By Day Bracey
Pittsburgh Current Craft Beer Writer
July 9, noon: I’ve been invited to brew at this obscure brewery no one’s heard of in the middle of Pennsyltucky called Troegs, for a three-way Fresh Fest collaboration between Apis Mead and Drinking Partners. It’s a dry-hopped honey ale brewed with peaches and apricots. The end result is supposed to mimic peach cobbler. Typically, when I’m invited to brew beer it’s just me pouring hops in to a large vat for promotional shots. I like to call them photo hopportunities, because I’m clever. But this time, I’m actually being asked for input on the ingredients. Not 100% comfortable with this, given my lack of brewing skills and the expense of this beer; but mama ain’t raise no punk.
I walk up to a table full of weed grinders, only to be slightly disappointed that they are filled with hops. Dave Cerminara of Apis and John Trogner of Troegs have narrowed down the choices to eight varieties of hops, two locally sourced honeys, and one peach. They’ve been here since early in the a.m., and if you’ve followed this column long enough, you know I don’t do a.m.. We rub bits of hops in our hands, cupped with peaches to see how the aromas pair up. Dave is getting hints of fruit and spice. John is picking up notes of Himalayan yak milk and gunpowder used in the battle of Gettysburg. I smell hops with a bit of peach and hops. After about an hour of hemp huffing, we narrow it down to Vic Secret, Lemon Drop, and Huell Melon. This Fresh Fest collab, smartly named “Fresh Fest Collab,” will debut on Aug. 10 at Fresh Fest, alongside 45 other local collabs and 25 black brewers from across the country. Afterwards, it’ll make a limited run around the city in kegs and cans. So, get you some and tell me what you think!
July 9, 4 p.m.: We roll up to Zeroday Brewing in Harrisburg. It’s a cool little hipster spot with art on the walls, rotating food vendor in the back, and women brewing in the kitchen. When Did We Get A Dog is an amazing hefeweizen brewed by Hannah Ison. I’m not usually a hefe fan, but this has a nice breadiness to it that plays nice with my palate, and a low ABV that plays nice with my liver after a day of heavy ales. There’s a cheesesteak guy in the parking lot claiming to have legit Philly cheesesteaks. I’ve never had a legit cheesesteak outside of Philly. Pittsburgh & New Jersey are full of menus with lies, but no legitimate milk beef sandwiches. So many years of disappointment, I can’t go down that road again.
July 9, 6 p.m.: I don’t know if I’m drunk or if this sandwich is really hitting like this but yes. This is as close to a legit Illadel dairy cowich as I’ve ever had outside of the city.
July 13, noon: We’re at the Jeron X. Grayson Center for a mini beer fest called Very Local, Very Fresh: Meeting The People Where They Are. We’ve brought in Union Craft, Harris Family, Zeroday, Freewill, Apis, Rhinegheist, Hop Farm, and East End to pour beer while DJ Hollyhood spins music and Casa Brasil provides food to keep us upright. The event is only $5 and is being held in a predominantly Black neighborhood with the goal of lowering barriers of entry into the craft beer industry, such as cost, location, demographic, & culture. It’s hard to get into craft when your closest brewery is in a white neighborhood, full of white people, pouring prohibitively expensive beer, with the best of Toby Keith on rotation. There is a diverse panel discussion with people in varying positions within the industry. It’s important to let people know that brewers are simply cogs in a massive system. It takes reps, taptenders, farmers, suppliers, designers, financers, writers, and a slew of other people to keep this industry alive. It also requires diversity and innovation, if it’s going to continue to grow. There are only so many stories straight white males can tell through a hop. It’s time we listened to some new tales. Take pages from the history and culture of other people. Dare I say: it’s time for a fresh perspective?