One thing that I think every brewer in this city shares is a single questions. When will Pittsburgh reach saturation for Craft Brewing? How many breweries are too many? With all of you guys opening so close together, isn’t competition fierce? I have one answer for those questions, “NO.” No, I won’t think about Pittsburgh as saturated yet. No, there isn’t a cap to too many breweries in our city. And NO, competition is fun and friendly, almost a brotherhood. So no, saturation isn’t a concern… yet.
I have a single question back to those who pose the saturation question. Why are you so hurried to have Pittsburgh be saturated? We should be allowed to grow until we naturally reach saturation rather than rushing to be the first one to identify it. Hey, maybe we’ll even forget about the concept while drowning a sea of great beer.
To set the stage, here are some 2013 facts from the National Brewers Association:
As a comparison for scale, Portland is often used as a mirror for the potential of Pittsburgh. Portland is 26% more densely populated than Portland. People are 9% less likely to be married in Pittsburgh. The median age is 2.5 years younger in Pittsburgh. Portland currently has the most breweries of any city in the world. There are currently 56 breweries in Portland, 76 in the Portland metro area, 21 in Bend and 30 in Central Oregon and 12 in Eugene. Portland continues to lead the US for % of dollars spent on craft beer with a 36.6% share for Q-4 2013 and for Q-1 2014-the Portland market recorded a 38.69% share per IRi Worldwide. Craft Beer has been the largest category for dollars spent on beer in Grocery Stores continuously in the Portland market since October, 2010.
This is clearly a growing segment and industry which is apparent in the western Pennsylvania region. The craft beer industry in the Pittsburgh region is growing with new competition coming to the market very rapidly. There are at least 17 founded industry leaders with at least six new entries to the market over the past 12 months. This is up from just 14 in 2012 when I (Dominic) wrote my Doctoral dissertation on the communal brand identity of the western PA brewing industry. We are clearly growing at a rate faster than the industry as a whole. That means we have an INCREDIBLE space to fill to even be comparable to our sister city of Portland.
Pittsburgh is an awesome city with a ton of potential… as is evidenced by all of the recent TOP 10, 15, 100, whatever number lists. Some great videos:
We are a growing city with a lot of potential that still needs shape and guidance. Treasures have yet to be discovered… in brewing and beyond. There will always be a place for the Yinzers n’at. Iron City will always have it’s thumbprint on the city, but how many people know the other half of that story. The story of the Independent Brewing Company (the inspiration behind the Squirrel Hill business).
There’s just too much left to do and learn to spend time answering questions about when is it enough or how much is too much?
So next time you or someone you know wants to ask about saturation, hand them a beer. Tell them to slow down. This is a journey and there are A LOT of great things happening with beer in Pittsburgh. So relax, enjoy the ride… and the beers. When we get saturated we’ll figure it out, but we have a long way to go and a lot of brewing to do. Support it, don’t try and cap it.
In closing, when you think saturation, stop, check this list, and go visit one of our family and friends… we’re not done yet
- Grist House Brewing
- Roundabout Brewing
- East End Brewing
- Brew Gentlemen Brewing Company
- Hitchhiker Brewing
- Four Seasons Brewing
- All Saints Brewing
- Draai Laag Brewing
- VooDoo Brewing
- Helltown Brewing
- North Country Brewing
- Sprague Farm Brewing
- Beaver Brewing
- Lavery Brewing
- Auroch’s Brewing
- Milkman Brewing
- Full Pint Brewing
- Church Brew Works
- Rivertowne Brewing
- Erie Brewing
- Penn Brewing
In the meantime, if you need something to stress over… go here.
I’ll be sipping a great local craft beer pondering the next great idea… not the collapse.