Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Milwaukee Vie to Build the Smithsonian of Beer

Pittsburgh's proposed Brew: Museum of Beer Credit: Courtesy Brew: Museum of Beer

A team of Pittsburgh beer lovers is planning to open a beer museum in their hometown, creating a monument to their favorite fermented beverage, on par with Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The National Beer Museum Development Group (NBMDG) wants to build a tourist attraction unlike anything seen in the Iron City. The group recently went public after two years of research and groundwork, announcing plans for a 50,000 square-foot space called Brew: Museum of Beer, with its own beer hall of fame and 300-seat brewpub that would open its first phase in late 2017. Fundraising is scheduled to begin on Indiegogo this October.

Pittsburgh would arguably be an ideal spot for such a museum. It has a rich brewing history, with its first commercial brewery dating back to Colonial times and a modern craft scene producing world-class sours (Draai Laag Brewing) and IPAs (The Brew Gentlemen and East End Brewing). However, it's just one of three proposed beer museums in planning (with Chicago's Brewseum and Milwaukee's Museum of Beer & Brewing) on top of the National Brewery Museum in Potosi, Wisconsin.

The Chicago Brewseum appears to be the biggest rival to Pittsburgh's beer institution. While the NBMDG has provided a rendering of the museum (seen above) and core team of three founders, the Brewseum (also still in the fundraising phase) has filled a board of directors and advisory board with the biggest names in the Chicago beer scene — including Goose Island's John Hall and Hopleaf bar owner Michael Roper. 

The Museum of Beer & Brewing and National Brewery Museum appear to be more dedicated to the more industrial history of American beer and the collection of breweriana, or brewing memorabilia (think old signs and serving trays). The National Brewery Museum is housed in Potosi Brewing, a craft brewing revival of the local brewery, which operated from 1852 to 1972. However, with a population around 700, Potosi is in a different league from Milwaukee, Chicago, and Pittsburgh.

However, considering everyone's mutual appreciation of beer, we don't see any reason all four beer museums can't happily coexist. Of the three in the works, we expect the first physical museum space to come in the Brewseum's 2017 plan for a mobile exhibit, housed in an RV. In the meantime, we'll raise a pint to better beer tourism and keep waiting for what suds may come.