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The Pittsburgh Brewers Guild is ready to go public

How do you celebrate the release of the very first Pittsburgh Brewery Guide?

Sounds like a good reason have a beer or two with those brewers.

Thirty brewers and brewery owners formed the Pittsburgh Brewers Guild a few months back in part to take ownership of what was then a young — and perhaps a bit disorganized — beer tourism business in Allegheny County.

Since then, they’ve applied for and received a state grant to help fund their efforts and prepared a printed and digital version of a guide to the county’s breweries; on Friday, they’ll unveil both, at a not-a-beer-fest party at Nova Place on the North Side.

Both guild Chairman Brian Eaton, of Grist House, and Vice Chairman Matt McMahon, of Eleventh Hour, stressed that the guide release party won’t be an end-of-the-summer beer bash. instead, those attending will get 8-ounce pours of ten collaboration beers exclusive to the event … and a little more time to consider the beers and chat with the men and women who made them.

You’ll get other exclusive stuff, too — a 10-ounce Willi Becher glass to be used as the taster for the party, a Rastal Harmony tumbler with the guild logo and the names of its 30 charter members … and, of course, your own copy of the first edition of the guide.

The guild’s new site will go live on Friday as well, and it promises to be a knockout. All member breweries will be listed, and can be sorted using options like hours and days of operations, in-house food, frequent food trucks or even dog- or kid-friendly. Eaton and McMahon both said users will be able to create their own beer trails based on their search results and load their itineraries to their mobile devices. As someone who always tries to track down local breweries when my wife and I travel, the guild’s site sounds like a winner.

What’s next for the guild? There will be future editions of the printed guide, to keep it up to date as possible, and the site will be continuously updated as the guild adds new members. More events in the future would seem to be a pretty good bet. And we might even see some pushes to reform Pennsylvania’s liquor and tax policies.

But for now, let’s go have a beer on Friday night … and celebrate what brewing in Allegheny County has become.

A fresh approach for the country’s first black beer festival

 

Mike Potter and Day Bracey. (Jessie Wardarski/Post-Gazette)

Rhythm Brewing. Black Frog. Sankofa Brewing. Patuxent Brewing.

Simmer down — those aren’t new Pittsburgh breweries you’ve missed. They’ll all be in town on Saturday, though, among the dozen or so black-owned or -operated breweries from around the country that will be highlighted at Fresh Fest Beer Fest, billed as the first black beer festival ever. The locals will be there too, featuring around 25 collaborations made with black brewers, artists and others — all exclusive to the festival.

And let’s get one thing clear — the beer isn’t the best part.

As one of the hosts of the Drinking Partners podcast, Day Bracey has become well known in Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene. And through the past few years, he’s become painfully aware that when he heads to an event or a festival, he is one of a very few — if not the lone — person of color in the room. And Bracey says the problems are obvious: barriers having to do with comfort, access and education.

It’s hard, he says, to know you stand out in any group setting, and that’s what black beer fans face when they show up at a tap room or a fest — a sea of white faces. That’s what Bracey had in mind when he started talking about Fresh Fest with podcast partner Ed Bailey and Mike Potter, founder of the forthcoming Black Brew Culture magazine — a festival to give black craft beer fans a chance meet black brewers, black collaborators and other beer drinkers.

“We can relax a little bit in a space where you’re people who look like you and understand you,” he said this week. “And that’s how you open doors to the industry and the opportunities that are there for everyone.”

And if you have any doubts about enthusiasm for the concept, check this out: since late spring, the number of participating breweries and collaboration beers has more than doubled, forcing the fest to move from its original location — Wigle’s Theadbare Cider House in Spring Garden — to the massive plaza at Nova Place in the North Side.

As of Wednesday, there are still tickets available to this game-changer. And by all means, go for the beer … because it’s going to be spectacular. But once you’re there keep in mind the big thing that Bracey told me — it’s going to be good for everyone to just have a beer together.