At least three breweries closed this summer, but there’s still 43 craft breweries in Allegheny County. Is the market too saturated Or is there room for more?
Channel 11 took that question to the Pittsburgh Brewers Guild to local craft beer enthusiasts and brewers.
“I would say the Pittsburgh brew scene is vibrant, delicious and right now, hazy and juicy,” said Jackie Page.
Page is a craft beer enthusiast and part of a group called the Pittsburgh Beer Ladies. She’s been to more than half of the craft breweries in the area, including Mastic Trail Brewing in Shaler, which recently closed.
“I think location was more of a challenge than it was anything else,” said Page.
Rock Bottom moved out of the Waterfront after nearly 25 years.
“They had a good run,” said Page.
Ben Steffen also cited location as the reason for closing Arboretum Trail Brewing on Washington Boulevard.
“I was pulling 90-100 hours a week trying to keep this place going. Between that and taking hits every week and not being able to catch a wave,” said Steffen. “It’s taxing.”
He’s taking his skills to Yough River Brewing in Connellsville and will still be brewing his beers. While having to close this chapter is sad, he thinks Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene still has a lot of room for growth.
“The saturation I think is good in a way that each neighborhood is getting their own identity in a brewery,” said Steffen. “With this location, it’s not really a location with houses, and it’s not walkable. I think that’s really the key with Pittsburgh. You have to find a neighborhood, and you have to find people who can walk there. They can really latch on to it as their place.”
“It’s really been a crazy couple of years, so I don’t necessarily think a couple of them closing is something that’s indicative of a trend,” said Pittsburgh Brewers Guild Chairman Matt McMahon.
Besides being with the Pittsburgh Brewers Guild, McMahon also owns Eleventh Hour Brewery in Lawrenceville, which just celebrated its sixth year. He expected to see a slowdown in new breweries.
“Over the course of about five years, it went from 2,000 to 10,000, so that’s exponential growth,” said McMahon. “Whenever you go from that little to that large, there’s going to be a slowdown, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a downward trend.”
McMahon mentioned multiple breweries that are currently expanding.
“We are still on the positive side of the ledger, and I think you’re going to continue to see continued growth,” said McMahon. “There’s the Hazelwood project that’s going on where there’s multiple breweries that’ll be going into Hazelwood.”
Grist House opened its taproom and Allegheny City is getting ready for a new taproom over on the North Side. McMahon says success is directly related to breweries’ ingenuity.
“The ability to adapt and change to a changing market is something that I see as a real positive for this city as a whole,” said McMahon. “You need to adapt to a changing market. You need to make yourself stand out a little bit and make sure that you have something for everyone. Recognizing that things do change, but that’s the one thing I do see about this local scene is that there are so many people adapting and changing and doing different things that really feeds into the way that Pittsburgh is as a whole is an adaptable tough city who we’re just going to fight through anything.”
Page still sees opportunities in craft beer, more than just in the taste.
“I don’t want to own a brewery,” said Page. “I just want to work in a brewery and make good beer. These places are still thriving, and I think there’s plenty of room for more.”
The Pittsburgh Brewers Guild says they know of at least a handful of new breweries that’ll be opening in the next year.
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