On a recent Saturday, I stopped at Necromancer Brewing Co. to pick up a four-pack. A man seated at the bar took one look at my spooky tattoos and said, “Well, you certainly fit the aesthetic.”
As if to prove his point, a voice from behind me exclaimed, “Are you @undeadhead78?”
I spun around and replied, “@ewesandbrews?”
This is the power of Instagram (under the) influencers: You get to know people before actually meeting them in person.
We high-fived, formally introduced ourselves (her real name is Adrien), ordered a round of Oktoberfest lagers and sat down to chat about Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene.
The North Hills resident, in addition to loving dark and malty brews, has an affinity for knitting (ewes are female sheep, sheep have wool, wool makes yarn, hence the Instagram handle). She launched her account in January as a creative outlet.
Through her love of local suds, Adrien landed a job as a full-time brewer at Burgh’ers Brewing and is proud to join the growing force of women in the industry.
“I have met so many amazing women who are also involved in or enthusiastic about craft beer through IG,” she says. “Pittsburgh’s beer community is special because we all seem to be excited to see what everyone else is drinking, excited to share about local events or beer releases and genuinely excited about trying to connect with each other in real life when we can.”
For Livia Vissat, @pittsburgh_beer, drinking a great beer is an event that should be shared.
Like foodies snapping selfies with their beautifully plated meals, she posts picturesque pints on the regular. Through the site, she’s been able to belly up to the bar with a lot of like-minded ladies.
“Our city might be ‘a drinking city with a sports problem,’” Vissat says, “but we also are built on Mister Rogers’ principle: ‘Be kind.’ This applies to the craft beer community. Anytime you walk into a brewery, the people, brew tenders and atmosphere personify Pittsburgh perfectly.”
Jen, @hellobrewtifulpgh, pops up on my Instagram feed all the time.
We share a love of North Country Brewing Co.’s Late Night Pumpkin Ale, a gateway gourd beer that, in my opinion, swings with Southern Tier’s Pumking. Jen’s Instagram posts aren’t confined to Western Pennsylvania. In addition to hitting up local spots, she goes on a lot of “beercations.”
Through her page, which she started in 2019, I’ve discovered off-the-beaten-path breweries and beers with a philanthropic purpose. Jen also makes a point to highlight efforts to make the local craft beer more inclusive for women, people of color and LGBTQ+ drinkers.
Jen introduced me to Brave Noise Pale Ale, @bravenoisebeer, a global collaboration advocating for a safe and discrimination-free industry.
It was Brienne Allan, @ratmagnet, an employee at Notch Brewing in Salem, Massachusetts, who used Instagram to document stories of racism, sexual assault and harassment within the beer business.
The Pittsburgh Brewery and Taproom Diversity Council, @pghbrewewrydiversitycouncil, is doing its part by hosting a Brave Noise beer release party on Friday, Oct. 8, from 5 to 10 p.m. at Necromancer Brewing. There will be a dance party in the brewery’s event space hosted by DJ Formosa and Progression Bistro will serve tasty eats.
The council has also released its own collaboration beer that supports more inclusivity. Pittsburgh’s Barrel & Flow Fest is breaking down racial barriers in the industry by pairing breweries with Black-owned businesses and artists, who collaborate on everything from beverages and label art to food pairings.
Check out our interview with Barrel & Flow Founder Day Bracey at Trace Brewing. The Bloomfield spot is an Equal Opportunity Employer committed to diversifying the brewing world and encourages women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community to apply to its six-month vocational training program.
“The Pittsburgh Brewer’s Guild is another very supportive group that does a lot of things to make the craft beer scene in the city fun and collaborative,” Jen says. “You don’t see these kinds of things happening in other cities, unfortunately. Pittsburgh is a good role model for other craft beer communities in my opinion.”
Hannah Steel, @steelcitycraftbeergal, is from the Greensburg area but makes regular pilgrimages to Pittsburgh for brewery-hopping adventures. Dancing Gnome ignited her passion for local pints.
“I haven’t met many of the women I follow in person,” she says, “but I do feel like women who are involved in the craft beer industry (or just a fan like me) are very supportive of one another and just kind. We need more of those kind of women in the world.”
Stueber started her Instagram account in 2014 to celebrate the newly opened Grist House Craft Brewery. Through her love of the Millvale hotspot (Black in the USSR, their Russian imperial stout, is still one of her all-time favorites), she got connected to the Pittsburgh Beer Ladies Facebook group.
The club, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, has more than 2,700 members (I’m one of them!). The page is brimming over with information, recommendations, photos and events. Throughout the pandemic, ladies held virtual happy hours that included guest appearances by industry insiders.
I’ve run into Stueber and other Beer Ladies — who are often rocking the official group T-shirt — at numerous breweries over the years. It’s nice to see a friendly face in a sea of humanity, even if you only recognize them from their profile picture.
“The conversation starts with craft beer but is never limited to that,” Stueber says. “As I’m sure you would agree, beer brings people together. In this town, strangers become friends, literally. For me, it’s not just about the beer, but the entire craft beer culture.”
I’ll drink to that, ladies! Cheers!
The NEXT Beer is a new column highlighting different brews, breweries and events in and around Pittsburgh. If you’ve got a beer-related news tip, send me an email.