With 32 independent breweries operating in Allegheny County, drawing in tourists isn’t as easy as publishing a map, said Brian Eaton, co-owner of Millvale-based Grist House Craft Brewery.
A $30,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, one of 13 announced Wednesday as part of an effort to promote Commonwealth-made craft brews and malt beverages, will help the breweries coordinate and create a guide to all of them to help attract tourists and customers.
“It’s not going to be a traditional ‘ale trail,’ where you can follow the dots in a straight line,” said Eaton, chairman of the Pittsburgh Brewers Guild. “This is going to be more of an atlas of all the breweries in Allegheny County.”
The grant allows the guild to hire a firm to coordinate and compile a print guide, website and mobile app, and may also help them in working with VisitPittsburgh to train its visitor concierges on all the region’s craft-brew options.
The guild formed in December and held its first quarterly meeting in early February. So far 29 of the county’s 32 breweries are dues-paying members, Eaton said.
The grant was one part of $705,000 Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday under the Pennsylvania Malt and Brewed Beverages Industry Promotion Board.
The Pittsburgh District of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas got a $35,000 grant, which will be used to facilitate professional speakers and technical seminars for brewers in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
“We’ll bring in hops growers, maltsters, quality-control professionals and hopefully some of the rock stars of the brewing industry to share their secrets,” said Dan Yarnell, brewer at Export-based Rivertowne Brewing Co. and district president.
Other parts of the grant will go toward recruiting more brewers to join the association for their professional development and getting a local brewery with laboratory space to share with other brewers, so they can test their beers for things like proper fermentation and bacteria content to ensure its quality, Yarnell said.
“A lot of breweries don’t have lab equipment, and a lot of science is involved in the brewing process,” he said. “There’s a lot of finger-crossing going on.”
Other awards include:
• $10,000 for Hops on Lots Pittsburgh, which turns vacant properties into hops farms to supply local breweries.
• $127,500 for “Pennsylvania Pursue Your Hoppiness,” a project to identify “beer trails” where tourists can visit multiple regional microbreweries, and to develop a statewide “brand identity” for the state’s breweries.
• $65,000 for Harrisburg-based GK Visual LLC to create a documentary on Pennsylvania breweries.
• A total of $136,154 to Penn State for two projects studying the effect of fungicides on hops and improving hops-drying techniques to preserve their aromatic compounds.
There are more than 300 breweries now licensed in Pennsylvania, which Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding estimated was a $5.8 billion industry in the statement announcing the grants.
Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724 836 6660, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @msantoni.