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Pittsburgh's Craft Beer Scene Growing, But Pint-Sized

The Pittsburgh region boasts about 35 craft breweries as American Craft Beer Week kicks off on Monday.

Andy Kwiackowski, head brewer for Hitchhiker Brewing Company in Mt. Lebanon, is past president of the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Alliance. He spoke to 90.5 WESA's Sarah Kovash about how the local craft beer scene stacks up.

Sarah Kovash: It seems like Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene has really taken off in the last few years. How does it compare with similarly sized cities?

Andy Kwiackowski:  “Compared to other cities, Pittsburgh’s really just getting started. If you look at an area that has a similar metropolitan footprint to Pittsburgh, like Portland for example, Portland has 120 breweries and the same kind of general footprint that we are and we’re not even at 40 yet. You know, five years ago, there were less than 10. So, it’s certainly blowing up just like the rest of the country is in terms of craft beer, but Pittsburgh’s really just at the beginning of its boom.”

SK: What kind of breweries are we seeing in the Pittsburgh region?

AK: “A lot of the places that are opening aren’t really big scale production breweries that do packaging. They’re just small breweries like Hitchhiker is. Some are called nano-breweries they’re so small. And they really just serve, you know, in their tasting room and that’s pretty much the only spot that you can find the beer. So it’s more of a neighborhood bar kind of brewery thing that we have going on here in Pittsburgh, there’s not a lot of people that are really just cranking out a lot of beer. There’s really only a handful of those here.”

SK: Are those smaller breweries more representative of truly craft beer?

AK: “Wherever your neighborhood is, chances are there’s a brewery there, in planning to be there, or is a short walk or drive away from where you are. And to me, when I go into an establishment, I like seeing the people behind the scenes, the people that make it. So, it’s just kind of a deeper connection. There’s a deeper sense of community for these smaller breweries in the areas that they're in.”

SK: Where do you see Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene in another five years?

AK:  “I think it’s just going to continue to grow and the number’s going to continue to boom... There are over 4,100 breweries, roughly, in the United States right now and there are over 4,500 in planning. So it’s just going to continue to get bigger and bigger. So I think in another five years we’ll probably double and we’ll be close to 80 breweries at that point.” 

Sarah Kovash previously worked as a web producer for KDKA-TV, as a freelance journalist for the Valley News Dispatch covering local government throughout the Alle-Kiski Valley and at NPR station KPBS in San Diego.