We made it through the doldrums of February and the manic weather mood swings of March. Now, in April, our collective reward for perseverance comes in the form of—beer.
Yes, Harrisburg Beer Week is back, the lovechild of a small team of locals who harbor a deep affection for PA’s capital city and local craft beer (though possibly not in that order). Happening the final week of April, Harrisburg Beer Week includes more than 150 events at area breweries, restaurants and venues—from small batch tastings to special releases, from meet-the-brewer opportunities to even a “Stranger Things”-themed costume party (yes, beer will be involved).
Among this flurry of craft beer-related offerings are several signature events. There’s a VIP kick-off party to thank sponsors and a Little Big Beer Fest, which is a tasting celebration showcasing high-ABV (alcohol-by-volume) brews from more than 25 area breweries. The latter of these, plus the Battle of the Homebrewers, is particularly unique to Harrisburg Beer Week.
“Battle,” as those in the know call it, features some 70-plus home brews (and their makers) competing under one tent in the courtyard of the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg. Ticketholders and judges vote on their favorites and prizes are awarded.
“If you really want to try something unusual and different, the Battle of the Home Brewers is a must,” said Sara Bozich, a founding member of the Harrisburg Beer Week team.
Bozich explained that, because home brewers work with significantly smaller quantities, they have the ability to experiment with a wide range of unusual ingredients that large-scale breweries—due to cost—simply cannot use.
In past years, participating home brewers have brought with them anything from a Bloody Mary beer (an award winner, in fact), to a peanut butter brew, in addition to some delightful sour brews that drew enthusiasm from event attendees. Some market vendors also will be open, complete with special, beer-themed foods for purchase. Did someone say beer fudge?
Both Battle of the Homebrewers and Little Big Beer Fest quickly sell out annually, so advance purchase is recommended. Rounding out the 10-day extravaganza is a mini-golf tournament and an after-party on City Island. This year, the tournament will be held on Sunday, April 29, to allow families to attend.
In addition to Beer Week’s many events, the 717 Collaboration is back. Since the event’s inception, local breweries Tröegs, Pizza Boy and Appalachian Brewing Co. have teamed up to create a signature collaboration beer. New this year, and going forward, an additional brewery will be added to keep things interesting. The end result of this year’s creative endeavor will be available at all participating event locations.
Perhaps the best reason of all to support Harrisburg Beer Week (beyond all the delicious beer, obviously) is that all proceeds go to Harrisburg River Rescue and Emergency Services. Founded more than 60 years ago, this all-volunteer organization plays a pivotal role in the community, providing emergency search and rescue services, as well as support to first responders for fires, floods, accidents and other disasters.
To date, the event has raised a whopping $85,000 in support of the River Rescue, with this number estimated to round out to a cool $100,000 in 2018. The money has helped the volunteers make significant improvements to their headquarters, which was devastated by Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.
Other means of fundraising include a digital raffle, available online throughout April, and a tag up program at most event establishments. The digital raffle is not to be missed, with enviable prizes like the chance to design your own beer with the Zeroday Brewing Co. folks, a van tour of local breweries for you and your friends, and even a tuition discount to HACC’s Brewing Science certificate program.
Harrisburg Beer Week runs April 20 to 29 at locations throughout central Pennsylvania. For more information, including a long list of events, visit harrisburgbeerweek.com.
Looking to combine your love of area chefs’ culinary inspiration and craft beer and wine? Then look no further than PA Flavor, taking place April 21 at the PA Farm Show Complex. Now in its eighth year, this event provides attendees with the opportunity to sample the “A” game of more than 50 breweries and wineries and 18 area restaurants.
Presented through a partnership of the Brewers of PA, Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association (PRLA), American Culinary Federation and the state Department of Agriculture’s PA Preferred Program, PA Flavor, at its core, is a fundraiser.
Heidi Howard, with PRLA, explained that her organization’s share of the PA Flavor proceeds goes towards helping students in the hospitality industry further their education. Each year, PA Flavor enables PRLA to award tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship funds.
“It’s the future of the industry and so important,” Howard said.
Interestingly, PA Flavor and Harrisburg Beer Week (which will have a booth at the event) coincide with one another. This is no coincidence. Three years ago, the events’ organizers began scheduling things to fall at the same time and have found it to be—rather appropriately—a natural pairing.
“I can’t say enough about the partnership that we have with the folks who launched Harrisburg Beer Week,” said Howard. “We have definitely seen an uptick in attendance since that partnership began three years ago. And we’re really appreciative of that.”
Tickets to PA Flavor vary in price, but include VIP and designated driver options. VIP ticketholders will enjoy a private hour in the event hall, with butler-passed and stationary hors d’oeuvres and specialty and small-batch craft beers available only to them.
PA Flavor takes place April 21 at the PA Farm Show Complex, Cameron and Maclay streets, Harrisburg. For more information, visit paflavor.com.