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Pittsburgh Gets A Guide To Its Craft Breweries

Photo by Bill O'Driscoll
90.5 WESA News
Brian Eaton, of Grist House brewery, and Matt McMahon, of Eleventh Hour brewery, are two of the people behind the Pittsburgh Brewery Guide.

Pittsburgh's beer tourism industry hopes to get a boost this week with the release of city's first comprehensive craft brewery guide. 

Pittsburgh Brewery Guide release party will be held 6-10 p.m. Fri., Aug. 24 on the lawn of Nova Place on the North Side. Tickets are $55.

The up-to-the-minute catalog, a project of the fledgling Pittsburgh Brewers Guild, includes short profiles of 30 craft breweries in Allegheny County.  A companion interactive web site lets users create their own “brewery trails” and more.

The printed guide, full-color and 37 pages, is the size and shape of a passport, the idea being that users can get their copy stamped at each location. (Collect ’em all and win a free specialty beer glass.) The release party is Friday.

“We really want to get people talking about Pittsburgh as a craft-beer destination,” said the Guild’s Brian Eaton, co-founder of Grist House brewery, in Etna.

“People actually plan craft-beer vacations now,” he said. “They’ll pick a city to go to -- the ones in the conversation for the past couple of years have been Portland, Oregon; Portland, Maine; Asheville, North Carolina; Denver. We want Pittsburgh to be in that conversation.”

The guide is a collaboration between the Guild, which was founded last year, and Visit Pittsburgh, with help from a state grant. It is printed on waterproof paper and will sell for $10 at participating breweries.

Most of the breweries are small, unique-to-Pittsburgh spots, like Grist House, Lawrenceville’s Eleventh Hour Brewing, and Larimer-based East End Brewing. But the guide also includes Penn Brewery – at three decades-plus, the granddaddy of the local craft scene – and craft venues for which Pittsburgh is just one location, like Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery and Southern Tier Brewing Company.

A page from the guide detailing Allegheny City Brewing.

The guide’s creators considered going wider geographically, to include breweries in southwestern Pennsylvania, for example, but opted to stick with those within the county. Only breweries that produce beer in Allegheny County are eligible -- which explains the absence of Voodoo Brewery, a popular Homestead brewpub whose libations are all produced at the company's headquarters in Meadville, in Crawford County.

The profiles tell whether each brewery has amenities like outdoor seating, food trucks, live music, and dog friendly spaces. Each also include a couple “fan favorite” brews.

The Aug. 24 release party includes opportunities to meet all 30 participating brewers, plus access to 10 “collaboration beers,” each worked on by a team drawn from three different breweries. More information is on the event's Facebook page.

Pittsburgh isn’t the only city with a craft-beer guide: Cleveland has a similar publication, as does Bend, Ore., said Eaton. But he said the “stampable” nature of Pittsburgh’s guide is unique, and the accompanying website is unusually comprehensive.

“We have yet to find one that actually is this immersive, and has all the details and is easy to use,” he said. “There’s not really anything else out there like it, so we’re pretty excited about it.”

Matt McMahon, of Eleventh Hour Brewing Company, who also helped create the guide, agreed. “The biggest thing we keep saying is, in every city I go to, ‘I wish they had this,’ because every time I’m going to a new city, I’m always looking for, “OK, well, where are the breweries?’”