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Pittsburgh planners 'going big' with beer museum

| Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Aurora Rashid, 25, of the West End and bartender for James Street Gastro Pub, pours beers for the patrons of the launch event for crowd funding of Brew, The Museum of Beer at James Street Gastro Pub on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Terry Wiles of Point Breeze (left) talks with illustrator & author, Mark Brewer, of South Fayette during the launch event for crowd funding of Brew, The Museum of Beer at James Street Gastro Pub, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
The James Street Gastro Pub, played host for the launch event for crowd funding of Brew, The Museum of Beer, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Bill Dougherty, of the Strip District carries beers back to his table at the launch event for crowd funding of Brew, The Museum of Beer at James Street Gastro Pub, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016.
Artist's rendering of the proposed Beer Museum

They're certainly not shooting low.

The forces behind Brew: The Museum of Beer — a still-in-the-planning-phases museum that would document the entire 10,000-year history of beer and brewing — held a fundraising party Oct. 19 on the North Side.

In doing so, they said they expect Brew to rival other world destinations such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland.

“Audacious, right?” said Matt Sherwin, Brew's director of business development. “This is a pretty monumental effort. We're going big.”

Though the museum's site has yet to be determined, Brew officials said the museum will cover 50,000 square feet; accommodate 400,000 visitors a year, including 80 percent from out of town; feature a 300-seat brewpub and restaurant, create 200 new jobs in Pittsburgh; and result in a $100 million direct economic impact on the city.

“We're not going to be a drain on the foundation community in Pittsburgh; we're going to be taxpayers,” said Brew's founder, Joe McAllister.

“Most museums are not for profit, and we will be for profit. If you talk to people in the field, their sense is that it's really hard for a museum to make it, even as a not-for-profit, so how do you expect to make it?” McAllister said. “Our answer is that we have a comprehensive model. It's not just the museum. It's the restaurant and brewpub, it's the event space, the museum, the store. There's a synergy among those things that's going to make this workable.”

McAllister got the idea for a beer museum during several trips to Ireland. He would visit the Guinness Storehouse, which draws 1.4 million visitors a year, marvel at their success, and wonder: Why don't we have anything like that back home?

“Miller and Bud have company tours, but I couldn't find anything more comprehensive, more broad-based, and that was surprising,” McAllister said. “Why isn't there anything out there telling the whole, complete story of beer? That's what we want to do.”

First, they need funding.

Brew officials hope to raise $50,000 over the next month through its first crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo. About 150 people attended the fundraiser launch party at James St. Gastropub.

Less than 24 hours after the event, nearly $6,000 had been raised.

Sherwin said Brew would use that money to hire professional design consultants to draw up the plans. They could then take those plans to investors.

Officials believe the museum will cost $25 million to $30 million. They hope to announce a site, somewhere near Downtown, in three to six months.

Asked why build a beer museum in Pittsburgh, Sherwin said:

“Why is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland? The answer is that somebody went out and organized it. Now, that might not be the PC answer, but the more down the road answer is that Pittsburgh has a 250-year history of brewing.”

Added McAllister: “I could give seven answers for ‘Why Pittsburgh?' The most basic answer is that we're from Pittsburgh and we want to do it here. But we also think this will have a bigger impact here than on a Chicago or a New York or somewhere like that.

“We're going to create a destination. Pittsburgh, over the last five or 10 years, has gotten all this great publicity, including for our food and beverage industry. … We think we're at this convergence of Pittsburgh taking off and local beer taking off, and we think we're in the right place at the right time.”

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Chris Togneri is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5632 or

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