Virtual Beer Festival Encourages Support of Black-Owned Breweries

Fresh Fest Digi Fest will showcase craft breweries, as well as local talent.
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DAY BRACEY | PHOTO BY LAURA PETRILLA

With many summer festivals transitioning into online events, beer-lovers will still have the opportunity to explore and purchase a wide variety of craft beers from Pittsburgh-based and Black-owned breweries across the country. Fresh Fest Digi Fest— the nation’s first and only Black-owned beer festival— is set to go live, digitally, on Aug. 8.

The annual festival, which started in 2018, was originally set to be held in Pittsburgh’s Allentown neighborhood, but due to the coronavirus could no longer take place in-person. 

Day Bracey, co-founder of Fresh Fest, says the digital event will feature both live and pre-recorded content to give exposure to Black brewers and artists in the community who are often overlooked. 

“Much like every aspect of America it’s extremely difficult for Black people to get into the brewing industry,” Bracey says. “We wanted to have festivals where we could create a safe space for Black individuals who didn’t know a lot about craft beer but wanted to explore what the industry is about.”

Tickets are $10, which allows access to six streaming channels on the upcoming app. This includes a live brewing channel, a cooking channel, a podcast channel, a DJ and live artist channel, a live music channel and a forum channel for speakers and panel discussions. The speakers will be streaming remotely, but many of the musicians, chefs and brewers will be stationed at venues throughout Pittsburgh. Bracey says there is also a virtual chat room feature where people can participate in discussions with up to 20 people in a room. 

The app will provide information on how people can order beers for delivery through Beverages2u. Fresh Fest is also working with local breweries and breweries around the country to do “collaboration beers” where eight local breweries will collaborate with eight Black breweries in the industry to create a mixed eight-pack with a variety of flavors.

“It will be split into two four-packs and each pack will feature a lager, a hoppy, a sour, and a dark ale,” Bracey says. 

Of the $79 billion industry with 7,400 craft breweries in America, less than 70 are black-owned, according to Bracey. 

Freshfest

PHOTO COURTESY EPICAST

“With such a lack of diversity in the beer industry, there is lots of opportunity for us to come in and make some inroads in the craft beer industry, as well as spread some fun and economic empowerment to our community,” he says. 

He says it is often difficult for Black individuals to learn more about the brewing industry because they have to travel outside of their neighborhoods, which can be “difficult and dangerous.”

“Walking around and driving around in a white neighborhood can mean some great harm to Black individuals,” Bracey says. “A minor traffic stop can turn into a murder. But when we do go into various places, oftentimes it’s uncomfortable being there [as] the only Black person and it’s uncomfortable to ask questions in an establishment where people are looking at you as if you’re not supposed to be there.”

The festival, Bracey says, allows Black brewers to learn about the craft and network with various breweries in a more comfortable environment, and it provides representation for Black individuals to show that they can become successful in this industry. 

“I think it’s important for people of any demographic to see people like them doing well in an industry where they can aspire to do well themselves,” Bracey says. “We’ve seen a lot of these relationships and collaborations last a lot longer than just the day of the festival.”

Categories: The 412