Pittsburgh's People of the Year 2023: Food & Drink | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh's People of the Year 2023: Food & Drink

Mel Larrick brings a holistic perspective to Pittsburgh craft beer

click to enlarge Pittsburgh's People of the Year 2023: Food & Drink
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
Hop Farm brewer and incoming Brewers Guild executive director Mel Larrick

Mel Larrick has done more than most to grow Pittsburgh's craft beer scene beyond beards and flannel. First as a taproom manager, then as a marketer, and now as a brewer at Hop Farm and the incoming executive director of the Pittsburgh Brewers Guild, she has helped facilitate important conversations about inclusivity while continuing to advance the city as a craft beverage destination. Larrick has big plans to increase equity and responsiveness even as the local market adapts to shifting habits and the economic consequences of COVID.

"If there's one thing that I can say Pittsburgh breweries are good at, [it's] adapting," she tells Pittsburgh City Paper.

One of the guild's most recent efforts is a code of conduct for all guild-sanctioned events such as Three Rivers Beer Week. Larrick says the code of conduct is intended as a "living document" that offers a decision tree for dealing with inappropriate behavior, and she notes that it can be adapted by individual breweries for their staff and patrons if needed.

With the code of conduct implemented, Larrick and the guild plan to tackle other issues affecting industry insiders. This includes alcohol abuse, something she says can be a struggle when booze is your livelihood. "When we're not making it or serving it, we're enjoying it or supporting others at their breweries," she says. "We need to make sure that we're checking in with our people and making sure that mental health is a top priority."

Guild members have also been discussing ways to serve a growing number of sober and sober-curious customers with low- or no-alcohol brews and a broader range of events. Larrick says Pittsburgh is making better beer than ever, but the Brewers Guild's work is as much about meeting patrons where they are as it is about putting local breweries on the map.

"We want to take care of these people and make sure that we're staying relevant in a market that's ever-changing," Larrick says.