Another craft-beer festival is coming to Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Summer Beerfest hits Stage AE on July 26-27. With an ever-increasing number of festivals celebrating fermented grains and fruits, what sets this one apart from the rest?
Size, for one. The Pittsburgh Summer Beerfest organizers have previously staged festivals in Cincinnati and Columbus; both Ohio events claim annual attendance of more than 10,000 people. Although the Pittsburgh brew-ha-ha isn't expected to be as massive, it still looks to be an extravaganza.
"We're going to take over the whole place, even the parking lot," says festival director Craig Johnson. Ticket holders ($35-55; available at www.beerfesttickets.com ) can expect to sample more than 250 beers from at least 80 breweries. By comparison, last year's Big Pour, held at Construction Junction, hosted 43 breweries.
With so many breweries on the list, the moniker "craft brewery" is being used a bit loosely. Familiar, mass-market brands such as Boston Brewing Company (Sam Adams beers), Sierra Nevada and Yuengling might not reach the scale of mega-breweries like Coors, but they aren't quite artisanal, either.
"When you reach the numbers that we do in terms of attendance, you're going to have a lot of people who aren't into craft, who haven't learned yet," says Johnson. "There are people who are going to want to have some familiarity with beers — beers I guess you can call gateway beers."
And beyond that gateway is still a large selection of beer, including a number of selections from Pittsburgh breweries, which can safely be categorized as "craft." And while out-of-town breweries are limited to just a few selections, local breweries can tap as many styles as they desire.
Best of all for participating breweries, Johnson says, the festival "buys every ounce of beer. There's no donated product. There's no table fee. Breweries get actual revenue from these events. This isn't just promotional from them." That uncommon practice ought to leave both brewers and beer drinkers happy.