Summer is a terrific time to drink outdoors with friends and strangers, and Pittsburgh is full of empty lots and unused spaces. Building a beer garden seems like a perfect way to take advantage of both of those opportunities.
That's what Michael McAllister, who recently earned a master's degree in real-estate development, was thinking. He was inspired by a similar idea in San Francisco: A developer and restaurateur there temporarily took over an underfunded construction project, bringing life — and libations — to what otherwise would have been neighborhood blight. After seeing that, McAllister says, "This plan was hatched."
But plans involving liquor in Pennsylvania often encounter roadblocks. Even a semi-permanent beer garden requires the purchase of a liquor license, and the cost of obtaining one was prohibitive.
"How can we have the same pop and energy without being as permanent?" McAllister wondered.
Luckily, Pennsylvania liquor law allows restaurants that already have a license to supply liquor for occasional off-site catering events. So McAllister found a licensed partner and decided to take advantage of another trend: the pop-up shop. "Tapped: A Pop Up Beer Garden" was born. "We're effectively having a private party," McAllister says — one where everyone is invited.
The upside is that McAllister now throws a monthly, neighborhood-specific event. The first beer garden was held in the Strip District in June. July's event took place in a Lawrenceville parking lot.
Of course, a beer garden is no fun without the beer. McAllister's tapped local brewery Full Pint to pour beer at each event. Local distiller Wigle Whiskey provides an alternative for those who prefer something stronger.
The next beer garden site is Larimer on Aug. 11. (Location and other details were not available at press time; check www.facebook.com/tappedpgh for more.) "Tapped" will finish the summer with a Braddock blowout in September, where McAllister is looking to showcase nano-brew startup The Brew Gentleman in Braddock.
Tapped takes place rain or shine, so don't forget to bring an umbrella.