A new-to-town company invites Pittsburghers to see their city through rosy-colored beer goggles. City Brew Tours, a company with locations in Boston, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Burlington, Vt., and Philadelphia opened here in late April.
Chad Brodsky, the owner and founder, started giving tours in Burlington when he was in his senior year at the University of Vermont. “I’d show up downtown in the pedestrian mall wearing lederhosen and asking who wanted a tour of the breweries,” he says, cracking a smile before adding wistfully: “Nobody wants to wear lederhosen anymore.” The tours were successful and soon he started looking for a bigger market. In 2012, he opened City Brew Tours in Boston. “It hadn’t been done really,” he says, recognizing the boom in breweries and tours in the past five years. Pittsburgh is the company’s latest location, and Brodsky is very excited to be in a town that clearly loves its beer.
City Brew Tours offers three styles of tours for the beer enthusiast: The Original Brew Tour, The After Hours Brew Tour and custom private tours. The Original Brew Tour lasts five hours and includes three or four brewery stops at local favorites. Currently, the list includes Aurochs Brewing Company, Hitchhiker Brewing Company, Couch Brewery, Penn Brewery, Draai Laag Brewing, Allegheny City Brewing, Grist House Craft Brewery, Hop Farm Brewing Company and Spoonwood Brewing Company. City Brew is hoping to establish more partnerships.
Each tour includes a tasting and analysis of more than 15 beers, as well as lunch or dinner at a beer-centric eatery, complete with food and beer pairings. Don’t worry about a designated driver. City Brew Tours has round-trip transportation covered by your driver and beer-expert tour guide. In my case, that was Barry Hansen, the chief operating officer of City Brew Tours, and himself a former brewer. Throughout the tour, my group received running commentary from Hansen about beer history, with a little trivia added in. During a three-hour media tour, and with a lot of humor, he managed to cover everything from Mesopotamia (the birthplace of beer) to colonial America, all while keeping the conversation going between the passengers. At each brewery stop, we swilled beers and compared opinions along with getting a little brewery history from the people who worked there. (Fun fact: At the Hop Farm stop, we learned that the lime basil for its excellent lime-basil saison is grown on the brewery’s own five-acre property.)
City Brew Tours’ goal is to give two tours a day, every day. But for now, Hansen is working on learning more about the market and training local hires to be expert beer guides. “Baltimore was a great market immediately. It seems like Pittsburgh might be the same way,” says Brodsky, as the group talks about the similarities between the two towns. At the moment, tours are given Wednesday through Sunday, or you can curate a private tour.