Why Harrisburg Beer Week ended, how to support

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Battle of the Homebrewers 2019 | Harrisburg Beer Week

Last week, the Harrisburg Beer Week team (Tierney Pomone, Jimi Werner, Lena Penn, and myself) announced our 2020 donation and plans for the future.

We were thrilled to be able to provide a $25,000 donation to our exclusive beneficiary, Harrisburg River Rescue & Emergency Services this year — without any events or merchandise.

It brings our total donation over six years to nearly $200,000!

First, it’s important to thank our sponsors for 2020, most of whom honored their donation even after we canceled this year’s Harrisburg Beer Week. In addition, we had several bonus donations from local breweries, businesses, and individuals during the virtual events we held in April.

Second, we also announced that Harrisburg Beer Week has been discontinued.

The culmination of this news has sparked a lot of support — including this incredible look back from our co-founder, Chelsie Markel, on her blog, It’s a Brew Life — and questions.

As one of the team’s co-founders and often the face of the event, I’d like to share some answers.

Harrisburg Beer Week Co-founders: Tierney Pomone, Chelsie Markel, Sara Bozich, Jimi Werner, Collen Nguyen

Is Harrisburg Beer Week like, really canceled?


Was Harrisburg Beer Week canceled because of the pandemic/Covid-19?

It’s impossible to plan for an event of this magnitude without knowing if and when we’ll be able to gather again for in-person events. Harrisburg Beer Week is run by a small handful of individual volunteers (that’s us). We have no corporate ties; we make no money from this event (literally zero dollars; we often donate our own money in addition to time and resources).

Harrisburg Beer Week involves year-round planning. Nearly from the minute the event wraps, we’re planning the next. Because we are all individual volunteers, our lives have taken us in different directions, and because of the pandemic and not, many of our commitments have shifted. Chelsie and Colleen both left this year for these reasons, both of them wiser and much better than I am at understanding their limitations and ability to give outside of familial, health, and employment commitments.

If I’m completely honest, there are moments during the planning stages when we are faced with challenges. Drama, name-calling, gossiping from the less friendly corners of the community. Momentarily we get bummed that we can’t break through this nonsense, because it is not what we ever were about. I also realize this is my fault, and I get frustrated that I’m not better at telling our story.

Battle of the Homebrewers 2019 | Harrisburg Beer Week

However, come each Harrisburg Beer Week, you — the greater Harrisburg community, sponsors, breweries, beer lovers — showed up, gave, and had a great time for a great cause. #BeerForGood. Hope restored.

It was not easy to make this decision. We hemmed and hawed, even though we knew. We knew last year, but we weren’t quite ready to let go yet.

In short, it was time.

Battle of the Homebrewers | Harrisburg Beer Week

How can we still support Harrisburg area breweries?

Buy local beer! Below I’ll provide a list of our participating breweries. Many were sponsors (meaning THEY gave back to the community). You also can search my local brewery list here. And though our local breweries don’t have their own guild, you can check out Hershey Harrisburg Visitors Bureau’s new Brew Barons Beer Trail program.

Individually, our team members remain passionate about Harrisburg and craft beer. We will continue to support them (buying, drinking, sharing), and ask that you follow along to do the same.

Breweries who participated in Harrisburg Beer Week each year not only helped elevate the local beer community but their involvement — directly or indirectly — supported our beneficiary: Harrisburg River Rescue & Emergency Services.

Derek Wolf, Wolf Brewing Co., Little Big Beer Fest 2019 | Harrisburg Beer Week

Harrisburg Beer Week Sponsor Breweries

  • Appalachian Brewing Co.
  • Big Bottom Brewery
  • Boneshire Brew Works
  • Cold Springs Inn Brewing Co.
  • Ever Grain Brewing Co.
  • Funk Brewing E-Town
  • Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
  • Lancaster Brewing Co.
  • Lydian Stone Brewing Company
  • Millworks
  • Moo-Duck Brewery
  • Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works
  • Tröegs Independent Brewing
  • Wolf Brewing Co.
  • Zeroday Brewing Co.
  • Want links? Find them here.
717 Collaboration Beer Brew Day 2019 | Harrisburg Beer Week

Wait, what about the 717 Collaboration Beer?

Our partners for the 717 Collaboration Beer — Tröegs, ABC, Zeroday, Boneshire, and The Millworks — were one of the first groups to hear our news.

Part of the reason for that was to gauge whether a continuance of this beloved and revolving #BeerForGood was of interest to the group.

The good news is that answer is yes.

The 717 Collaboration Beer is something special. We’ve had wonderful experiences working with this growing group of breweries. In the last few years, the process became more in-depth but more purposeful. The group met monthly months ahead of Beer Week to taste malts, talk about what was inspiring each of them at the time, sample test batches, and ultimately develop a recipe.

Our brew day was scheduled for St. Patrick’s Day this past spring but the pandemic, of course, thwarted those plans.

And while the team is interested in pursuing the collaboration — whether it’s this beer recipe or something new — we aren’t sure yet when that will happen.

However, once it does, we’ll be sure to share that information with you.

Harrisburg River Rescue & Emergency Services | Mini Golf Tournament | Harrisburg Beer Week

How do we support Harrisburg River Rescue & Emergency Services and why do they need help?

When we concocted this idea of a week-plus celebrating Harrisburg’s craft beer industry, we knew we wanted to give back to the community as well.

Fortunately, so many of our peers felt the same way.

We felt strongly that the beneficiary we choose be a good partner for us. We sought a group that was truly local, providing a needed service, and that, well, wouldn’t mind being affiliated with beer.

We’ve told this story a lot over the years, but when we first met up with Tony Reigle, now Chief, Harrisburg River Rescue & Emergency Services, at The Sturges Speakeasy in 2014, he a) was shocked that we wanted to just “give” them money (much of his team was actually quite skeptical in year 1), and b) told us about the organization’s base issue: They didn’t have a permanent home.

No — when Tropical Storm Lee wrecked our rivers in 2011, the first thing his team did was move out their equipment. They knew their building would go — and it did.

Meanwhile, Harrisburg River Rescue is a 100% volunteer, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that doesn’t receive consistent funding from the city, county, or state.

And they do way more than just rescue wayward river-goers. They offer a variety of free educational classes for the community, and they assist other local emergency responders.

Mini Golf Tournament | Harrisburg Beer Week

What can you do to help Harrisburg River Rescue?

Harrisburg River Rescue & Emergency Services typically hosts several of its own fundraising events throughout the year. Follow them on Facebook to get updates on those.

Harrisburg River Rescue Year-Round Fundraising Drive

Harrisburg River Rescue Events

Sara Bozich
Author: Sara Bozich

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