about Ben and this place is I can say things like ‘I think we should have a drag show’ and he says ‘ok, let’s do a drag show’!”, says Hughes. And Necromancer has done quite a few drag shows in the last year and a half, such as Songs 2 Dance & Cry 2 hosted by drag king Soft Boy and The Doll House Drag Extravaganza which featured music by HUNY and an all-Black trans cast. Yes, you are reading that correctly. A brewery is hiring performers who are still sometimes considered on the fringe of even queer society to entertain the masses in suburban Pittsburgh.
All that speaks to the kind of people Butler, Hughes, and the staff at Necromancer are.
“I don’t think anybody should feel marginalized anywhere,” says Hughes. “I think everyone should feel comfortable. In my mind, I didn’t set out to book any specific type of performer. If they’re great entertainers, why not book them? I love HUNY and I love the fact that the Doll House is an all-Black trans cast. Soft Boy is amazing. I mean, why not? The queer community is so vast. Why wouldn’t you include everyone? Necromancer may not do everything right but we are trying to do right by everybody else.”
So what about Queer Beer Club? After the past queer events proved to be a success, Hughes told Butler that she wanted to start a monthly queer event at Necromancer. In January of this year, the first Queer Beer Club event was held and so far, it’s going well! The Queer Beer Club meets every third Tuesday in the taproom at Necromancer. Last month’s event was “Queeraoke” themed and was hosted by Pissy Mattress with music by Formosa, one-half of the popular DJ group Jellyfish. March’s QBC event will be held on March 21st from 6 to 10 pm and will be an open stage hosted by Scarlet Fairweather. Are you a poet, musician, actor, singer, drag performer, or any kind of performer? Stop down on the 21st, sign up, and put on a show! Not a performer? No worries! Come on down and just enjoy the show, the camaraderie, and the beer! You can also sign up to be a member of the QBC there and start enjoying the perks!
Queer Beer Club Perks Include:
- Membership Card.
- QBC Nights every 3rd Tuesday featuring partnerships with other queer-focused organizations and special events.
- Exclusive member merchandise and collaborations.
- QBC newsletter.
Lauren Hughes isn’t trying to improve the brewery scene for just queer beer drinkers. She is trying to make the industry more inclusive for queer brewers as well.
After a homophobic incident involving Necromancer brewer Nina Santiago occurred at a beer festival last year, Hughes helped establish a subcommittee for the Pittsburgh Brewers Guild that is dedicated to creating a code of conduct for their events. You can help their efforts by attending Necromancer’s second-ever drag bingo fundraiser during Three Rivers Beer Week on Saturday, April 15 from 6 to 10 pm. A $38.00 ticket includes eight rounds of bingo, entertainment by HUNY and the Doll House Queens, food, and valet parking. The night will also feature a basket raffle with prizes of $50 or more. Doors open at 6 pm with the festivities beginning at 7 pm. Proceeds from the event will directly benefit the Pittsburgh Brewers Guild subcommittee for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts in the Pittsburgh beer scene. Also, stay tuned for more details about Necromancer’s 2nd annual Pride festival!
The team at Necromancer Brewing Co. may have set out to create a brewery that brought dead beers back to life but they also gave life to a new era for queer beer drinkers. It’s such an exciting time filled with potential! And their efforts have not gone unnoticed.
“So many times people have come up to me at the bar and thanked me for creating a space like this,” Hughes relates. “That means so much to me. I get a little teary-eyed because it’s so nice to see people just come and have a beer and feel comfortable.”
I could totally go for a cold one now. How about you? See you at Necromancer? Cheers!
2257 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15237