Artie Tafoya is a bit of a pioneer when it comes to craft beer.
Before arriving in Harrisburg, Tafoya opened a couple of craft brewpubs in Colorado, back in the days when Easterners associated the Rocky Mountains with Coors. In the mid-'90s, four guys from Harrisburg sought Tafoya's help to open their own brewpub and so began Appalachian Brewing Company and, more importantly, its creations – Water Gap Wheat Ale, Hoppy Trails I.P.A. and Jolly Scot Scottish Ale, to name a few.
"When we opened here, there wasn't a huge demand for craft beer," Tafoya said of ABC's start in 1997 (Tafoya joined in 1998). "We educated people."
Now it's four women from Harrisburg who want to educate the region on craft beer — with the help of breweries like ABC.
Harrisburg Beer Week, packed with tastings, panels, competitions and a whole lot of craft beer, April 24-May 2, is a labor of love for its collaborators, Stouts and Stilettos' creator Tierney Pomone, S&S writers Colleen Nguyen and Chelsie Markel, and Harrisburg nightlife writer and blogger Sara Bozich.
"We knew there would be a great opportunity for people to drink beer and have fun. That was a given," Bozich said. "Also, we wanted to showcase our local breweries." And there's a good bit of education for the craft beer mavens to the casual flight taster.
There's actually something for every taste level during Beer Week — 130-plus events. Find them all at harrisburgbeerweek.com. Here are some highlights:
For the hardcore fan: ABC, one of the event's sponsors, will play host to "Little Big Beer Fest" — little because only about 15 beers uniquely created for the event will be available; big because they will have high alcohol content, about 8 percent. This fest — on May 2 — will attract a lot of "hardcore craft beer geeks and snobs," Markel said. "They're looking for beers that have never been brewed and will never be brewed again."
For the homebrewer: "Battle of the Homebrew Clubs: Homebrew competition," where the home chefs put their creations to the test, 1-5 p.m. Sunday, April 26 at Federal Taphouse (Harrisburg). The proceeds from this event and other paid events during Beer Week will benefit Harrisburg River Rescue.
If you like to sample beers: "PA Flavor: The ultimate beer and food pairing event" offers samples from 40 breweries, 20 food producers and 20 restaurants. That's 1-5 p.m. Saturday, April 25 (VIP tickets are from 1-2 p.m.). Buy tickets at paflavor.com.
For fun: A screening of the documentary "Brewed in the Burg," presented by GK Visual and Bozich, shows at 7 p.m. April 28 at Midtown Cinema, followed by the release of a one-time, limited offering of Saison 28 at just-opened Zeroday Brewing. "Beer Wars" is also being shown at various times throughout the nine-day event.
For an insider's viewpoint: Four women working in the craft beer industry offer their insights during the Pennsylvania Women in Craft Beer Conference, followed by happy hour and an after party, 5-8 p.m. May 1 at JPL, 471 JPL Wick Dr., Harrisburg. "There are not a lot of women working in the industry, but it's growing," Markel said.
Want to learn more: Ryan DeLutis from The Brewery at Hershey will teach "Craft Beer 101 from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 29 at Café 1500. Limited seating for this event; RSVP at harrisburgbeerweek.com. DeLutis is a classic craft beer success story. The Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey selected DeLutis from about 50 applicants as its brewmaster. He was a graphic artist and, in his free time, a homebrewer. "He was the perfect fit for us," said Mike Wilson, one of the owners of the Vineyard and Brewery.
Meet a pioneer: Artie Tafoya serves up "Lager 101" at ABC's new Mechanicsburg location from 6-8 p.m. April 27. "We have spent 18 years educating the beer-drinking public in the Harrisburg area," he said.
Cheers to that.
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