Barrel & Flow Fest Set for September Return

Day Bracey has a goal for September — “to empower the Black community through the beer industry.”

The Pittsburgh comedian and beer writer gained national recognition in 2018, when he and his “Drinking Partners Podcast” co-host Ed Bailey launched Fresh Fest, the country’s first festival focused on Black-owned and operated breweries. 

Retitled ‘Barrel & Flow Fest’ for 2021, this year’s event will take place September 10th -12th at SouthSide Works, on Pittsburgh’s riverfront. Through it, Bracey hopes to create more opportunities for inclusion in an industry where only 4 percent of its overall employees and only 1 percent of owners are reported to be Black individuals (according to diversity data from the Brewers Association). 

“We live in America, so there isn’t really an industry that isn’t affected by lack of representation of women and minorities,” he says. “Craft beer isn’t really in the Black community. A lot of us grew up in areas where [craft beer] isn’t even a thought.”

Those who can’t attend the festival in person can still taste the beers via Tavour. Also one of Barrel & Flow Fest’s sponsors, the app-based retailer works with over 600 breweries nationwide to deliver tough-to-find IPAs, Stouts, and Sour Ales straight to people’s homes.

“We’re thrilled to support Barrel & Flow Fest and promote diversity within the craft beer community,” says Meghan Packard, Vice President of Tavour. “This is an amazing and rare opportunity to showcase some truly spectacular black-owned breweries and celebrate all the different people working in brewing today. We hope that by helping Barrel & Flow Fest reach craft fans in more states, we can help the industry become more inclusive.”

Tavour will carry 16 different beers from the festival in a special bundle on its app (full list below), all from collaborations between critically acclaimed brewers around the country. Many of the participating breweries are Black-owned and/or operated, and the beer styles range from favorites like IPAs and Stouts to rarer finds like Doppelbocks and Dark Lagers. 

“Day Bracey reached out to us during COVID because he was looking for Black-owned breweries to do collaborations for the Barrel & Flow Festival. Of course we were more than willing to participate!” says Charles St. Clair of Black Horizon Brewing in Illinois. “We had been planning to attend Fresh Fest before COVID hit, so being a participating brewery in the fest is an even better opportunity.”

The Black Horizon team seized that opportunity in full force. They teamed up with two other breweries for the fest: their nearby neighbors at Skeleton Key Brewery and Englewood Brewing in Pennsylvania. Together, the trifecta crafted a Belgian Abbey-style Ale with notes of caramel and baking spice from German specialty malts. 

“The amount of information, ideas, and knowledge shared [in a three-way collaboration] make the effort even easier to bring to fruition,” St. Clair says. “Collaborations also help you get to know the members of your brewing community a little bit more, as well.”

For Doug Veliky of Chicago’s Revolution Brewing, it was a matter of supporting a good cause from his hometown. 

“I grew up in Pittsburgh, so the festival hit my radar and stood out to me. I was proud that the mission for this festival developed in my hometown and hoped to be a part of it some day,” Veliky says. “I reached out to Day Bracey and had him on my YouTube for an interview, which led to him inviting Revolution to host a collaboration this year.”

To create a beer specifically for the fest, Revolution partnered with 18th Street, a Black-owned brewery in Indiana. Their collaboration is a West Coast-style IPA, crafted with extra-potent Cyro Simcoe Hops to enhance the beer’s resinous flavors and aromas. 

“Drew Fox, the founder of 18th Street, has been coming to the Revolution Brewpub since we started. We’ve admired the hard work he has put into growing 18th Street into a powerhouse,” Veliky says. “We’ve been wanting to find a project to work on together for awhile, and I couldn’t imagine a better fit than Barrel & Flow Fest.”

Fittingly, Bracey’s initial inspiration for the event came from the craft beer community’s collaborative spirit. 

After starting his beer-centric podcast in 2014, he got to know local brewers. While learning more about the industry, he was stunned by their willingness to recommend other breweries and the joint effort to make great beer, rather than let competition get in the way. 

“If you support other people, they support you,” Bracey says.

Through Tavour, that support will come from craft beer drinkers nationwide. 

“We are fortunate to have a large platform and the ability to get craft beer to fans in 25 states,” Tavour Founder Sethu Kalavakur says. “We are honored to be helping get these collabs out to fans that might not be able to go to the festival and showcase these breweries that people may not know about.”

In the meantime, craft beer fans hoping to get early tastes of the fest’s breweries can look to Tavour, which regularly features many of those involved. 

Here is the full list of the Barrel & Flow Fest brewery collaborations that will appear on Tavour:

  • Burgh’ers Brewing and Crafted Culture Brewing
  • Islla St Brewing and Urban Jungle
  • Montclair Brewery and Mac Brewing
  • Brooklyn Brewery and Cajun Fire Brewing
  • J. Wakefield Brewing and Warcloud Brewing
  • 2nd Shift Brewing and Alematic Artisan Ales
  • Revolution Brewing and 18th Street Brewing
  • Allagash Brewing and Sankofa Beer Co.
  • Trillium Brewing and Brockton Beer Co.
  • Other Half Brewing and Four City Brewing
  • East End Brewing and Black Frog Brewery
  • Trace Brewing and Two Locals Brewing
  • Black Horizon Brewing, Englewood Brews and Skeleton Key Brewing
  • Brew Gentlemen and Run the Jewels
  • Crowns and Hops and Black Calder Brewing
  • Troegs Independent Brewing, Harris Family Brewery and Mac Brewing

Photo courtesy Barrel & Flow Fest

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