Rusty Rail Brewing Experiences Pittsburgh Hospitality Through Collaborative Projects
The term, “Community,” can mean a number of things to a number of individuals. Defined as, “A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common,” any group’s boundaries can be as anyone defines them; they can be as open or as restrictive as they so please. In the craft beer community of Pittsburgh, the neighborhood limits are not so much restrictive as they are welcoming. So, while only a few establishments have claimed space in the area, the idea of being a local brewery has stretched far beyond the city limits.
A perfect example of the community outreaching the zip codes can be found in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania, the home of Rusty Rail Brewing Company. Based in the heart of the state and roughly a three-hour drive from the Steel City, it would, at first glance, seem farfetched to believe that these individuals would have a strong hometown presence in the Pittsburgh area. Through the efforts of their local sales representative, however, as well as a dash of the previously-mentioned Pittsburgh hospitality, they have shown that it does not take a 412 area code to be considered a, “Local brew.”
Rusty Rail has successfully launched not one, but three collaborations with breweries in the Pittsburgh region, combining their talents with Mindful Brewing Company, Rivertowne Brewing and Full Pint Brewing Company in the past few months. Their continued staying power can truly be credited to the extensive efforts of Rusty Rail’s Regional Sales Ambassador, Damien Gruendl. “We’re out in central Pennsylvania, but we really consider Pittsburgh to be an extension of our home market, so I thought it would be cool to incorporate ourselves with all of the local breweries and get some camaraderie built up,” states the sales rep who notes that their presence in Pittsburgh is what they strive to accomplish in each area they distribute to.
With these collaborating projects (an Imperial Citrus Ale with Mindful, a Chocolate Banana Hefeweizen with Rivertowne and a Belgian Black New England IPA with Full Pint), Rusty Rail has planted its roots in the Pittsburgh community and experienced this unequaled sense of neighborliness amongst the Steel City breweries.
“Everybody kind of works together as a collaborative team to help promote craft beer as a whole rather than their individual brewery and make it a competitive nature,” states Mike ‘Schmidty’ Schmidt of Rivertowne Brewing. “I’m lucky enough in Pittsburgh that we all sort of work together and really, the only actual defined competition that we may have would be somebody that puts a bad beer into the market.”
To add to the idea of everyone working cohesively, Gruendl notes that a common thread amongst their recent collaborations was the notion of passing on knowledge, as Rusty Rail is still working through their adolescent years as an established brewery.
“All three times that those guys were at the brewery, they pointed something out in our brewhouse that would increase efficiency or help with quality control or help with a problem that we were having. So, with these collaborations, we were brewing beer, having fun and everything, but they were also collaborating on helping us grow as a brewery.”
Testaments to this wealth of knowledge spread amongst a community would be in Rusty Rails’ inaugural Pittsburgh collaboration with Mindful Brewing, which occurred this past summer. While both breweries are relatively new to the scene, their wisdom in the realm was able to be mined for a successful product that embodied the communal spirit that is present in brewers of the region.
“I think Pittsburgh is fundamentally a beer town, full stop,” states Marcus Cox, brewer at Mindful Brewing. “The way the proliferation has worked with the breweries is that there’s a lot of small, community-sized operations; there’s no real major one dominating, which means there’s no oversupply and everybody is still in a position where they can be friendly and collaborations are probably the best expression of that.”
While the notion of brewers working together is fantastic in it’s own right, the root of it reaches back to the area’s consumers, who seem to have acquired a greater interest in sipping something from their backyard . Full Pint brewer and co-owner Sean Hallisey notes,
“One of the unique things about Pittsburgh is that the people are becoming more willing to seek out these smaller breweries that don’t necessarily need to distribute beer and make these little brewpubs the place to go on a weekend night. The population is much more interested in trying out the little brewpubs than they were when I got into this industry.”
Rusty Rail, along with Mindful, Rivertowne and Full Pint all have exciting projects in the works for 2018, including a number of opportunities for collaborations amongst Pittsburgh breweries, furthering the unique atmosphere that has surrounded the beer community of the area. With an environment such as Pittsburgh’s, it seems that the community can, and will, grow stronger pour after pour.