Just how popular is beer in Pittsburgh? When Commonwealth Press partnered with the Gateway Clipper fleet to offer a three-hour-long river cruise featuring an all-you-can-drink assortment of beer from more than a dozen craft breweries, tickets sold out in less than four minutes.
And when the servers crashed because they were overloaded with ticket requests, the trip sold out again, after organizers added a second boat to accommodate the demand.
The river trip is a highlight of the second annual Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, a celebration of artisanal breweries that runs from April 19-27.
"Everybody saw the success of it last year and wanted to get involved," says Andy Rich, head brewer at Penn Brewery and chair of the Pittsburgh Craft Beer Alliance. He says that the collaborative beers build camaraderie among the brewers, something that serves to strengthen the local beer community as a whole.
"We have a lot of support from the local community, from wholesalers to bars to restaurants," says Colleen Leary, a PCBA board member.
Leary says that events, which will again number in the "several hundreds," are organized by individual establishments, but she and the rest of the team of volunteers are "here to lend ideas and support."
Local partnerships are popular this year. Last year a handful of area brewers worked on three collaborative brewing projects: This year the official list expands to five beers produced by 15 different breweries.
There are also a slew of unofficial collaborative projects. For example, regional brewers Lavay teamed up with hometown favorites Full Pint. Fatheads, Rivertowne and Butler Brew Works partnered with Burgh Bees for a tasting of locally made honey beer; Penn Brewery and Arsenal Cider produced a beer-hopped hard cider.
All of this bodes well for the future of craft beer in Pittsburgh, organizers say.
"It's exciting for the region," says Rich. He adds that, as big as the event seems now, "it's just going to keep growing and building."