If you were to call Dancing Gnome a “new brewery in Pittsburgh,” you wouldn’t be too far off the mark.
The brewery has only been open in Sharpsburg since October 2016, but in one short year, they’ve rocketed to the forefront of Pittsburgh’s beer scene. It’s not uncommon to see strangers wearing their hats, friends sipping on their canned brews, or to bump into someone you know in their taproom.
For a new brewery located outside of the city, it’s curious to see the way it’s resonated with Pittsburgh. Just this past Sunday, the brewery, which is normally open from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., couldn’t open at all because they’d run out of beer.
Well, technically they had two beers left on draft, but it wasn’t the experience they wanted their customers to have, so they decided not to open. The brewery has also decided to not open this upcoming Sunday, November 12, for the same reason.
Dancing Gnome has developed into a local watering hole for residents of the neighborhoods northeast of the Allegheny River. However, the spot also draws a crowd from around the city, especially on their can release days, when people line up to buy a four packs of their beer.
When founder Andrew Witchey set out to open his brewery in 2014, he had no plans to open in the suburbs. He scouted over 50 locations in the city before his real estate agent begged him to look in the suburbs.
When he found his current spot in Sharpsburg, he could immediately see how it would transform into his brewery.
“I could walk in and visualize what I wanted it to be, which is exactly what it looks like now,” says Witchey.
While the perfect space was a huge draw, it was the support of the community in Sharpsburg that sealed the deal.
“I went to a lot of borough and council meetings, and talked to people in town over whether it was something they felt was needed, or was something they wanted,” says Witchey. “That was the biggest thing. People wanted me to be part of the community, and I was looking for a community to be a part of.”
With the community behind him, he opened his doors last year. The spot immediately became a destination for beer fans in Pittsburgh. And, the popularity of the brewery brought more eyes on the neighborhood. Even in the one year since they opened, Sharpburg’s beer scene has expanded.
In February, popular South Hills brewery Hitchhiker Brewing announced their plans to open a second location in the former Fort Pitt Brewing building, located just three minutes from Dancing Gnome. Hitchhiker’s new location opened in September.
However, people won’t come flocking, or queue for cans if your beer doesn’t appeal to them. In the end, it’s their unapologetically hop-forward brews that Dancing Gnome attributes for creating their dedicated following.
“I love the slow, bitter style of beer. That’s what I wanted to make from the beginning. I always set out to brew with flavor and aroma in mind,” says Witchey. “I want it to be explosive, but balanced.”
Before the spot opened, Witchey, who has a background in digital marketing, spent a lot of time developing the company’s brand.
“I created the branding, website and social media before I had the business,” says Witchey. “When we opened we already had people who had heard of us, and were excited to have a brewery up this way.”
Once open, it was all about producing quality beers that customers would want to tell their friends about.
Dancing Gnome’s canning process, which began in March, is another reason their beer can be limited quantity. Some batches are set aside for canning. The schedule for can release days can be found online, but is typically Wednesday, Thursdays, and every other Saturday.
The peculiar, but memorable name, “Dancing Gnome,” doesn’t have a specific story, but Witchey says it aptly describes their approach to brewing.
“I had lists of ideas and Dancing Gnome was always the one that stuck out and made sense. It a fun loving, but hard working kind of vibe. It’s about being relaxed, but purposeful.”
Dancing Gnome has doubled their production since they opened, and is currently brewing at capacity. The company hopes to always keep their Sharpsburg location, but is beginning to consider the directions in which they want to expand.
“I can’t pretend to understand it all, but we’re definitely trying to do our best to hold up our end of the bargain,” says Witchey.
Dancing Gnome Brewery (925 Main Street, Sharpsburg)