Quarantine Quest: one man has visited 29 breweries since the shutdown

To show support for the local beer community, Michael Cottle visited every brewery that is a member of the Pittsburgh Brewers Guild.

by Aadam Soorma
May 26, 2020

ABV is our weekly series that highlights a different beer from a local Pittsburgh brewery every week. Check out our past picks here.


Backtrack to March 2020.

As social-distancing entered our day-to-day lexicon, the State of Pennsylvania declared businesses as essential or nonessential for operating purposes.

Breweries are considered essential and received the go-ahead to continue producing beer for carryout sales.

Meet Michael Cottle

Michael Cottle – a Pittsburgh-based cycling and beer enthusiast – works at Dirty Harry’s bike shop in Verona. He is also an assistant brewer at Allegheny City Brewing.

Cottle made it his mission to support local breweries during quarantine. All of them.

“I want to support awesome, local business.”

Over the past 10 weeks, Cottle has picked up carryout beers from (nearly) every brewery in Allegheny County. He completed his quest this past weekend.

Not only were we impressed, but we felt compelled to hear his story. Check out what Cottle had to say about beer, bicycles and making ambitious plans to support local biz during uncertain times.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-MwNILnT4R/

ABV, volume LXIX

Q&A with Michael Cottle

Aadam Soorma: What neighborhood do you live in?

Michael Cottle: Millvale. It’s a great part of Pittsburgh. Close to the city, cool breweries, and good local food!

AS: Were you born in Pittsburgh? 

MC: I was born in Winter Park, Florida; and from 1982 to 2001, I grew up in Longwood, Florida. It was hot.

AS: We heard you work at Dirty Harry’s in Verona! What do you do at the bike shop?

MC: Since 1997, I’ve worked full-time in the cycling industry. My family had a badass shop growing up; Dirty Harry’s reminds me of the family shop. For a little over a year now, I’ve been in the Service Dept. The owner and all of my coworkers are amazing.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9VZR1knA4Y/

AS: You ALSO work at Allegheny City Brewing. What’s your role at the brewery?

MC: ACB – what a great family! I used to live in the Northside and slowly became friends with Al, Matt, and Amy – the leadership team at Allegheny City Brewing. Before meeting them, I had no prior brewing experience. ACB taught me the ways; and now, I’m an assistant brewer.

AS: So, you’ve just always loved beer?

MC: Here’s my short answer. Beer is good as f***. To be honest, I’ve always wanted to have an outlet outside of cycling – this is it. I straight up asked Matt if I could help at ACB, and it all went from there.

Visiting Every (Pittsburgh-Area) Brewery

AS: Tell us about how you decided to hit for the cycle and visit EVERY brewery?

MC: Since I’m part of the Allegheny City Brewing team, I’ve been able to attend some of the Pittsburgh Brewers Guild meetings. What they are doing with the (beer) scene is amazing and I’m super into what they have going on. It just felt like the correct thing to do.

I grew up supporting local business. It’s what I’ve done my whole life, so here we are.

AS: How do you plan which breweries you will hit every week?

MC: I picked the breweries based off when I could get there. Usually, I check with the Pittsburgh Brewers Guild website and lurk out times and hours to make it fit with my schedule.

When the world is normal, I base my beer pick up and hang out spots by beer release and food trucks. Right now that’s not really something I’m focusing on.

[PGH Pro Tip: the Pittsburgh Brewers Guild has put together the Pittsburgh Breweries website. It is a great resource for information on local breweries. Be sure to follow The Brewers Guild on for weekly updates about beer takeout and delivery.]

AS: What has the reaction been from the local breweries?

MC: I go low key-style; rock a mask, get my beer and go home. None of the breweries even knew I was doing this. I’m not asking for a handout. I just want to support awesome local business.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10221096395816023&set=a.1589001121420&type=3&theater

AS: What are a couple of beers you’ve NEVER had before quarantine that you discovered during this takeout journey?

MC: The two newest members of the Brewers’ Guild – Acrospire and Headley’s. From Acrospire, I got the Allegheny Amber Ale. And from Headley’s, I picked up Amy’s Breakin Nut Brown Ale.

[Check out our story on Acrospire Brewing in Glenshaw here.]

AS: Do you bike to the breweries?

MC: I’ve ridden to maybe 10 of them, but that’s kind of normal.

Separately, I organize a seasonal bike ride to support local breweries. There’s a group of us and we create a ridable route to enjoy beers and food along the way.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_-xhiCnj-I/

Pittsburgh from the Cyclist’s Perspective

AS: Do you have a favorite place to go cycling around Pittsburgh?

MC: My cycling routes are based strictly on how I feel. Lately, I’ve been finding routes to rip for mental therapy. Everywhere I ride in this city is badass – that’s why I live here. If you need info on specific routes, check out Bike Pittsburgh or Trail Pittsburgh. Both of those organizations rule!

AS: You’ve covered so much ground via bicycle – surely you have a favorite Pittsburgh bridge?

MC: I grew up in a town with no bridges; so having to pick just one is kinda hard. BUT, if you push me into a corner and ask, I would have to say the 16th Street Bridge. The city looks so dreamy from there and it connects the Northside to The Strip. It’s ALWAYS Steelers season!

https://www.instagram.com/p/CABYijdHlrb/

AS: Is there someone in your life who inspires you?

MC: Cycling-wise it’s all over the board, but you should Google these locals: Mark and Michael Potoczny, Brian Yeagle, Ryan Popple, Mason Ritter, Chris Doyle, Isaac McCrea, THE HALAHAN FAMILY.

AS: If you did all this again, what would you do differently?

MC: The only thing I would want to change is being able to drink all these beers with friends in breweries.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B80HgItHwwO/

You can follow Michael Cottle on social media. He is MichaelCCottle on Instagram and cottle01 on Twitter (and his rides are logged on Strava).

More people who know Pittsburgh beer

And if your like bikes and beer, you might like watching our little video about the annual East End Brewing Keg Ride.

In 2012, Aadam moved to Pittsburgh. He's currently parked (sans chair) in Lawrenceville and plans to stay a while. On the weekends, you'll find him driving a small green bus (Porter Tours) as he leads tours at local breweries. Got a fun story idea? DMs are open: @asoorma.

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