We are currently living in a golden age of U.S. craft brewing, but it is just a drop of wort in the keg that is the ancient history of beer. With a story that goes back more than 10,000 years, the art of brewing may soon have an impressive showcase in Pittsburgh. Recently, a group of entrepreneurs from Pittsburgh launched a crowd funding site to help bring “Brew: The Museum” to life.
According to a press release from Brew: The Museum, “Brew is dedicated to the fascinating, 10,000-year-old story of beer, and will be a must-see, 50,000-square-foot complex capable of accommodating 400,000+ national and international visitors per year. Using state-of-the-art interactive technology, Brew will be like no other beer museum in the world. Aside from unique beer artifacts and exhibits, the multimillion dollar museum will also include a 300-seat brewpub, state-of-the-art interactive technology, gift store, Beer Hall of Fame, and a Brewers Wall capable of including information on all 4,800 breweries in the U.S. The size and scope of Brew will be comparable to Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse or Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
Brew: The Museum is the dream of three visionaries — Dr. Joe McAllister, founder of The Autism Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh; Matt Sherwin, a Pittsburgh-based education-entrepreneurship fundraiser; and Denis Meinert, an entrepreneur and financial executive. When asked where the motivation for the museum came from, McAllister explained, “It came from my travels to Ireland and visiting the Guinness Storehouse museum. I was impressed by that operation and how they told their story. So back in the States, I looked to see what was offered here. I was surprised to find there was no large-scale comprehensive museum dedicated to the 10,000-year-old-history of beer.”
The trio did some initial research and found that “there really wasn’t anything on the scale we imagined in the U.S.” McAllister said, “We began developing the model. Part of what makes this work is that it is a synergist complex, of which the museum is one part — the central part. The complex includes a restaurant/brewpub, retail space/museum store, and a 300-400-person event space. Our research suggests that each of these pieces can play a significant role in the success of the museum — and vice versa.”
Although in recent decades Philadelphia has been the Pennsylvania city most recognized for beer and craft brewing, McAllister believes Pittsburgh will be an outstanding home for the museum. According to McAllister, “Pittsburgh works on a number of levels. It is a central location for weekend trippers, being within 500 miles of 45 percent of both the U.S. and Canadian populations. It is a city that has gotten great, positive attention in the press over the past five years, in general, and specifically for its food and beverage offerings. We have a 250-year-old history of brewing in the city, longer than anywhere west of the Alleghenies. It is a ‘neutral’ city, not closely aligned with any single brewery. And it has a burgeoning beer scene with lots of quality breweries opening up, seemingly every week or two.”
Regarding the on-site brewpub, McAllister envisions a museum-owned, independent operation. He explained, “We want to retain our independence, so we wouldn’t want to be aligned too closely with any one brewery. As a national destination, we expect to recruit a medal-winning brewer who can also serve as a resource and educator. We might look to have an internship program, as well as frequent programing for other brewers or the public involving our Master Brewer. We also would like to have guest brewers and collaborative brews on a periodic basis.”
The founders of Brew: The Museum have estimated that it will take $25 million to bring their complete vision into reality. McAllister says the “Funds will be raised in stages. The first stage was funds contributed by the founders; the second stage is a crowdfunding effort; and the third stage will be a combination of private equity, financing and public support.” The crowd-funding effort — through Indiegogo — launched and was announced during a “Coming Out Party” at the James Street Gastropub in Pittsburgh on Oct. 19. The founders hope to raise $50,000 through Indiegogo. Sherwin, one of Brew’s founders, said, “The Coming Out Party was a tremendous success as we shared with a packed house our vision of making Brew the world’s largest, most comprehensive museum dedicated to the story of beer. Brew will be an organic, bottom-up museum, incorporating the tastes, passions and desires of beer lovers from around the world. Hopefully, the momentum coming out of the party, and the attention it drew, will greatly assist with our crowdfunding effort.” After one week of the campaign, the Indiegogo effort had raised over $16,000.
If Brew: The Museum successfully launches in the Spring of 2018, it will be another must-visit location when taking a beer pilgrimage to Pittsburgh, along with other popular stops like Penn Brewing Company, The Church Brewworks, The Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh, and D’s Six Pax & Dogz.
Columnist Matt Brasch is a beer enthusiast and a lifelong Montgomery County resident. For more, go to http://thebrewholder.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at “The Brewholder.”