On August 11, Pittsburgh will host black brewers, artists and business owners from across the country in a first-of-its-kind beer festival, Fresh Fest Beer Fest.
Held from 5 to 9 p.m. at Nova Place and Alloy 26 on the North Side, the event will give participants a chance to sample offerings from dozens of local and national breweries, including 15 that are black-owned, as well as a handful of wineries, meaderies and distilleries.
A fleet of food trucks will be on-site and there will be entertainment throughout the evening provided by guitarist Byron Nash, singer-songwriter Clara Kent and bassist Jonny Goood.
The idea for Fresh Fest began fermenting back in January when Day Bracey and Ed Bailey — hosts of the popular Pittsburgh-based podcast “Drinking Partners” — sat down with Mike Potter of the online magazine Black Brew Culture to discuss the local craft beer scene.
Their determination? It’s a white-out.
“We got to talking and the way we saw it, the industry needs color in it,” Bracey says. “An industry can’t be successful if it’s homogeneous.”
Seventeen breweries opened up in the area last year, and while some of them are located in predominately black neighborhoods, none of them are run by African-Americans.
Over the past several months, local brewers have teamed up with black artists and entrepreneurs to create special batches or other creative projects such as T-shirts, bottle labels and food pairings that will be on display at the festival.
“We want this to be a conversation,” explains Bracey, who hopes Fresh Fest becomes an annual event. “We want them to actually collaborate. We hand-picked people we thought were going to work well together personality-wise and product-wise. At the event, they’re sharing a table and will figure out how to present them.”
Shannon Harris, an Austin, Texas-based photographer and beer blogger known as The Brew Brotha, partnered with Sharpsburg’s Dancing Gnome to create a beverage.
“The end result turned out to be something so magical that we’re all very excited to try the finished product, which should be a hit at the fest,” says Harris, an avid homebrewer who has racked up numerous awards, including first place in the 2017 American Homebrew Association Competition Southern Regionals.
“Being that DG is well-known for their take on the Hazy/New England IPA-style and that’s the style I focus on with my homebrewing, matching us up to brew was a great idea,” Harris says, “and may be an advantage as well, because we’ll be showcasing a beer that we’re all passionate about.”
Unlike Harris, local musician and MC Dr. Hollyhood doesn’t imbibe barley, malt and hops, so she collaborated with Butler Brew Works to create a beer for people who don’t like beer.
This month she plans to visit the Butler brewery, sample the elixir, participate in the bottling process and take some selfies for promo purposes.
Bracey, a writer and comedian by trade, takes his brew very seriously. He remembers the first local libation that made him realize that there was more to beer than Budweiser: Full Pint Brewing Company’s Perc E Bust Coffee Porter.
He repeatedly proclaimed his love for Perc E Bust on his podcast, where Full Pint employee Tom Marshall is a frequent guest. The porter was recently renamed Drinking Partners in honor of its No. 1 fan.
“We’ve come full circle,” Bracey says with a laugh.