Every so often, an idea comes along that makes perfect sense. An idea that’s so good, it’s hard to believe it didn’t exist already. The Pittsburgh Brewers Guild is one of those.
The Guild (PBG) is exactly what the name suggests. Led by Brian Eaton, of Grist House Craft Brewery, the group “aims at bettering the position of local craft breweries as it relates to promotion, legislation and representation,” according to a press release. The group is limited to breweries making beer in Allegheny County that meet the Brewers Association’s definition of a craft brewery. Currently, the PBG has 28 members — impressive, considering that craft breweries in the county total about 30.
The seeds of the PBG were planted in 2015, when a group of Pittsburgh brewers got to chatting after the annual Craft Brewers Conference. “You know how those conversations over a few beers sometimes lose a bit of steam,” laughs Eaton. But the idea was rekindled this year when Visit Pittsburgh (the city’s tourism agency) reached out to local breweries about a Pittsburgh brewery guide. A group of brewers agreed they needed a proper organization to coordinate such an undertaking. So a board, chaired by Eaton and vice-chaired by Matt McMahon, of Eleventh Hour Brewing, got to work writing bylaws and officially forming the PBG.
The guide will be the first order of business for the budding guild. The group has applied for a $30,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Malt and Brewed Beverage Industry Promotion Board to fund its creation. The money will go toward printing and promoting both physical and online guides, as well as educating hotel concierges. Whether or not the grant comes through (they’ll find out next month), the group plans to move forward with the guide.
Their ambitions don’t end there. Eaton sees tons of potential for the PBG to serve as a voice for Allegheny County’s dozens of craft breweries. The organization can push for legislative changes, bring conferences to Pittsburgh, and educate local bars on proper handling and serving of craft beer. “[Allegheny County] has the most breweries operating in a county in Pennsylvania,” notes Eaton. “There needs to be a more unified voice and more attention focused on our side of the state.”
Through working with Visit Pittsburgh, the PBG also hopes to bring more beer tourism to the city. “Nobody was talking about Asheville [breweries] until they formed a guild and said, ‘Hey, look at us,’” says Eaton. “Now all of the sudden everybody talks about Asheville.”
Eaton and the rest of the board have plenty of plans, including publishing the brewery guide by early spring. But simply by existing, the PBG is helping to bring wider attention to Pittsburgh’s beer scene, and ensuring that it continues to grow in a healthy way that benefits the whole community.