Last Updated on September 8, 2021 by Jeremy
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When it comes to drinking at Pittsburgh's breweries, we know a thing or two about it (we have been to nearly all of them, after all).
But what do you do if you want to try out our 50+ breweries without making the drive all over the western half of the state? The answer is simple, go to Beers of the Burgh.
This one is the best festival for local beer in western Pennsylvania, and will be a new tradition for us moving forward.
Pittsburgh's Premier Beer Event
Beers of the Burgh is an annual event that takes place each summer (sometime between June and September most years), and is typically hosted at the historic Carrie Furnace– a perfect backdrop if there ever was one.
The event itself featured 50+ local breweries (including meaderies and cider houses too), all of which are located in Western Pennsylvania. (The furthest of which was Erie Brewing Company but nearly all of the rest can be reached in an hour's drive.)
Each brewery had their own station, many manned by the head brewers themselves, and most brought 1-3 beers to sample while a few others upped the game and offered 4-6 that cycled in throughout the evening.
Do the math, and you'll quickly realize that there was the potential for about 150 samples of local beer- a win in our book even if the ticket is among the more expensive out there.
In addition to drinking ample beer, many popular Pittsburgh food trucks were on site to provide great eats as well (Mr. Bulgogi and Taqueria el Pastorcito were notable highlights in 2021). We also spotted many local celebrities wandering the grounds as well, although that is not guaranteed in any given year!
Armed with our tasting glass, a VIP ticket for an extra hour's worth of tasting, we hit it hard and visited many of the breweries on-site and really had a good time! This is not only just enjoying the stellar drinks, but having Carrie Furnace be the backdrop for it all.
In this respect, the convention center just doesn't do drinking justice like in other Pittsburgh beer festivals (admittedly, the mostly sunny day helped a lot with that, too).
So, what about the beer?
Well, we had many favorites in 2021, including Puff'd Blueberry Banana from Cellar Works, Burn Your Suit from Eleventh Hour, Drangfruit Sour from Abjuration, Sucker Punch Lemonade Seltzer from Shubrew, and Banana Popsicle from Auroch's (a gluten-free brewery) to name a few of the dozens we sampled over the course of the evening.
If you see these anywhere, give them a try!
It is also worth noting that Beers of the Burgh does not offer printed lists of the beers at the gate, so if you want to pre-plan (like we do), definitely print out your beer list in advance to go in with a gameplan
Is a VIP Pass Worth It?
As with most events of this nature, we purchased the VIP tickets to determine whether or not the extra hour at Beers of the Burgh was worth it. At a cost increase of about $20 per ticket, we were really curious as this was a nice jump from the already expensive base ticket price.
So what do you get with the VIP ticket? Well, the ticket itself allowed for one hour of early tasting (taking the event up to four total hours)- giving you first access to the beers. As we found out, this came with two perks.
The first perk was the early access itself. We went to the furthest row of beer stations and started sampling one by one. We made it through about 10 samples and noted that the hour must be winding down before the general admission crowd entered in. We looked at our phone, and it was 3:18pm. We had 42 minutes left.
As it turns out, we made our way through a good chunk of the breweries before the 4pm opening for general admission, and made our way over to the food trucks for a well deserved break while the general admission crowd made their first pass through the beers. Timing-wise, we couldn't have asked for a better setup.
The second perk was access to beers that kick early. Now, this one is very much dependent on what the breweries are actually offering in any given year, but many do bring five or six different kegs and switch up their pours throughout the night. In 2021, some breweries also waited to tap some of their premium beers later in the night which resulted in a mad dash as well (Burn Your Suit from Eleventh Hour was one such brewery that we happily waited ~10 minutes for at the 5pm drop). That being said, if you get early admission you will do best to seek out rare brews that may not last the entire night!
After the general admission crowd rolled in, we slowed down significantly but still managed to hit most of the breweries at the event, with the usual suspects being the only ones with lines of about 10-20 deep at their busiest.
But is it necessary to buy one? We don't particularly think so.
If you had the three-hour general admission you could probably drink just as much as we did with the trade-off of slightly longer lines and save yourself the potential $20 upcharge per ticket. But at the same time, that extra hour was a whole lot of fun to have free reign of it all and we'll probably continue to buy it just because we always buy the VIP tickets to begin with.
Beyond the regular VIP ticket, Beers of the Burgh also offers a Super VIP ticket which is another $20 on top of the regular VIP ticket that includes a 45 minute tour of Carrie Furnace prior to the start of the event plus an official t-shirt ($15 value). Considering a tour of the furnace is over $20 on its own, this is a good deal even if the tour is truncated a bit.
But having been on the tour before we skipped it ourselves (although in retrospect, since we bought the t-shirt as well, the extra money would've been a deal to do it again).
Overall, Beers of the Burgh is the premier beer event for lovers of local beer and is the kind of event we will make an annual tradition (cost be damned). Well, as long as it is at Carrie Furnace at least. The ambiance makes this one almost as much as the beer does.
We'll see you there next year!
Beers of the Burgh takes place in summer each year (between June and September). Tickets are sold in pricing tiers with the early bird VIP ticket pricing selling out the fastest. Tickets are often sold out several weeks prior to the event. Advanced parking at Carrie Furnace was an extra fee as well.