By Day Bracey
Pittsburgh Current Craft Beer Writer
Dec 13, 8 a.m.:: After months of tirelessly and fruitlessly searching for a venue in Pittsburgh that has enough space for 5,000 people and won’t Black tax me on the rate, I get an email from Josh Lucas, founder of Work Hard Pittsburgh, saying Allentown may be the answer. No, not THAT Allentown. We’re talking Allentown, Pittsburgh, a predominantly black “redeveloping” neighborhood between Mount Washington and the South Side. By “redeveloping,” I mean “pre-gentrified.” They have a coffee shop and folks are actively looking to open a brewery there. Once that happens, the flood of white people will be inevitable and Pittsburgh will have a Lawrenceville 2.0, or rather an East LIBERTY 3.0. What better way to combat this than by filling the streets with 5,000 people who may be interested in gentrifying responsibly, with investments in both the people and the buildings?
For those who don’t know, Work Hard and Allentown have been the home of the Drinking Partners Podcast for 5 years now. Who says nothing good can come from living in someone’s basement?
Tickets for Fresh Fest 2020 go on sale Feb 1 at midnight, freshfestbeerfest.com
Dec. 23, Noon: I meet up with Matt Thorton of Work Hard Pittsburgh and Joe Calloway of Re360 to take a tour of the place. We start with the dive bar that Kevin Sousa plans to make his new home, a possible VIP area? We tour the warehouse, the alleys, parking lots, office space, and even the roof. With enough cooperation from the city, this may be a thing. Not sure we should have too many drunken people on a roof though. Let’s run that past an insurance agent first.
Jan. 1, 12 a.m.: HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Jan. 1, 1205 a.m.: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
Jan. 7, 2 p.m.: Josh and I are meeting with Aaron Sukenik and Gordon Hall of the Hilltop Alliance to discuss the feasibility of bringing 5.000 people to Warrington Ave. There are so many more moving parts when you’re dealing with open streets as opposed to closed venues. So many more entities both private and public that need to be consulted and on board for it to happen, along with various motivations to be taken into consideration. Did I just become a politician?!?
Jan. 13, 1 p.m.: Josh, Aaron, Gordon, and I are meeting with Henry Pyatt of the Mayor’s office to discuss the possibility of street closures, public transportation options, and support from the city. While mapping out the area, Josh makes an odd suggestion. “What if we do a free stage here?” The thought of a free component at a ticketed event sounds silly. But then the gears start to turn. I mean, we are coming into this area and making life inconvenient for the residents here for the day, the least we can do is offer them some entertainment for their troubles. Isn’t that what being a good neighbor is all about? Isn’t that what this festival is about? Uplifting the community, getting shitfaced, and dancing in the streets? Yes. Yes it is. So, why stop at one free stage?
Jan. 15, 6 p.m.: I’m at Eleventh Hour to meet with Melanie Dione, an author and former collaborator of the festival, to discuss her role as Project Coordinator for 2020. We find a table and sip heavy stouts as we exchange visions for the future and try our luck at some of the questions thrown out during quiz night. Luckily, we’re much better at planning events than retaining random bar knowledge.
Jan. 16, 8 p.m.: I’m at Hop Farm to meet up with Tom Poet, the best sales rep in the business. Wouldn’t it be dope if the Black brewers could find taps to occupy in Western, PA? Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to drive to Ohio, DC, or NY to get a black-owned beer? Well, if anyone can help make that happen, it’s got to be Tommy “Hustle Harder” Poet. Beer is being consumed during this meeting, but my ability to read labels has been greatly diminished. I think my favorite was the one with the alcohol in it. You know the one!
Jan. 17, 10 a.m.: I’m with Khamil Scantling of Cocoapreneur to discuss her role as Equity Officer and a partnership with her organization. Who better than the originator of the Black Pittsburgh Business Directory to make sure the services employed by the festival are as Black as possible? With this addition, I think it’s time to pull back the curtain on this production.
Jan. 17, Noon: Fresh Fest 2020’s new home is officially announced as Allentown, Pittsburgh. The folks are equally excited and confused. “No, not THAT Allentown.” This is going to get old fast.