All kinds of things can pop up on a vacant lot. Political campaign signs. Occupy protestor tents. Mushrooms. Weeds.
But in Pittsburgh this summer, lots from Lawrenceville to Larimer have been the sites of pop-up beer gardens for a series of events dubbed Tapped.
Organized by Michael McAllister of Epic Development and the folks at Strip District's Bar Marco, the first Tapped was held in the parking lot beside Bar Marco at the end of June. East End and Full Pint beer were served -- in iconic red plastic Solo cups -- with food from the Franktuary food truck and Lucy's banh mi sandwich cart. Similar but bigger Tapped parties followed in Lawrenceville in July and Larimer in August. This past Saturday, there was one at East Liberty's Bakery Square.
The next, and last, one of the season is Saturday in Braddock, where Tapped aims to showcase the little brewery that's being built on the ground floor of the building where Kevin Sousa is opening his next restaurant, Magerac: The Brew Gentlemen Beer Co.
The two recent Carnegie Mellon University grads, Asa Foster and Matt Katase, who started this business in 2010, will be pouring their White Sky (a non-traditional white ale brewed with chai spices) and General Braddock's IPA (an India pale ale that resurrects an old brand name).
There'll also be beer from Full Pint, which has been on board from the start, and cocktails from Bar Marco, which also will be serving food (burgers), as will the Pittsburgh Pierogie, Pittsburgh Taco and Franktuary trucks; Fukuda sushi; and Kevin Sousa, who will be roasting a pig.
"They've all kind of been a little different" says Epic Development founder Michael McAllister. The Pittsburgh native drew his inspiration from grassroots gatherings he saw happening in Washington, D.C., while he was in grad school there, and by a San Francisco developer who turned a construction site and a shipping container into a popular beer garden venue.
He approached Bar Marco, which agreed to lend its liquor license to serve beer and liquor at these off-site events, and Tapped was a go.
"It's gone well," says Bar Marco's Bobby Fry. "I wouldn't say we've blown the doors off it yet. I'd say that'll be next year."
He's particularly excited about the event going to Braddock, which he sees as being poised to be Pittsburgh's Brooklyn for young entrepreneurs in foods and other fields. That's the kind of vibe Bar Marco has been supporting in other ways, too, such as its Food Truck Fridays, which allow the city's fledgling food trucks to gather on the restaurant's Strip lot.
Mr. McAllister says Tapped is casual and unpretentious. The point isn't that the beer is craft beer, but that it's local. "It's meant to evoke a neighborhood block party."
The Brew Gentlemen, who hope to be able to start selling beer at their brewery early next year, are pumped for a chance to tell more people about their plans -- and get them to Braddock.
"Getting folks to actually want to come out there for the afternoon is really our biggest thing," says Mr. Foster, who'll tell you the steel town is different than many people think. "It's an awesome place full of awesome people," he says. "... [T]here is an immense amount of opportunity."
[Also happening there Saturday, from 7 to 10 p.m.: "Wood-Fired Words," which mixes literary readings and pizza from Braddock's wood-fired community oven at UnSmoke Systems Artspace, 1137 Braddock Ave. Readings begin at 8:30 p.m.; $7 gets you in and you can BYOB; unsmokeartspace.com/section/257377_Wood_Fired_Words.html.]
At this Tapped, as at previous ones, a portion of vendor proceeds will be given to good causes -- this time, to the Brew Gentlemen's Kickstarter $25,000 fundraising campaign (that started with a roar on Sept. 29) as well as Saxifrage School and the Cancer Caring Center.
Tapped runs from 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday on John Street at Maple Way in Braddock, about a three-block walk from the brewery/restaurant building (owned by Heritage Community Initiatives) on the other side of Braddock Avenue. For more information, check out the event's Facebook page.
Brewery tours probably won't be available, but there's not a lot to see yet, says Mr. Foster. They just got the ground-floor space all cleaned out, but it's pretty empty, but for their little 5-gallon system. "It's still like a glorified home-brewing den." But they intend to have seven 5-barrel kegs for the event, for which "we'll try to release 5 gallons per hour."
For more on The Brew Gentlemen, visit brewgentlemen.com.
Also Saturday, three civic groups in Ellwood City are holding that Lawrence County town's second Oktoberfest. The Wolves Club is being joined by the Lions and Rotary clubs for this year's, which runs from noon to 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Ewing Park. The $25 admission gets you unlimited tasting of a variety of commercial beers -- Church Brew Works, Full Pint, Southern Tier -- as well as more than 40 brews from a dozen local homebrewers. Plus you get a lot of food: Borough manager Dom Viccari says the Wolves Club chefs and others will be making and serving German potato salad, sausage, brats, meatballs, halusky, fish and chips, hotdogs, pepperoni rolls, pizza, fried hot peppers, baked goods, even beer floats. There'll also be a cornhole tournament and live music by The Dorals and D-Major. And all proceeds will go to local scholarships and charities. For tickets and more information, call 724-758-4576.
Next Saturday, Oct. 13, is one of the coolest local beer events, as, once again, the Three Rivers Underground Brewers holds the sixth-annual Brewing up a Cure event to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
The party, which goes from 7 to 10 p.m., is at a new venue this time: the PPG Wintergarden, Downtown. The 6 p.m. VIP session is sold out, but the regular session -- $40 or $50 at the door if not sold out -- entitles you to sample more than 50 brews made by TRUB members, plus several commercial craft brews (and you keep your tasting glass and journal). Other tasting stations will dish out eats from DiBella's Subs, Belle Frutteo, Monroeville Italian Club, Bob Evans, Eric's Catering and other eateries. And there'll be live entertainment, raffles and basket and silent auctions. Proceeds (and the event has raised more than $100,00 so far) go to the CF Foundation's quest for a cure for cystic fibrosis. Get tix and more at brewingupacure.org.
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1930; Twitter: @bobbatzjr. First Published October 4, 2012 4:00 AM