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Ninety-two neighborhoods. Ninety-two beers. Hopefully not 92 years.

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Dan Rugh, of Commonwealth Press, and Scott Smith, of East End Brewing, enjoy cans of Allentown. (East End Brewing)

If you could pick a beer style for your Pittsburgh neighborhood, what would it be? Even though Brighton Heights Berliner Weisse has a nice ring to it, I think I’d prefer a Baltic porter for my ‘hood’s beer.

I might even make that suggestion to Scott Smith, owner of East End Brewing; his brewery is embarking on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood tour of the city’s 92(ish) neighborhoods, making a unique beer for each one — and maybe even finishing the process before he’s ready to retire.

East End’s arrival at a pretty hefty milestone — the brewery’s 15th anniversary — got Smith thinking about EEBC’s place in the city and, further, what he could do to commemorate its 15th year. For a few months, he kicked around the idea of neighborhood beers, trying to match that up with a production schedule that might have a dozen or so beers at various stages going at the same time. A convergence of coincidences — the grand opening of the new Allentown warehouse of brewery design partner Commonwealth Press, for example, gave Smith the nudge he needed to start the project this weekend.

The addition of the new beers into the rotation will mean some changes to how things are done at the brewery, Smith said. If the brewery is able to add, say, 20 neighborhood beers into its production schedule each year, it will mean that seasonals like Pedal Pale won’t be in production — or available — as long as they have been in the past. “We won’t be able to make as much,” Smith said. “They’ll truly be one and done.”

And no matter how much I beg him, I probably won’t get my Brighton Heights Baltic porter. Sometimes the neighborhoods will precede the beer and sometimes it’ll be the other way around, but Smith said he won’t try to tailor specific styles to specific neighborhoods.

Still — 92 beers. That’s a lot of experimentation for the folks at East End — something that keeps the brewing business from becoming too much like a factory — and it’ll be a lot of fun for us.

Five Pink Boots beers are in the works

ShuBrew co-owner Erika Shumaker in ShuBrew’s brewery in Harmony.

Women in the craft beer business? It’s becoming the rule, rather than the exception.

And nowhere is that more evident than it is here, as members of Pittsburgh’s Pink Boots Society prepare to release five — FIVE — collaboration beers this spring, up from just a couple a year ago.

What changed? There are a lot more members of the local Pink Boots chapter, which serves to promote women in the industry by providing training, scholarships and activities, like attending the annual Craft Brewers Conference. Pink Boots cracked those doors, here and across the country, and women in the biz here have thrown them open and marched on through.

I visited ShuBrew in Harmony, Butler County, earlier this week to check on their brew day, which will result in a hazy IPA that will fit with their Pixelated series. Co-owner Erika Shumaker was there, as were a couple of female ShuBrew employees; the brew day also brought in Lauren Baker, the production manager at Slippery Rock’s North Country Brewing, and Christine Jenkins, who works at CNC Malt House, a new business that set up in an old elementary school east of Butler.

Baker knows here way around a brewery, but for Jenkins, the experience was new. She spent much of the morning helping David Ieong, ShuBrew’s head brewer, who walked her through much of the process.

And that’s pretty much the point, right? Jenkins said the experience she gained this week will help her when brewers approach her CNC for malts — and down the line, that will mean better beer for all of us.

Shumaker said Federal Galley will once again host a debut party for this year’s Pink Boots beers, on a date that has yet to be determined. Also, look for events at Piper’s Pub, the Harmony Inn and at ShuBrew, which will host a tap takeover once all five beers are released.

I can’t wait to taste those beers. And I can’t wait to see what happens as more women get into the business.

Revived brewers’ group will help make better beer for Pittsburgh

For much of the 20th century, Pittsburgh was home to a chapter of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas. Then as now, it gave folks who work in the business — at that time, it was big brands like Rolling Rock, Iron City and Duquesne — a chance to build on their skills and improve their products.

The local MBAA chapter held on until about a dozen years ago, after Rolling Rock packed up for the glass-lined tanks of old New Jersey and Iron City went through a revolving door of owners and legal issues. With the big boys essentially gone and only a tiny number of craft breweries in town, the chapter was closed and members were rolled into the group based in Philadelphia.

But by 2018, when there were dozens of breweries in Allegheny County alone, it seemed like the time was right to make sure the brewers of Western Pennsylvania had a chapter of their own. The goal? That’s easy, said Adam Kubala, a brewer at Mindful and the treasurer of the new MBAA group: By sharing information and improving practices, Pittsburgh-brewed beer that’s already pretty good will get even better.

MBAA-Pittsburgh was reconstituted about a year ago, but the group is ready to take a big, public step — it invited Dogfish Head founder and brewer Sam Calagione to speak at its April membership meeting. The public can attend the April 15 meeting, sponsored by LD Carlson and City Brew Tours, at Teutonia Mannerchor on the North Side; tickets include food, one beer and Calagione’s talk.

And then be sure to enjoy the fruits of the MBAA’s resurrection. Our beer will only be better for it.

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Beer Me extra: It’s all about the water

There is a reason that water was one of three things included in Reinheitsgebot, the German law of 1516 that governed the purity of beer.

The reason? It’s important.

It can make enough of a difference that when the same beer is brewed in two locations — like, say, Southern Tier’s now discontinued porter from the mothership brewery in New York and the locally brewed version made on the North Shore a few weeks back — the difference in the water can make it seem like you’re drinking two different beers.

Southern Tier’s Cassandra Buncie and Justin Schau help explain:

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What should we expect from the beer scene in 2019?

When I asked Hart Johnson to sit down with me to talk about what’s coming in craft beer in 2019, he immediately threw me a curve ball curvy enough that I thought he was joking.

But when I arrived at Piper’s Pub Wednesday afternoon, he plunked down in front of me a can of black cherry hard seltzer brewed by Cleveland’s Platform Beer Co. And he predicted — as we tasted the fizzy, slightly dry concoction — that hard seltzer will be a big deal in 2019, nationally and locally.

For the record: I am dubious. Also for the record: It was pretty good, although I think I’d appreciate it more on a warm summer afternoon.

What else is coming? I’ll let you watch the show for all of the details, but I wanted to mention one thing I didn’t include in the clip for lack of time. While we discussed what will be an increased emphasis on barrel-aged products, we hit on the notion that a number of breweries have completed or are planning expansions.

That doesn’t just mean expanded brewing capacity or space for a wall of barrels; it’s a sign that we’re doing pretty well here, that the industry is in pretty good health, even as it continues to expand. Sure, that growth isn’t happening for everyone, but I think there is plenty of room in the market for a taproom that serves a neighborhood, instead of the entire region, as well.

Happy new year, yinz guys. Drink what you like … especially if you like hard seltzer.