While many rural towns are described as blue-collar or beer and shot towns, Ebensburg has always quietly resisted being pigeon-holed as either one thing or another.
What others may describe as quaint, Ebensburg natives know it is more than a pejorative. In fact, though the rural town seemed destined for a quiet existence in the Appalachian Mountains, it is instead becoming something of a trendsetter.
Indeed, Ebensburg, a town about seventy miles east of Pittsburgh, is slowly entering into the craft-beer revolution with the opening of two-month-old Pour on Center. “We’ve always known that we wanted to incorporate beer and food in the gastropub scene, says owner Chris Persio. “For the most part, the marketing effort to get people to Pour has been word of mouth coupled with efforts on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.”
Getting Ebensburg locals interested in craft beer has been a long-term project for Persio, who had been teasing imbibers for years at his Italian restaurant Amici's, located next door to Pour, by pushing “craft beer as far as we could,” he says. But with Pour, he didn’t hesitate. “We just did it. We didn’t put anything domestic on tap … Everything is a craft beer,” he says.
Following a well-known credo: If you build it, they will come, Persio says the response has been positive. “People have been open to trying out all the beer,” he adds.
Persio, an Ebensburg native, is constantly thinking about what’s next, what new thing to try or add to the menu, what beer to put on tap. And Persio is diving in head first by launching Pour’s inaugural Six Course Anderson Valley Pork and Sours Dinner. The event, which sold tickets for $75, focused on a theme of pig-based cuisine, pairing with Anderson Valley's barrel-aged beer.
Although the nascent gastropub is still establishing itself, Persio and his team didn’t hesitate to start brainstorming promotions. The beer dinners seemed like the logical next step, with Persio planning the event a month out.
Ebensburg may be "virgin territory" to craft beer distributors, but Persio said representatives have been eager to come out. Indeed, Charlie Carson, the beer representative from Anderson Valley was on hand for the beer dinner. In fact, Persio is adding more beer dinners to the schedule, with plans to partner with Founders Brewery and Dogfish Head. People get excited about new things, so try out a beer dinner.
The beer dinners are an introduction to the bar and will be “important to the Pour business,” he explains. Whereas Persio has a steady flow of core customers to sister establishment Amici's, Pour has been different. Certainly he sees familiar faces coming in once or twice a week for some appetizers and a few beers, but he’s also seeing new faces every time. “I never saw that with my Italian restaurant.”
The goal is to “push the envelope,” Persio says without alienating guests. One of the biggest misconceptions Pour has disproved is that rural clientele won't be willing to try new brews and food.
“People in this area aren’t immobile,” he explains. “The community here wants different things.”