Exit Through The Gift Shop

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When I visit other breweries, the beer is maybe fourth or fifth on the list of things I’m paying the most attention to. Don’t get me wrong, our shared love of beer was what got us thinking about starting a brewery back when we were in college. But our shared love of the experience of beer, in which the liquid in the glass is merely one part of a greater whole, was what drove us to actually get this thing off the ground. So while I’ll always be eager for that first sip of beer at a brewery I’ve never been to before, my head is most likely off in the clouds, more focused on the details of the overall atmosphere and design.

The gift shop is a staple of nearly every brewery, their styles as varied as the identities of the breweries themselves – from garage-based nanobreweries with a modest stack of stickers and t-shirts, to regional powerhouses with sprawling, Disneyland-esque gift shops hawking nearly any physical object capable of being emblazoned with a logo. Given that a gift shop can be anywhere between an elegant nudge and a visually invasive commercial mess, we knew that a good deal of forethought would be required before attacking merchandise sales in our own taproom.

Now, after operating for eighteen months without any sort of obvious shop, we’ve finally created a solution that we feel best represents our brand and complements our taproom atmosphere. A selection of Brew Gentlemen merchandise can now be found on display in our front atrium. Orders may be placed at the bar.

Our selection will be increasing as we move forward, but here is the lineup of items that are currently available:

Beer + Code: 4 Projects from Our First Brewery Hackathon

When your team consists largely of nerds with a penchant for biting off more than they can chew in the D.I.Y. department, outlandish project ideas get tossed around pretty much constantly. The “what if” quotient around here is pretty high, and tends to lead us down rabbit hole after rabbit hole – “what if our menu board were digital?” turns into “what if our digital menu board could be configured remotely?”, which turns into what if our digital menu board could be automatically updated in real time in both our taproom and on our website?”, which then snowballs into a sprawling patchwork quilt of semi-related functionalities.  Knowing how much we geek out about these types of things, but also understanding that we have a tendency to get a bit overambitious, we decided to organize a 24-hour hackathon: gather a team, brainstorm a few tech projects, and bang them out within a set budget and timeline.

So with the help of our own tech team and a few software developer friends, we set off on Saturday afternoon to build four projects. Here’s what we decided to work on, and how each project turned out.

Project #1: Build digital display boards to replace the picture frames in our bathrooms.

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Using a pair of Raspberry Pi micro-computers and wall-mounted monitors, we created digital displays that can be remotely updated via our web dashboard – thus eliminating the bitch of a job that was the regular printing, framing, and hanging of new flyers. Saves time, saves paper, looks a tad nicer than something that got spat out of an inkjet printer. We’re happy.

Project #2: Incorporate remote controlled, color-customizable lighting into our taproom decor.

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Using a few HUE lights and a bit of homemade software, we built taproom lighting controls into our web dashboard. For now, the functionality is pretty basic – we can change the colors of the pendant lamps above the bar to any color we want via the internet. But we now have a system that can be built upon and added to in the future, which is the whole point of these types of things.

Project #3: Create pretty much anything that utilizes a Kinect 3D camera.

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This was the most open-ended project of the bunch, and was therefore the most ambitious. Not only did we have to learn the software and hardware-specific intricacies of the Kinect itself, we then had to figure out a way to use it. Much like the lighting project, this one was much more about laying the groundwork for future development than finishing it to completion. So we built a basic platform, added it to the web dashboard, and now have a constant stream of 3D camera data to play around with in the future.

Project #4: Design something useful using taproom sales data from our P.O.S. system.

After fumbling around for a couple of frustrating hours with our cash register’s backend software and getting absolutely nowhere, we decided to chalk this one up as a wash. We’re just happy we realized that as soon as we did.

All things considered, the first annual Beer + Code hackathon was an overwhelming success – we pulled an all-nighter building some cool stuff, and we had a good bit of fun doing it. But most importantly, we now have the ability to continue working. What’s far more compelling to us than progress we’ve made on these projects is the amount of uses we can invent for them moving forward.

And down the rabbit hole we tumble once again.

Building A Better Brew Gentlemen

You may have noticed over the past few months that we’ve been flying somewhat under the radar. Aside from normal taproom operation and a few events here and there, we haven’t taken on a lot of big, visible projects recently. Well, family, that’s because behind the scenes, we’ve been buckling down and laying the groundwork for some pretty awesome things.

While Zach and the brew team continue creating new recipes and tweaking existing ones, we’re working on an expansion plan to increase the capacity of our current brewhouse. Because of the demand of the taproom, we’ve had to miss out on a lot of big opportunities (like the ability to host huge, signature events like Garden Party and Halloween, among others), and we’ve had to stop wholesaling to bars and restaurants nearly entirely. Increasing capacity will give us the bandwidth to take on bigger, better projects, resume distribution to accounts across the city, and give our beer a lot more reach.

With the ability to make more beer comes the responsibility of growing the rest of the business to facilitate it, and we’ve gotten the ball rolling on two major projects that will become invaluable assets as we move forward: the continued development of our in-house product management software, and the creation of a company style guide.

The additions our tech team is making to our custom software platform will allow us to automate a large number of tasks, including database management, marketing, and sales processes. It already manages our digital menu list in real time, both on our menu screens in the taproom and on our website. Now it’s time to turn this thing into a multi-functional workhorse.

Since we do all of our design and branding ourselves, the guidelines we’ve built for these things have remained only in our heads. The creation of a style guide will help us consolidate and standardize everything from visual appearance to company values, providing a clear explanation for how everything we put out into the world should look, sound and feel.

As the brewery grows, the value of these projects will grow alongside it. Of course, as any brewery owner can tell you, expansion is a lengthy and convoluted process – but we’re currently standing at the threshold of the next chapter of The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company story, eager to see where it leads us.

