Right off, there’s something dishonest about Dave Sagrati’s place in New Kensington. In the best possible way.
He doesn’t sell a thousand beers. It’s at least a hundred more than that.
With 36 years in the beer-selling business, Dave is a connoisseur. Says so there on his business card: “Owner/Beer Connoisseur.” His favorites are Belgians — has more than 200 of those, one of which is named after him. He loves beer. Wants people to drink good beer.
Which not everyone does.
“I try not to stock garbage,” he said. “Like the new Duquesne. It’s horrible. But I had to stock it because of the demand.”
Sure, there are the neighborhood folks who come in, buy two cans of IC Light off the shelf, maybe a small bag of Utz Ripple Cut, and head out the door. Nothing against that, but it’s not for Dave.
“I would not drink a Coors Light if I was lost in a desert dying of thirst,” he said.
He would rather you stay a while at his 32-tap bar in the back and learn something, samples on him.
“Once we get you,” he said, “you’re not going back to Budweiser.”
Grab a seat and sign up for his bottle club — buying bottles in the store to drink at the bar. Strike up a conversation with a regular like Mike or Scott the bartender.
“I have come a long way,” Mike said. “Dave was my tutor. Opened up a whole new world to me.”
Dave finds things. He travels. Want last year’s Mad Elf? Dave has it on tap. He knows things like which are the only two wheat Oktoberfests available in this country. A small-batch regional brew native to the Pacific Northwest — one hardly anyone anywhere carries — and he has it.
One guy found Dave’s new website, called and reserved about $600 worth, then drove up from his home in Baltimore to pick them up. That was last Sunday.
“He said he couldn’t get that stuff at home,” Dave said.
Not everything is exactly how Dave would like.
He’s outgrowing his space. The taps at the bar pour beer at 34 degrees. Too cold for Dave’s taste, but the way it is.
“You have to learn to hold it in your hands a while, let it warm up to the right temperature,” he said. “Let it open up. Let the flavor really come out. Then enjoy it.”
To find Dave involves a trip north from the city on Route 28. Construction, random speed-limit changes, inevitable traffic. How many roads around here have their own “I Hate” bumper stickers like Route 28 does? (Does it help that it rhymes?)
He took over a beer store for the first time years ago not far from where he is now on Freeport Street. PennDot claimed eminent domain and took it, so Dave built this place.
He has no desire to move into Pittsburgh and to go farther out would put him in an area he said was too economically depressed to be good business.
Maybe it’s not convenient for you. No big deal. It just has to work for him.
What Dave built is a place to sip. To appreciate what you drink.
There are plenty of places to buy beer.
Just not from a guy like Dave.