Aadam + Ali here. We’re shifting gears on the Porter Tours series to celebrate a new brewery just outside Pittsburgh.
Our next stop brings us to Dancing Gnome in Sharpsburg, PA. We’ll be chatting with Andrew Witchey, founder and head brewer at Dancing Gnome.
Porter Tours has been with Andrew since the start. He launched the brewery in Oct 2016; around the same time we launched our tour biz.
We’ll be sharing stories and taking folks behind the scenes to learn more about what it means to be a hop-forward operation.
Here’s our interview with Andrew.
I love beers and I love brewing.
I knew I wanted to do something in the industry. So I started talking to brewers and spending more and more time at breweries.
Finally, I realized I wanted to make it official. I decided to study through the American Brewers Guild in Vermont. That got me ready to roll.
– Andrew, Dancing Gnome
At first I was home brewing. Then, I linked up with the Brew Gentlemen guys to give them an extra set of hands.
They were super helpful and taught me some very practical elements of day to day brewing.
I started looking for jobs and landed a couple of offers. But then I thought: ‘What if I own my own business?’
And that was how Dancing Gnome started.
Honestly, there was no specific moment or nickname or anything. My idea of naming our brewery ‘Dancing Gnome’ is grounded in having fun and working hard.
It fits us well and it’s what I want the brand to be about.
We’re trying to make the best beer we can…but it’s beer. So let’s enjoy it.
Once we came up with our name (Dancing Gnome) we began to develop a stylistic process.
I knew what colors I wanted and how we would design the cans. But some things changed along the way.
We’re still figuring it out & learning a ton.
In 2014, I wrote my business plan. The next step was finding a space, talking to banks, getting investors; that’s when I started getting serious about it.
Finally, at the end of 2015, I got a loan and found a building. That was the moment we knew it would happen.
A year later (in 2016), it all clicked and we opened the brewery.
The first building I thought we’d get was in Uptown.
We continued searching and found ourselves starting to look in the suburbs. I grew up just north of here, so I’m familiar with the area.
I found this building and immediately started having conversations with Sharpsburg City Council. They were willing to work with us and before we knew it, we were getting ready to open – just outside the city.
My advice to homebrewers:
– never be satisfied
– everything is relative
– everything is subjective
– everybody has an opinion
– somebody is always gonna make “a better beer“
– try to have fun
– take your time
– be patient
There are some things people can expect from Dancing Gnome in the next few weeks and months.
For beers, it’ll be much of the same. We’ll balance out what we’ve got with some new sours coming on soon.
We’re also upgrading our canning line AND we hope to increase brew capacity again (probably end of summer / early fall).
The goal is to continue to elevate what we make.
We have our seven core beers.
There is no guarantee that any of them will ALWAYS be around. Lustra is our mainstay and we repeat it a ton. But there is nothing that we have on ALL the time.
We don’t have any year-rounds or true seasonals. Through 2018, we plan to firm up our portfolio and keep up with our release schedule.
It’s true. We are very niche.
We don’t want to branch out too far from our style. We really JUST do this.
That isn’t to say we don’t want to grow. But we think it makes us unique.
People will say: ‘What?! You only have IPAs?’
And we kindly say: ‘Yep.’
First time visiting Dancing Gnome?
Here’s a couple of pro tips from our friend Ali (IG: @pghbeergirl):
“Juicy Brews” are a hop-forward, slightly sweeter and less bitter form of beer. A good starting point at Dancing Gnome is the Lustra.
If you want something slightly more intense (hops + flavors), try the Infinite Highway.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get the Double Lustra (one of my favorites).
On Saturdays (during can release), we do a tiered structure. The first so many people can purchase a case of beer, etc.
For folks who trade (beers), I love it. It gets our name out and I have no problem with it.
What I don’t want to see is people trying to re-sell our beer (online).
The longest line we ever had (during can release) was the Saturday before Christmas 2017.
It was the Lustra.
People started lining up around 8:45 am. They were literally here before we were.
We asked Ali + Andrew to share some thoughts on the culture of waiting in line, during can release day.
“There are a few guys I’ve gotten to know and they actually enjoy it. They bring beers. They hang out. It’s a friendship thing.”
– Andrew, Dancing Gnome
“There are definitely some beers I would wait in line for. It’s a culture for sure. Like a niche community coming together.”
– Ali, Pgh Beer Girl