Photo Recap: Harvest Dinner @ Eleven

For as young as we ourselves are and as young as the company is, we constantly find ourselves humbled by the caliber of people in this city that we’ve been able to call collaborators and friends. This past Sunday’s Harvest Dinner at Eleven was a big reminder of that fact – an all-star lineup of local chefs (Derek Stevens of Eleven, Justin Severino of Cure / Morcilla, Keith Fuller of Root 174 / Pork & Beans, and Trevett Hooper of Legume / Butterjoint) all coming together to provide an incredible culinary experience featuring our beer. The opportunity to create experiences like this, especially with the help of such a talented team, is why we do what we do. Can’t wait for next time, family.

No Halloween.

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Nothing stings like a missed opportunity.

Now that we’ve gotten our vague opening statement out of the way, it’s time to drop the news that many of you have feared was inevitable: due to production constraints, we’re not able to throw a Halloween party this year.

As many of you know, we threw a pretty crazy party at Carrie Furnace last year that drew more than 1400 people to the Mon Valley on the night after Halloween. We had a blast organizing and hosting the event alongside our friends at The Independent, and learned a lot about what we’d need to improve to make this year’s event even better. We all really looked forward to it, and had a lot of good plans scribbled down in our respective notebooks. But sadly, due to the expansion of both of our businesses, we have neither the time nor the resources to give this event our full attention. And if we can’t make it a significantly better experience than last year’s party, we’re going to hold off until we can.

Whenever we tell people that we’re running out of beer, we often get the response that “it’s a good problem to have”. While that’s not wrong – demand outweighing supply is obviously a better position to be in than the other way around – it’s a rather oversimplified way of looking at a complex business issue. We’re hugely fortunate for and thankful to all of our taproom patrons. They remain our first priority, and sometimes we have to sacrifice other aspects of our operation to keep the taproom running smoothly. Missing opportunities like throwing a killer follow-up to last year’s Halloween party really does sting.

We extend our deepest apologies to everyone who looked forward to spending this Halloween with us. We assure you that we will be coming back, and when we do, we’re coming back hard. Happy Fall, family.

Beer + A Good Cause

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One of the most special parts of the brewing industry is the enormous degree of collaboration. Sometimes, that collaboration goes a step further to benefit a good cause. Even cooler is when we get to be a part of it.

Earlier this year, we were fortunate to be selected as one of 80ish breweries in the country to be a part of this year’s Ales for ALS program. So how does the program work? In short, Loftus Ranches, one of the longest running hop farms in Yakima Valley, provides a proprietary blend of hops, free of charge, to all participating breweries. The participating breweries create a beer of whatever style they please using this hop blend, donating $1 from every pint sold to benefit the ALS Therapy Development Institute, the world’s leader in ALS research.

Your familiarity with ALS was most likely broadened due to the insane virality of the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”, which dominated many social media feeds last summer. If you’re not familiar with ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that leads to paralysis due to the death of motor neurons in the spinal cord and brain. There is no known cure for the disease, and the average person survives only two to five years following diagnosis. About 5,000 people in the US are diagnosed with ALS each year.

Last year, one of those 5,000 diagnoses was our longtime fraternity advisor and mentor, Bob Dax. The Donut Dash, Carnegie Mellon’s largest student-organized philanthropy event, became an ALS fundraiser immediately following Bob’s diagnosis, raising over $100,000 for ALS research during last year’s event. Bob is still fighting his battle with ALS, and although we certainly won’t be able to make as large a contribution as Donut Dash has, we’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity to help in any way we can.

All of this being said, we’re excited to announce the release of Lou, a beer made in partnership with the nationwide Ales for ALS program. With a hop blend featuring Equinox, Mosaic, and five other experimental hop varietals, we knew immediately what we had to do: a big, dank, and hazy Double IPA. Clocking in at 8% ABV, Lou is a symphony of lychee, pineapple, mangoes, peaches, grapefruit, and grass – a tropical fruit salad, if you will.

From now until we run out, we will be donating $1 from every pint (plus $0.50/taster, $2/750mL, and $3/2L) to ALS TDI. Join in and drink for a good cause.

A special thanks to Jena McEwen, Jeff Mich, Bob Dax, Neil & Suzanne Alexander, Loftus Ranches, Hopunion, Ben Eagle & ALSTDI, Donut Dash, and LiveLikeLou for your continued support, stories, and fight against ALS.

Beer + Yoga Summer Blowout

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To conclude a rather successful Summer session of Beer + Yoga classes, we decided to do things a little bigger than our taproom in Braddock. On August 23rd, we’ll be taking it to one of our favorite places on earth: Carrie Furnace.

We’ll be teaming up with South Hills Power Yoga to host a massive yet casual one-hour yoga class in the hangar of a historic iron mill. You may get a bit of soot on your knees, but this cavernous, graffiti-drenched cathedral of bygone industry and rust is a wonderfully calming place in which to do yoga. After the class, feel free to explore the furnace grounds, take some photos, and hang out.


Carrie Furnace is just a short way down from the brewery, so we’ll be hosting the official afterparty in our taproom, complete with brunch from Second Breakfast and complimentary 5oz beers for all participants.

A portion of the proceeds from the event will go towards the Pittsburgh Yoga Collective, a nonprofit that aims to bring the practice of yoga and mindfulness to underserved and at-risk populations in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area.

Don’t worry, our regular Sunday Beer + Yoga classes will be returning in the fall. We’ve had a blast hosting you all over the past few months, and are incredibly happy that we’ve been able to provide awesome experiences through both yoga and beer for so many people.

WHAT: Beer + Yoga Summer Blowout

WHEN: Sunday, August 23rd – 11am

WHERE: Carrie Furnaces – Rankin, PA

[Photo credit: Eva Lin Photography]