Barrel & Flow, the “best beer festival in America,” celebrates Black brews – and Black artists
Barrel & Flow Fest, recently named the best beer festival in America by USA Today readers, is internationally known for its celebration of Black-owned breweries. But even if you don't drink alcohol, there's still plenty to celebrate. Namely, the amazing Black artists helping to also make Barrel & Flow one of the best arts fests around.
And Barrel & Flow doesn’t just celebrate Black artists and entrepreneurs. It includes them in all aspects of the festival from the organizers to the performers to the artists behind the festival’s beer labels. The event also features an Art Enthusiast ticket option, giving sober art fans the opportunity to enjoy the artwork – without the tasting glass – at a discounted rate.
"America loves Black art, but hates paying or accrediting Black artists,” says Day Bracey, co-host of the award-winning Drinking Partners Podcast and co-founder of Barrel & Flow. “This festival showcases the benefit to both art and industry, by facilitating partnerships of mutual respect and adequate compensation."
This year’s event, held from 12-9 p.m. on Sat., Aug. 12 at The Stacks at 3 Crossings in the Strip District, features a wide range of paid Black performers and artists. Music fans can listen to sets from hip-hop artists Mars Jackson and Kuf Knotz & Christine Elise, R&B artists Kenny Stockard and A’leighsha, gospel and blues artists N3ptune & Rusty Steve, jazz artists Lee Robinson & ISKA, and multidisciplinary artist Anqwenique, as well as spins from DJs Arie Cole, DJ Femi, DJ Shay, and dagm.
There will also be live art demonstrations throughout the event from Corey Ochai, Juliandra Jones, Onyx Green, Patrick Everett, Alero Warcloud, Sasha Igwe, Cara Torcasi, and Malcolm Xavier.
But perhaps the most exciting celebration of Black art happens in the over 50 collaborations between breweries and artists and entrepreneurs, creating cans of brews that, as Barrel & Flow boasts, each feature the artwork of “a PAID & ACCREDITED Black artist.”
And the artwork? It’s killer.
Pittsburgh artist Cue Perry’s label design, on the other hand, takes a more serious approach to the artwork, which features a local historic Black figure. “Mayor Ajax,” a collaboration between Pittsburgh’s Strange Roots and Atlanta’s Black-owned Khonso Brewing Company, is named after Charles “Ajax” Jones, who the label credits as “PGH 1st Black Mayor.” According to NEXT Pittsburgh, Ajax was “a Black City of Pittsburgh employee who served as interim mayor for three days in 1901, making Mayor Ed Gainey only the first elected Black mayor of Pittsburgh, technically.”
Perry says that after learning about Ajax Jones from Khonso Brewing, he was excited to merge various aspects of Pittsburgh’s history into an image. He used old printed photos, “kind of like how Warhol used screen prints,” and says he worked with his close friend, digital artist Raymont Youngblood, on the concept. Together, they printed three photos of Ajax on the top of the label and three on the bottom, representing the year the Pittsburgh Steelers were founded in 1933. (“I’m a huge Steelers fan.”) An additional local touch? He incorporated a triangle silhouette into the design to represent Point State Park. “Innovation, creativity, and history is what this label is about,” he adds. “When I think about Pittsburgh, those are the things that come to mind.”
Among the many other notable designs which will be featured at the fest include a label showcasing stunning portraits of the musicians from local band Nash.vill by local artist Marlon Gist, as featured on a collaboration between the band and Fermata; “I am Root,” a fun vegetable-themed parody of Guardian of the Galaxy’s popular character for a collab between Two Frays Brewing and illustrator Patrick Everett, owner of More Graphics and co-owner of Level Up Pittsburgh; and an island-themed design, featuring a sharp-dressed dancer with a pineapple for a head, created by Pittsburgh artist-owned brand Social Living for Windy Bridges Brew and Hershey’s Tröegs Independent Brewing.
See them, and many more, this Saturday. But hurry! With a fest this popular, there’s always a chance tickets will sell out.
Barrel & Flow 2023. 12-9 p.m. Sat., Aug. 12. The Stacks at 3 Crossings, 2875 Railroad St., Strip District. barrelandflow.com