A decade ago, Scott Smith was just another inspired homebrewer dreaming big. But in 2004, he opened a one-person brewery in an old 4,000-square-foot Homewood warehouse, cobbled together with secondhand equipment. Today, Smith's success is anything but fantasy. He's even outgrown the old production facility.
"It's a strange place to be when [you're] working to get your beer out there, and then suddenly you have to turn people away," he says.
That's not a problem now.
His company, East End Brewing, has moved operations to a 17,000-square-foot warehouse in Larimer, where Smith will brew at least 5,000 barrels per year. (The old location's capacity maxed out at 2,500 barrels.)
Located at 147 Julius St., East End's new building will slowly be repurposed to suit the brewery's needs. It won't be easy: It's a quirky structure that hints at a colorful history. When Smith first found it, the facility lacked basic features like heat, public restrooms and easily accessible water.
Now, however, "We have all sorts of modern conveniences," Smith says. And one or two old ones: Amenities include an old office with a Scooby Doo-style secret-door bookshelf that opens to a quick exit out the back door — and "two rooms described to me as massage rooms," Smith says.
While Smith is unlikely to avail himself of massages or hasty escapes, there will be more beer innovations and expanded, customer-friendly growler hours.
The immediate plan is to expand the number of year-round selections. "We've got a whole raft of beers that we've touched on" — East End brewed 35 beers last year — "but probably 90 percent of the people that have had our beer around town are only aware of maybe eight," Smith says.
Smith gives much of the credit for the brewery's success to the city itself. "As we've grown, the Pittsburgh market has grown with us," he says. "So there are more places picking up better beer, more people drinking better beer, all locally."