We get asked A LOT about saturation of the brewing industry here in Pittsburgh. Those of you who know us on brew day in the garage know that we spend an inordinate amount of time watching all sorts of brewing related youtube, podcasts, and movies. In fact, I think we may be close to the end of that universe! This has some great benefits in learning and inspiration. However, it’s also very revealing on the state of the growing brewing industry. It’s no secret that there are more homebrewers turning pro than ever. When you start listening to all of these stories, something becomes very apparent. While we are not at a saturation point in breweries, in my opinion, the story has a real chance of becoming stale. New is only new, as long as the model continues to reinvent itself.
Now, we are admittedly guilty of contributing to this repetitive story of two guys who were homebrewers, had a few friends that liked their beer, and made the moves to try and brew on a saleable scale. There are minute differences in each of these stories across the country, but this narrative seems to be very dominant. The small guys struggling to become something against the oppressive local gov’t or big guy brewers, and yes, this is all very true. But it is not unique to the brewing industry. This is small business. This is reality of building something you’re passionate about. IT is a struggle… that we all go through. No one starting, continuing, or rebranding a brewery has it easy these days. It’s a symptom of our success.
What we don’t hear, is a lot about the beer, the product, and what is being reinvented. Yes, everyone will tell you they are all about quality first. We say it. I’d be concerned if your pitch was, “We make crappy beer, but hey… we’re making beer close to where you live.” At some point, someone has to really step up and put this up-and-comer narrative on the bookshelf and start talking about what is really going to keep brewing, beer, and this amazing industry new to the consumer. We certainly don’t want to become Pop music where everything sounds exactly alike. We all don’t need chalk board menus, a barrel program, dog friendly atmospheres, or to focus on the same popular style of beer (apparently the milky NE IPA as of today). These are all great things, and they fit certain breweries, but we need to work to prevent the cookie cutter brewery operation.
There was just an article in a local blog about what we love and don’t love about the press that Pittsburgh is currently getting. It highlights some great ideas. Press and noise are only as good as the foundation it’s built on and the true growth and differentiation it is creating. Here in Pittsburgh, we get a lot of press for an amazing Food and Beverage industry… but who is going to come here? We can’t support these amazing establishments alone. What is the foundation that is going to let us grow and succeed? As the brewing industry, what happens after you’ve fought the fight and are no longer the new guy? What do we talk about then? We’re not there yet in most cases… and maybe, just maybe we’re talking about the fight and being the new guy just a bit too long.
Brewing is here. The industry is great. We have a lot of new comers. We have some great established pros. Now what? CoStar has been around for almost 5 years. We’ve had some great press, but I’m also tired of telling the little guy story. Answering questions about expansion. Talking about what we “could” do if we just found the money. Forget it. I’m making a pledge to start telling our story differently. We’re here. We’ve been here. You probably can’t find our beer or haven’t heard of us…. And that fine. We’re going to focus on our beer and finding new and interesting things to do with it.
So what should you expect? Well, a number of things. If you are a connoisseur of beer, expect a good product. Don’t expect to hear stories and blogs about our expansion or build out. We’ve been fighting that fight for almost 5 years. It’s stale. Just know that there will be an announcement when our doors open, if they open. End of story. If you are currently in the brewing industry, expect to hear from us. The only way we can grow and experiment and create is through collaboration and talk. We’ll be in contact. Yes, we’re small but we have ideas and we have a great community here in Pittsburgh. If you’re thinking about getting into brewing, awesome. Welcome. Glad to have you. We’re here to help you in as many ways as possible. But please come to us with ideas about beer and ways to run your brewery that are new. We’re far more excited to see ideas and new things than the “We’re going to try and do what you guys are doing. Can you tell us how you did it?” The Answer, “Hard work, lots of failure, and trying new things at every dead end…” Tell your story, talk about who you are, not how you fit in or what you want to become. Discover your brand first, then talk about it. This is just a start, but in my humble opinion is leaps and bounds to keeping things fresh and new and honest in our amazing industry.
New and exciting isn’t new and exciting if everyone is telling the same story or doing the same thing. Let’s get weird.