PITTSBURG — Mark McClain is a self-described “military brat” who “grew up all over the world.” An Air Force veteran, most recently McClain has been living in Wichita while working out of New York as a commercial pilot. When he decided to open a brewpub, though, he set his sights on Pittsburg.
“Every time I’ve been to Pittsburg it’s just been a really neat city,” McClain said in a recent interview. “I’ve enjoyed it, and this was the time and place to pursue a dream, which was to open a brewpub.”
The name of the brewpub that McClain and wife Cathy are opening — Drop the H — is also a reference to Pittsburg. In 1890, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names was created to come up with conventions for standardizing (though not legally regulating) names of places.
“They wanted to have a standard that people could comply with so that it was not totally foreign everywhere you went,” McClain said, “and one of them, one of their findings was that if the word had a ‘burg’ in it, you could spell it B-E-R-G or B-U-R-G, or the Scottish version, B-U-R-G-H. And so they decided it should not be spelled with an E, it should have a U, and you should drop the H.”
Pittsburg was originally founded as New Pittsburgh, before changing to Pittsburgh, and finally “dropping the H” to become Pittsburg in 1894, according to the Kansas Historical Society.
When Drop the H opens —which McClain is hoping will happen in September— the brewpub will feature eight beers made in-house. These will include a pilsner, a Vienna stout, two different India pale ales, a pale ale, a brown ale, a stout and probably a nitrogenated Irish red, though that lineup may change over time. McClain said he hopes to find four or five beers that local customers respond well to, and a few others on tap that will rotate or be available seasonally.
While the brewpub will also sell the few other food items, aside from beer, the main focus of Drop the H will be pizza, which will be made in an oven from Marra Forni.
After deciding to establish their brewpub in Pittsburg in 2017, the McClains bought a building on East Rose Street just off of Broadway that they’ve gutted and are in the process of completely renovating, including replacing the plumbing, floors and windows.
In making plans for Drop the H, McClain was certified in the University of Vermont’s Business of Craft Beer Program, which has since been following the project and published a blog article on it in May. McClain also pursued other forms of professional training for his new business.
“I was a homebrewer for decades,” McClain said.
McClain studied at the Goodfellas Pizza School of New York, which is not only run by award-winning pizza makers but has also trained other award-winning pizza makers.
“These guys know what they’re doing when they teach you how to do pizza,” he said. “So I plan on doing pizza right here.”