Fresh Fest founders want to make craft beer industry more accessible to black consumers

By August 7, 2018 No Comments

“It’s all a way to connect people that typically would not have been connected”

Fresh Fest founders

Mike Potter, Day Bracey and Shannon Harris

Earlier this year, before any of them mentioned creating a beer festival, Mike Potter was chatting with Day Bracey and Ed Bailey, hosts of the Drinking Partners Podcast. They wanted to come up with something they could do to serve the black community in Pittsburgh.

“We just wanted to see where our individual platforms could be of service to adversity and help in the community as a whole,” Potter says. One of those areas was trying to make the craft brewing industry more accessible to African Americans..

“Some of these guys, they don’t really go into these craft beer places because it’s not the scene that’s most comfortable for them and a lot of brewers don’t really know how to communicate with their African-American customers or just people in general,” Potter says. “So we just wanted to make an introduction and say, ‘hey, you probably have more in common than you know.’”

A craft beer festival celebrating black-owned breweries is coming to Pittsburgh this weekend thanks to the combined efforts of Mike Potter of Black Brew Culture magazine and local comedians Day Bracey and Ed Bailey of the podcast Drinking Partners. Fresh Fest 2018 will take place on Saturday, August 11 at Nova Place and Alloy 26.

More than 30 breweries will be serving up their brews at the event. Several black-owned breweries are coming in from around the country, like Cajun Fire Brewing Company from New Orleans and Sankofa Beer Company from Washington DC.

Many local breweries will be at Fresh Fest, too. More than 20 new beer collaborations between breweries and black business owners and artists will debut at the event.

“It’s a really great opportunity for beer enthusiasts that are local in the African-American community to get to know some of the breweries that are around the city and start the conversation of future collaborations or just making new friends,” says Potter.  

Potter’s personal journey through the craft beer scene is coming full-circle. He was introduced to the Pittsburgh craft beer scene  back in 2005, when he stopped by East End Brewing Company and met owner Scott Smith.

“He kind of showed me the process of making beer and what different ingredients mean and do,” says Potter. “That led to a good friendship between myself and the guys at East End and now we’re doing this collaboration for Fresh Fest.”

East End and Potter’s Fresh Fest collaboration will take the form of a Brut IPA.

It’s fitting that Pennsylvanians are leading the charge in supporting black-owned craft breweries since Pennsylvania is the biggest producer of craft beer in the country, according to a study from the Brewers Association, a national trade group. Even though the local craft beer community is booming, it’s lacking in diversity, Potter says. Potter hopes that Fresh Fest will help to start the conversations that need to be had about the culture around craft beer.

In addition to the beer, Blowfish BBQ, The Coop Chicken and Waffles, Leon’s Caribbean Restaurant, and Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwiches will be on site to serve up food at the event.

The entertainment lineup includes Homewood singer-songwriter and emcee Clara Kent, guitarist Byron Nash of the bands Formula412 and Plan B, and bassist Jonny Goood who’s played with artists like Lady Gaga and Wiz Khalifa. VIP ticket holders will see Bracey and Bailey record an episode of Drinking Partners live.

“It’s all a way to connect people that typically would not have been connected had we not done something like this,” says Potter.  “It’s all taking place organically through craft beer which is a really cool thing.”

Haley Frederick is a Pittsburgh Current Staff Writer. Contact her at

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