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How one Pa. man is championing Black beer culture

Plus, a winning whoopie pie recipe.

February 18, 2022
Inside this week's (inaugural!) edition: trivia town, Pittsburgh's renaissance man, things to do, literal rock music, whoopie fusion, and more. If you like what you read today, make a gift to help us keep the good times rolling.
Think you know Pennsylvania? Let's find out: Pennsylvania has thousands of boroughs, townships, and cities but only one "town." What is it? 

(We'll have a real stumper in this space each week. You'll find the answer at the bottom, but don't miss all the good stuff in between.) 
Beer-scene booster Day Bracey is pictured. (Courtesy of the Barrel & Flow Fest)

Day Bracey is a craft beer connoisseur, but he’s also a comedian, a podcaster, an entrepreneur, a writer, a TV host, and a founder of the nation’s first Black beer festival (twice over).

Bracey is arguably the renaissance man that Pittsburgh’s food-and-drink renaissance needed, a devoted chronicler of the city’s rise from a comfort-food comfort zone to a cutting-edge culinary outpost — all with an eye on the inequality that explains so much of the city’s past and present. 

We talked to Bracey from his home in Beaver County about this year’s Barrel & Flow Fest (tickets go on sale March 1), Pennsylvania’s beer bonafides, upward mobility via fermentation, and more.

The conversation was edited for clarity and length. 

PA Local: Barrel & Flow Fest is a showcase of Black arts and Black beer culture. Why is this so novel, by which I mean, why hasn’t the craft beer boom been more diverse? 

Bracey: Economically (people of color) are shut out. It’s harder to get loans. It’s harder to discover craft beer because it’s not sold on the shelves in your stores. Nothing about the marketing says anything to you. 

PA Local: But you think craft beer presents a unique opportunity. Can you explain? 

Bracey: I see it as an opportunity for Black people to get in and learn, and the learning curve and cost of entry is lower than other industries. 

If Black people can get into the booze industry, they can make footholds in other industries and grow them from there. 

PA Local: What’s your advice for people who want to get into homebrewing or, alternatively, beer-making on a commercial scale? 

Bracey: Contact your nearest brewers guild for business advice and resources. 

If you’re just trying to figure out how to brew and get started, find a homebrew club. That’s where brewers come from. They share knowledge and resources. They know where all the good deals on supplies are.

PA Local: How does Pennsylvania’s beer scene stack up?

Bracey: I would put our beer scene up against any in the country. We’re not as densely packed as California when it comes to breweries, but few places are. 

As far as the variety of styles and the quality of liquid that goes into it … we don’t skimp.

And because the scene is still relatively small here, a lot of these brewers are still sharing ideas and space and coming together in a lot of ways. 

PA Local: What’s in your fridge right now? 

Bracey: My favorite style is stout. I’m a year-round stout drinker, and Hitchhiker, 11th Hour, Cinderlands, Tröegs — all of them are making some really good stouts.

» Know a Pennsylvanian we should feature in this space? Tell us here.

"I always say Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is my biggest influence."

— Director David Lynch of "Twin Peaks," "Mulholland Drive," and "Dune"
fame. Vice has more on Lynch's complicated Philadelphia ties here.
» Friday, Feb. 18: Check out the 10-day Lititz Fire & Ice festival for food, crafts, drinks, ice carvings, shopping ... the list goes on.

» Saturday, Feb. 19: Take a trip on Pennsylvania's "Charcuterie Trail" this Saturday or any Saturday, really. Here's the itinerary, sortable by region. 

» Sunday, Feb. 20: See the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel recreated in Philadelphia. Discounted family and group ticket bundles are available

» Thursday, Feb. 24: It's jazz night at Con Alma in Pittsburgh — one of Esquire's Best Bars in America 2021 — with the Tom Wendt Quartet.

» Friday, Feb. 25: Take a free winter bird walk (yes, that's a thing) at The Arboretum at Penn State. No registration is required. It steps off at 8 a.m.
Tell us about a Pennsylvania business that deserves a turn in the spotlight and we'll share your suggestion here.

We'll go first: Pennsylvania peaches are underrated, and for our money, no one has better Pennsylvania peaches than Dincher's Roadside, near Hughesville. We'll see you there with our rented U-Haul in August. 
Homer J. Simpson in a Pittsburgh mural by artist Jeremy M. Raymer. Thanks for sharing, @lora_explores. Send us your Pa. pics by email here, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

» One thing we learned this week: The mysterious company known for shipping anonymous packages of fake feces by mail — and which is currently under federal scrutiny — has Pennsylvania ties.

» One thing that made us laugh: Pennsylvania was outed on National Pizza Day as being the kind of place where people use corn as a topping. And while we have our doubts (big ones), we're keeping an open mind

» One thing we want to try: Besides corn pizza, we're racing to Philly to catch Blackbird Pizzeria — the iconic eatery known for vegan cheesesteaks, sandwiches, and wings — before it closes for good.

» One thing you should know: The Pennsylvania Turnpike is missing tens of millions of dollars in tolls every year. Officials say the collection rate is on par with similar systems, but new collection options are coming.

» One place to visit: Ringing Rocks Park in Upper Black Eddy, where Atlas Obscura reports the rocks ring musically when struck (like this). Exactly why they ring remains a bit of a mystery.

» COVID-19 UPDATE: Keep up with our coronavirus tracker, or find where to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

» As virus surged, few Pa. schools signed up for free COVID-19 testing

» Pa. courts discriminated against people with opioid use disorder

» Election 2022: Tell Spotlight PA what coverage matters to you

» Pa. redistricting maps: See your old and new legislative districts

» Pennsylvania’s 2022 race for governor: What we know so far

» Pennsylvania’s 2022 U.S. Senate race: What we know so far
A whoopie pie at Reading Terminal Market. (Michael Klein / Philadelphia Inquirer)
Ah, the whoopie pie — or "gob" for those of you reading this out west. The sweet sandwich is a Pennsylvania delicacy with fabled origins, songwriting credits, and its own "Sesame Street" parody.

Here's a winning recipe from this year's Farm Show for pumpkin whoopie pies with cream cheese filling: 

Cookie ingredients: 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves 
  • 2 cups light brown sugar 
  • 1 cup vegetable oil 
  • 3 cups pumpkin (puree or canned) 
  • 2 egg yolks 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Baking instructions: 
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, and cloves, and set aside. 
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar and oil together. Add the pumpkin and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until combined. 
  • Gradually add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined. 
  • Use a large cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. 
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
  • Remove from the over and let cool on a wire rack. 
Filling ingredients:
  • 3 cups powdered sugar 
  • 8 ounces cream cheese 
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
Filling instructions:
  • Beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about three minutes.
  • Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth and combined.
  • Add the powdered sugar a little at a time and beat until smooth. 
  • Pipe or spoon the filling onto the flat side of cookie and top with another cookie. 
  • Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges. 
Notes: The recipe doesn't say how many pies this makes, so it'll have to be a surprise. Take a pic when yours are done and send it to us by replying to this email or tagging @spotlightpennsylvania on Instagram.

» Have a recipe you want us to feature? Send it to us.

Bloomsburg is Pennsylvania's only incorporated town. WHYY explains that means slight variations in how it's governed and, naturally, bragging rights for the town's roughly 14,000 residents.

Thanks for reading PA Local! We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? What do you want to see more of? Or, tell us your secret recipes!
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