There are over 50 breweries in Pittsburgh, with more opening all the time, earning it the rank of “Best Beer City in the Country” on multiple occasions. For a relatively small state in area, Pennsylvania is one of the highest beer-producing states in the country, a close second only to California. Regardless of which neighborhood in Pittsburgh one stays in, chances are there is a brewery nearby.
What makes Pittsburgh’s brewery scene so special is the fact that it is so neighborhood-focused, with every one putting its efforts into serving the local community rather than retail and distribution. Many of these breweries have become community event spaces and homes to inclusive gatherings, ranging from drag bingo to book launch parties.
Since wide distribution is indeed limited for most of them, the only way to try their excellent beers is to actually visit the breweries in the Burgh. Narrowing down which of the 50-plus breweries to visit is no easy feat, so here are 11 of Pittsburgh’s best to whet your appetite and help you plan.
Trace Brewing only opened in 2020, but it has quickly become one of Pittsburgh’s top spots. Since the beginning, they have committed to holding a vocational program in an effort to diversify the brewing industry. The paid, six-month-long position allows brewing newcomers to gain hands-on experience, with a focus on uplifting groups who are underrepresented in the brewing space.
Trace is also one of the few breweries in the area with a koelschip (or “coolship”), a vessel used in fermented beer, and their foeder-aged beers are not to be missed. A true community space, they’re open from 8 a.m. and also serve up some great coffee until 3 p.m. daily.
This relative newcomer is one of the most exciting spots to open in Pittsburgh recently, and the brewery primarily focuses on their “Resurrection Series,” where they bring back forgotten beer styles like rotbier (a red beer brewed with barley) or Breslau-style dark schoeps. For those looking for light lagers or IPAs, they have plenty of those as well.
Necromancer has also taken big steps for inclusivity in the historically white, cis male dominated industry — both the head and lead brewers are female and queer (the lead brewer actually got her start through the vocational program at Trace).
East End Brewing Company has been a pioneer in Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene. When the brewery opened in 2004 as a one-man show, it was one of the first craft brewers in the city. Since then, it’s expanded to two locations, including a brewpub that also serves some great Sicilian-style pizza.
East End brews about 50 different beers every year, so everyone is bound to find a style they like here. The seasonal Almost Famous Pickle Beer, brewed in collaboration with the famous Primanti Bros., is surprisingly quite good, so try it if you’re feeling adventurous. If that’s not adventurous enough for you, try this: In 2019, the brewery set out to brew a unique beer for each of Pittsburgh’s 90 neighborhoods.
This Lawrenceville brewery opened in an old Gas-Lite showroom in 2017, which was retrofitted using reclaimed materials. The brewery is now a neighborhood staple thanks to their kid-friendly environment, with plenty of board games to keep both the young and old entertained. Pale ales and IPAs make up their flagship beers, but the brewery also has a few different sour series and releases an annual collection of barrel-aged stouts. Try the tropical New Cult, their latest take on their original hazy IPA recipe.
A great brewery for the IPA lovers out there, Dancing Gnome focuses on “hop-forward styles.” The brewery launched with Lustra, their house pale ale brewed with Citra and Amarillo hops. IPAs and DIPAs aside, Dancing Gnome has 16 beers on tap, which always include less hop-forward styles like Mexican lagers and stouts.
Their Sharpsburg brewery has a large indoor and outdoor seating area that fills up quickly on weekends. There’s usually a food truck outside and a local favorite, Blue Sparrow, is permanently parked at Dancing Gnome.
Cinderlands’ Pittsburgh location can be found in the Strip District, and it’s also a full-service restaurant, making this a great lunch stop while exploring the popular neighborhood. On tap you’ll find a selection of lagers and pilsners (labeled “Dad Beer” on their menu), saisons, and a whole mess of different IPA styles from wet-hopped to hazy IPAs.
When the weather is nice, head to the second-floor patio and enjoy the beers with the elevated gastropub menu, which includes everything from hot chicken sandwiches to roast chicken and cassoulet.
Set in an industrial space in Sharpsburg, Hitchhiker Brewing Co. has a large selection of beers on tap, from tried and true styles like pale ales to more experimental ones. They also do some dessert beers uncommon for the area (see: Peach Cobbler Milkshake IPA). Even better, they use one of those beers to make an alcoholic soft serve, which you should absolutely order while you’re there.
This brewery is one of the most interesting ones to visit while you’re traveling to Pittsburgh, mainly because it’s located inside a restored Roman Catholic church built in 1902 (which also happens to be one a registered historic landmark). Fermentation tanks take center stage now at the former altar.
Beer-wise, Church Brew Works brews a lot of German-style pilsners and Bavarian dunkels. Their Pious Monk dunkel has won multiple awards and usually stays on the menu, but there is also a rotating selection of sours, IPAs, lagers and more.
Old Thunder is located in a beautifully retrofitted post office space in Blawnox, just outside of Pittsburgh. The brewery is headed by three lead brewers who have worked at another well-known Pennsylvania brewery, Brew Gentlemen.
Their two year-round beers are the False Kingdom IPA, brewed using a blend of American hops, and the 340 Lager, a Munich-style Helles, but there is a lot to explore from their rotating selections. Some of the more interesting offerings at Old Thunder are their mixed fermentation recipes meant for barrel aging, like their wheat-based Saison Never Sleeps.
Strange Roots is known as the go-to brewery for all things sour. They produce a number of farmhouse ales and wild ales in the traditional manner, but they are also known for experimenting and pushing the envelope. Case in point is their Grand Blu, a wild ale made with peaches but inoculated with p. roqueforti, the same yeast used for making those funky blue cheeses.
Even for those not interested in the experimental beers, a visit to Strange Roots is always a good time, with lagers, IPAs and stouts on tap, a full food menu, and frequent events including vinyl nights, trivia and more.
As the name suggests, Burgh’ers Brewing Co specializes in both beers and burgers. After all, what better pairing is there? Not only do they pour some excellent beers, like their Spatial Frequency cold IPA or the lightly dry-hopped Wainweight cream ale, they also have some of the best burgers in town, made using locally-sourced beef. For those feeling adventurous, try the Mexican War St burger with roasted chilies, or the Polish Hill that is topped with a pierogi.
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