Last year, four local women put their heads together in an effort to rectify a grave injustice being perpetrated here in Harrisburg.
Despite boasting a number of critically acclaimed local breweries, the area was not celebrating the barley, yeast and hops concoction with nearly as much fervor as it deserved.
Thus, Harrisburg Beer Week was born.
Returning for its second iteration, Harrisburg Beer Week, which runs the last week of April, looks to build on last year’s momentum.
The founders—Sara Bozich, Chelsie Markel, Colleen Nguyen and Tierney Pomone—have brought in some fresh faces to help make the process of putting on a multi-venue celebration a little easier. But they’ve also stuck with what made last year’s fête so great–a commitment to raising funds to help make the city a better place.
Riding the Wave
Considering the success of last year’s Beer Week, doing it again this year was a no-brainer. And, while 2015 might seem hard to top, the founders didn’t hesitate to assess what worked and what could be improved.
“Our thought this year wasn’t necessarily to top the quantity of events (though that happened), but to fine-tune our key events and encourage venues and breweries to be even more creative,” said Bozich.
The biggest difference, added Nguyen, was they didn’t need to convince anyone that their idea was for real.
“Last year was such an overwhelming success that we are able to focus more on developing our fundraising effort instead of explaining what we’re doing and why,” she said.
Perhaps the best example of this increased energy can be seen in the changes made to one of last year’s best-received events, the Little Big Beer Fest, where brewers compete over who can make the best full-flavored and high-alcohol beer.
“The Little Big Beer Festival is going to be bigger and better,” said Markel. “More breweries, more collaborations and way more beers all created specifically for this event. This year, the breweries are competing against each other to see who can create ‘the crown jewel’ of LBBF as voted by event-goers.”
Expanding the Team
While the core of the Harrisburg Beer Week brain trust remains, the team has grown.
In addition to the four founders, Jimi Werner, Lauren McPherson, Asheleigh Forsburg and Chris Harvey have joined up. The need for more help serves as a testament to the enormity of planning Beer Week.
Werner, lovingly referred to as “intern Jimi,” has become essential for making sure the logistics are dealt with smoothly, although he readily admits that he’s learning as he goes.
“As Beer Week grew, so too did my role,” he said. “I went from running errands and folding shirts to writing our emails and working on social media strategies. That’s not to say I don’t still run errands. Someone has to do the grunt work.”
Harvey has come on board as a liaison with other home brewers. As a member of area homebrew club Sons of Alchemy, he provided the energy behind last year’s successful Battle of the Homebrew Clubs. Harvey now helps Beer Week strike a balance between established professional brewers and those exploring new beer frontiers in their kitchens and backyards.
This year, the competition is moving to FNB Field, a welcome expansion as far as Harvey is concerned.
“I have always envisioned being at City Island,” he said. “It’s an amazing venue, a great meeting spot between the East and West Shore. We will be on the party deck this year and will feature three food trucks, live music and over 50 beers being poured by local home brewers.”
Charity at Heart
Once again, the real heart of Harrisburg Beer Week—beyond celebrating beautiful brews—is raising money for Harrisburg River Rescue. Tony Reigle, who heads up fundraising for the organization, is excited about another opportunity to join as a partner.
“HBW certainly was a unique and innovative way to make deeper connections with the city and community that we serve,” he said.
The partnership also provided very concrete benefits.
“The monies raised during last year’s event were utilized to help offset the cost of building renovations,” Reigle said. “We expanded the bay areas for increased and more efficient equipment and apparatus storage, allowing decreased emergency response time.”
This year, Reigle hopes for an even better return, which would allow the group to expand its presence further.
“We hope to further renovate our building in order to be fully operational as a gathering place for community events and meetings, training center and emergency shelter,” he said.
Bozich is equally bullish on Beer Week’s fundraising ability.
“Last year, we were able to give Harrisburg River Rescue $20,000 and, while I’m hesitant to put out a specific goal number, I feel confident we’ll exceed that substantially this year,” she said.
In all, it seems that Harrisburg Beer Week’s planners are taking the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” to heart, with one small caveat—they aren’t afraid to do some tweaking. From the looks of it, Harrisburg Beer Week will once again bring two great things together: beer and community.
“By looking at our events list already, you can see that people not only ‘get’ it, but have embraced it and have really gone above and beyond to create interesting, fun and educational events that will get people out and about to support their community,” Bozich said.
Harrisburg Beer Week runs April 22 to 30 at venues throughout the greater Harrisburg area. For a full schedule of events, visit www.harrisburgbeerweek.com or the Facebook page.
Harrisburg Beer Week is so packed with things to do that it’s hard to single out the highlights. Still, here are some of the major events:
- VIP Kick-off Party, April 22, Appalachian Brewing Co., 5 to 10 p.m.
- The (Maybe) 5k, April 23, Zeroday Brewing Co., 10 to 11 a.m.
- PA Flavor, April 23, Farm Show Complex, 1 to 5 p.m.
- Battle of the Homebrew Clubs, April 24, FNB Field, 2 to 5 p.m.
- F’n Midtown Beer Mixer, April 24, Zeroday Brewing Co., 3 to 5 p.m.
- Battle of the Brewers, April 26, Grain + Verse Bottlehouse, 4 to 10 p.m.
- Harrisburg River Rescue Open House, April 27, Harrisburg River Rescue, 5 to 8 p.m.
- Brews and Baseball, April 28, FNB Field, 6 to 8 p.m.
- Little Big Beer Fest, April 30, Appalachian Brewing Co., 2 to 5 p.m.