It's starting to feel like craft-beer festivals are ubiquitous, and it's no longer necessarily breaking news when a new brewery opens. Still, Grace Miller and Marc Turic's inaugural Beers of the Burgh Festival, which took place in Lawrenceville on April 12, was notable for a couple reasons. For one thing, the festival exclusively celebrated Western Pennsylvania beer, drawing more than 1,000 people to sample beer from 30-plus breweries and homebrew clubs. Perhaps even more incredibly: through it all, you never had to wait more than a minute to hit a portable toilet.
The festival offered a chance catch up with some of the local stalwarts of the brewing industry, including Penn Brewery, East End Brewery and Meadville's Voodoo. Newer — but already popular — brew houses like Hop Farm and Roundabout also poured impressive offerings. Millvale's Draii Laag brewery was clearly popular with beer enthusiasts: The line for its yeast-forward, Old World-style beer stretched significantly longer than anyone else's.
For me, it was especially exciting to sample from some of the soon-to-open breweries I've been following for awhile. Strip District-based Milkman Brewery, for example, offered Dahntahn Brown and Peppercorn Rye, both of which were really tasty. Aurochs Brewing Company, the gluten-free startup whose beer features a quinoa base, is sure to be a hit with those looking for alternative brews.
But my favorite brewery at the festival was one that was totally off my radar: Jones Brewing Company. All six of its beers were stellar, with the Saison and Marzen as particular standouts. Brendan Jones says that he and co-owner Christian M. Restifo are in the process of building out a 1,000-square-foot, five-barrel brew system in Crescent Township; they hope to open in July or August.
Turic says he expects the festival will happen again next year, but there's opportunity to sample the region's local beer much sooner than that: Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, which offers scores of events big and small, starts on Friday.