Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week kicks off Friday, the first of 10 days of events pairing beer with an inspired range of other activities, edibles and things.
There’s “Paints and Pints.” “Breakfast beer” flights and flapjacks. Cherry beer and chocolate. Craft beer and cupcakes. Gargoyles (as in the label logo for Stone Brewing) and Girls Scout cookies. Ales and an artist. Suds and sumo.
There’s beering with biking, running, wiffle ball, disc golf, records, cornhole, trivia, Cards Against Humanity, even an adult Pinewood Derby, all leading up to the annual Brewers Olympics, in which the men and women who make the beer compete in “feats of strength, agility and knowledge.”
Many of these fierce competitors already will have cooperated on the collaboration beers that will be pouring around the city and region. Those include a red India pale ale — by East End Brewing, Hop Farm Brewing and Southern Tier Pittsburgh — brewed for the forthcoming Brew: The Museum of Beer, which held a public competition to name it.
This sixth annual promotion of the area’s booming craft beer industry features a record 19 breweries spread out from Meadville to West Newton, from Oakdale to Delmont. And those are just the ones that paid to participate in this promotion, organized by the nonprofit Pittsburgh Craft Beer Alliance of brewery and restaurant managers and others who work in the craft beer industry.
It’s a bigger than ever deal here, with a new brewery seeming to open every weekend (including, any day now, Couch Brewery in Larimer) and some 20 vying to open yet this year. The group estimates that Craft Beer Week events alone have an economic impact of about $2.4 million.
PCBW president Brian Meyer says that “definitely focused on quality over quantity of events this year.”
There still are scores of them. PCBW has put this year’s on its website on two calendars, “featured” and “standard.” Some big sponsors, such as the Caliente Pizza & Draft House group of three restaurants, are doing tons of stuff. That includes Sunday’s “Pancake Apocalypse” of all you can eat fancy flapjacks with a flight of coffee and other beers at the Mt. Lebanon location, where the Pinewood Derby homemade car race with Alesmith Speedway stouts is on April 29. Other venues may be hosting just one small official event, such as the Southern Tier tasting with live music at the Bridgetown Taphouse in Ambridge.
On the educational end of the spectrum, on Saturday, Three Rivers Underground Brewers is holding a Homebrew Workshop ($50 or $62 for non-Allegheny County residents) in the South Park Museum Building, after which paid participants will get to brew batches of beer while others can just sample homebrews.
One of the biggest and most interesting new events is the Craft Carnival being held April 28-29 at Industry Public House in North Fayette. Industry’s Colin McCullough, organizer of this beer fest within a beer week, says brewers and their reps will give serious, TEDx-type talks on various topics ... and wrestle each other in the sumo tent. Attendees can play at giant Jenga and other games and listen to live bands with their unlimited samples. Raffle prizes include a New Belgium Brewing bike and a day to be assistant brewer at Full Pint Brewing. Mr. McCullough says, “We’d like this to be a venue that is fun for the average beer drinker and brings something different for the beer enthusiast.” (Tickets are $54.02 per day, $95.94 for both days, with VIP access to special beers for $20 extra, at craftcarnivalpgh.com.)
Meanwhile, other breweries, distributors and retailers are holding their own events during this time, too. Vecenie Distributing (beersince1933.com) has an event almost every day. One of the region’s most buzzed about breweries, Sharpsburg’s Dancing Gnome, isn’t an official PCBW participant, but it will be pouring its hazy, hoppy wares at various watering holes and encouraged its fans in an email blast to “to get out and support whenever and where ever you can.”
Your interests, location and schedule will shape what events appeal to you — you can’t get to them all. If you don’t want to drive, Porter Tours is offering free rides to and from some events (http://porter.tours/pcbw). Here’s a sampling of some of my other favorite official ones spread out over the week:
Friday: “Rare Tappings & Pirates Tickets.” Get started with some unusual brews, including the Penn Brewery/Allegheny City Brewing PCBW collab Seth Roggenbier, at a new Downtown beer destination, City Works, that all week will register drinkers to win four baseball box seats.
Saturday: Go far out, to Butler, where Reclamation Brewing “will be running our collab beer through an infuser full of rose hips and hibiscus flowers,” or to West Newton, where Bloom Brewing’s Jeff Bloom will talk about the collab his brewery (located in a volunteer fire department) did with Oakdale’s Helicon and Millvale’s Grist House.
Sunday: Rivertowne on the North Shore hosts its annual Meet the Brewers night, featuring all the official collaborations and other good brews and many of the folks who make them.
Monday: Get artsy. Brew: The Museum of Beer holds an Oscars-style reveal of the winners (in different categories) of its name-its-beer contest at East End Brewing Co. in Larimer. And you can work on your strokes at the Paints and Pints painting class at Grist House.
Tuesday: Make-your-own event: Go have a good local beer somewhere with a friend.
Wednesday: Apis Mead teams with Rock Bottom in its Homestead SingSing room for a Charity Beer Fest and Video Game Tournament, with proceeds benefiting Variety Pittsburgh.
April 27: Delmont’s Yellow Bridge Brewing ups the ante on the usual “tap takeover” by hosting a “Tapas Takeover,” featuring Swing Truck small plates paired with drafts -— complete with tasting notes.
April 28: Full Pint Brewing in North Versailles/North Huntingdon debuts a beer inspired by the Bacon Jam from Washington, Pa.’s B3 (Bacon, Bourbon & Beer). The brewery will pair it with Pittsburgh Smokehouse bacon-on-a-stick.
April 29: The Pedal Pale Ale Keg Ride from East End Brewing hauls kegs of that brew to an undisclosed location by bicycle. The 13th annual event will benefit local biker and bike advocate Danny Chew, who was paralyzed in a biking accident last year.
April 30: The Calientes pour “Beer Week Leftovers.”
In addition to being on the online calendars, events can be tracked on the free PCBW app.
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.