Aug. 3—In this episode of the UnCapped podcast, host Chris Sands headed to Millvale, Pennsylvania, to talk to Brian Eaton, co-founder of Grist House Craft Brewery, about the history of the brewery, the flooding they had to deal with, the expansion of their current location, and their new production facility that will be in Collier Township in a decommissioned Missile Command Center. Here is an edited excerpt of their talk.
UnCapped: I usually start every episode with a little bit of your backstory and how Grist House came to be, so what were you doing before Grist House?
Brian Eaton: My life and I were living in Washington, D.C. I was working down there after college and home brewing at that point, and my brother-in-law, Kyle, who is the other co-founder, would come down occasionally and brew with us. He was up in Cleveland at the time.
UnCapped: Were you working in some government aspect, in technology, or in finance?
Eaton: Yeah, because that's D.C. It was originally in government. I worked for the United States Senate, then left that and was doing fundraising for political-based nonprofits. My wife and I grew up in Pennsylvania and decided to move to Pittsburgh in 2010, and that got us closer to Kyle and his wife. Essentially every weekend, they were coming down to our house, brewing, and really enjoying it. Neither of us wanted to continue our day job, so we were like, we should start a brewery. People like our stuff. We considered Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Cleveland was really established then, around 2012, for breweries, and Pittsburgh only had a few.
UnCapped: It's kind of crazy for how much people in Pittsburgh drink for how far behind craft beer was in this area.
Eaton: You know the old joke: Pittsburgh's always five years behind the rest of the country — which can be a good thing. It definitely was a little behind in craft beer. We had East End, Penn Brewery and a few others, but I think at the time, there were only five or six that would be considered craft breweries.
UnCapped: But then once Pittsburgh caught up, it caught up fast. There are several of you guys out here who are putting out amazing beer.
Eaton: Hitchhiker and Brew Gentlemen opened up the same time we did, and we were the eighth or ninth brewery, and now I think there are 46 breweries in Allegheny County. So, like you said, we caught up fast.
UnCapped: I feel like I'm constantly hearing or seeing a friend from up here sharing a new brewery, because a bunch of them are craft beer fans. There are Pittsburgh craft beer groups on Facebook. I'm like, wow. They're on fire now.
Eaton: Yeah, it's pretty exciting.
UnCapped: You guys are gonna be the elder statesmen of Pittsburgh brewing.
Eaton: Yeah, I think that moment's coming up pretty quickly on us, since we're coming up on eight years. It's been exciting to see that growth. Pittsburgh is very local focused. Everyone's from their own little section of Pittsburgh — "I'm from Lawrenceville" or "Mount Lebanon" ... so now that they have a brewery in their little part of Pittsburgh, there's that claim to it.
UnCapped: I always think of Pittsburgh as one of the most self-segregated places in the world. And there are still those pockets of extreme ethnic consolidation.
Eaton: I was having a conversation with somebody the other day, they're just over in Etna, which is the next little town next to us, and they said they'll run into people in their seventies who are like, "Yep, I was born and raised here, never been downtown." And it's like, mind blowing, because you could walk there in 25 minutes from Etna, and they're like, "I've never left Etna. That's my town. This is where I'm staying my entire life."
UnCapped: It's crazy when you hear people say that about leaving a state, but leaving a ... micro-area ... that's insane. So, I also typical ask where the brewery's name came from.
Eaton: We basically wanted to tie in three things: brewing, Pittsburgh and the fact that we're family run and operated. So, grist is the cracked grain in the brewing process, but also we have the three rivers in Pittsburgh, and there are a bunch of old grist mills, which were used to crack the grain for brewing or breadmaking. Prior to Prohibition, there were three decent-sized breweries right here in Millvalle. Some of the remnants of the buildings you can still actually kind of see.
This excerpt has been edited for space and clarity. Listen to the full podcast at fnppodcasts.com/uncapped. Got UnCapped news? Email csands @newspost.com