The gang behind Harrisburg Beer Week could be a group of friends from a sitcom. The five of them – consisting of Sara Bozich, Tierney Pomone, Colleen Nguyen, Jimmy Werner and Chelsie Markel – are constantly chatting and laughing about inside jokes, and their text inboxes consist largely of each other.
But if you listen closely to their banter, most, if not all, of it is based on work.
Work being everything that is Harrisburg Beer Week, which is April 22-30 this year, and benefits Harrisburg River Rescue.
Since May of 2014, the gaggle of locals ranging from their 20s into their early 40s has been Beer Week-focused while also working full-time jobs.
We met with the crew at Abbey Bar in Harrisburg.
Blayne Waterloo: What does everyone do, both for Harrisburg Beer Week and outside of it?
Sara Bozich: I run SaraBozich.com – that’s my full-time job. I also work for a video production company, GK Visual. For Harrisburg Beer Week, I do mostly sponsorship, public relations and marketing, and some of the events. I’m sure lots of other things I forgot [laughs].
Tierney Pomone: I am Stouts and Stilettos, along with the two other ones, but we’ll get to them. [For Harrisburg Beer Week] I am the event liaison and the tweeter. Colleen and I split the social media, and I do Twitter.
Jimmy Werner: I also work for SaraBozich.com, and I work for the City Islanders as well, and Troegs. For Harrisburg Beer Week, I do a lot of the grunt work; picking up stuff, running errands, dropping off everything. I also do the email blasts, social media, some PR, stuff like that. I do a lot of little different things.
Colleen Nguyen: I write for Tierney at Stouts and Stilettos, and [for Harrisburg Beer Week] I manage the Instagram, Facebook. And I have two babies, so that’s what I do [laughs].
Chelsie Markel: I’m a contributor to Stouts and Stilettos, and at Harrisburg Beer Week, I work on building relationships. So, brewery liaison; digital marketing.
BW: Are you all from Harrisburg?
SB: Ish. We all consider Harrisburg as an area. So we’re all from the area, yes.
CN: I’m from Steelton, so this downtown area – Cameron Street, all over here – these are my stomping grounds.
TP: I guess you and I are the only ones from “Harrisburg” … I’m the only one who lives in the city of Harrisburg.
BW: Did you all know each other outside of Beer Week?
SB: I’d never known Chelsie, but I’d worked with Tierney for a long time. Jimmy’s been working for me for over a year and a half now. Colleen I knew probably not as well before. We used to do tweet-ups here, actually.
TP: So this [Abbey Bar] is how we know each other.
BW: Why did you want to bring us to Abbey Bar?
SB: Appalachian Brewing Company is our presenting sponsor, they were last year as well. So we host the Kick-Off party here on Friday [April 22], and then we close with the Little Big Beer Fest on Saturday [April 30].
BW: How long did it take to coordinate all this – the first time?
CN: It never stops, really. I mean, we took one month off as a break this summer –
SB: Because we were like, “Can we just not talk about it at all?”
CN: – Yeah, Sara specifically said, “Do not message me in July, period.”
TP: Last year, when we set out to do this in early May, 2014, we were like, “Oh, we can get this together for this fall. It’ll be perfect.” And then, like, a month into it, we were like, “Uh, no, that’s not going to work out.” So we pushed it into spring of 2015, and we worked on it – even in May , even after Beer Week was over, we were still tying up loose ends and making sure we got donations, got everything rounded up. And then we eased back into it slowly, because it is a big endeavor, and for all of us, it’s not what we do full time. We all have our own projects, our own day jobs, Colleen has the twins. So, we eased into it, because it does take almost a full year to pull it all together.
BW: What’s the biggest time suck of it all?
CM: Documentation –
CN: – Paperwork.
SB: Yeah, I was talking to somebody the other day, they were like, “What are you doing?” And I was like, “Spreadsheets.”
CN: Waiting around for other people. Waiting is definitely a big one.
TP: Organizing the event guide. [Looks to Nguyen and Markel] this year you guys were on it. Last year, I feel like it took us months to get that together.
SB: Chelsie’s Type A, and the rest of us are not. She keeps us on task. Google Drive and Facebook groups are how we function. Chelsie has created incredible spreadsheets and documents.
CM: There are just so many things to remember, because we do it year round, that when it comes time to actually work on a specific thing, we all just sit around and go, “OK, what did we decide back in September when we talked about it?”
SB: We have a folder called “For next year.” But I was meeting with sponsors this year – because this year we made a sponsorship worksheet – and they were like, “Oh, you guys are so professional and organized.” And I’m just like, “That’s Chelsie.”
TP: If it wasn’t for Chelsie, I don’t know that this would get off the ground.
BW: How long did it take to have a brand to present to people?
CM: I’ll take this one. So, we also have another graphic designer [in addition to Asheleigh Forsburg] who helps us out – Lauren McPherson. She participated in our logo contest last year. We were like, “OK, we need to create a brand, we need a logo.” We gave them some basic information about what we were looking for, and she ended up designing something, and won. It was just simple black, with white lettering, nothing super fancy. It was just very stark, and you could put it on everything.
TP: It was very on-image. It was exactly what we were looking for. Without even telling her.
CM: But I feel like, from there, we’ve kind of just built the brand, which was just very bold, we had fun imagery, we had fun typography, and she really just pulled that together.
Coaster swag coming to a bar near you! #HBGBeerWeek #DrinkLocal A photo posted by Harrisburg Beer Week (@hbgbeerweek) on
BW: Jimmy, we haven’t heard from you in a while. How did you stumble upon this position with Sara?
JW: Last year in September, I was working in a bank and I hated it. And I went to school for journalism, I haven’t even been out of school more than two years now, and I really didn’t want to be a banker. So, I met with [Sara] and we started out slowly, and it just snowballed.
SB: How I manage to do my full-time jobs and Beer Week – I throw a lot on Jimmy, and he’s been amazing. He’s willing to pick up anything we ask him to do.
BW: Well, the dynamic between you two is funny, because it’s almost like you’re a couple.
SB: [Laughs] That’s so funny, because I was talking with another co-worker the other day, and he was like, “I love how the other man in your life is Jimmy.” Sometimes, late at night, we’ll be texting.
BW: [To Bozich] And what’s it like working out of your living room?
SB: We meet – typically it’s every week, but right now, it’s every other week. I have a big screen and we have Chromecast, so we can throw our to-do list up there. Sometimes we’ll get beer, sometimes we’ll get pizza, or more people will come over. It’s usually very productive. If we’re in a hurry, if we’re like, “OK, we need to get out of here,” we can do a meeting in an hour and 15 minutes.
TP: And I always think it’s kind of fun. But maybe that’s because I don’t get out of the house that often.
JW: But we always find time to catch up, and that’s a big deal, because we’re all pretty good friends.
CN: Somebody was like, “How’d you get involved with Beer Week?” And I was like, “I don’t know my friends and I just did it.” [Laughs]
BW: So, is craft beer like your nerd lingo? You’re like, “Oh, yeah, triple IPA.” Most people are like, “What?”
SB: I’m not used to most people, I think I’ve been around beer people too much! Because “triple IPA” didn’t sound crazy when I said it, like quad-IPA.
CM: Quad-IPA, what? That’d be like 30 percent.
TP: It is a language that we all speak. I do know that when I’m at work talking to my coworkers that it’s [over their heads].
JW: “You paid what for that beer? It wasn’t $3, and didn’t come in a pitcher?”
We’re getting lots of help from @alsofhampden today too! We can’t wait to taste what these homebrewers make! #DrinkLocal #homebrew #HBGBeerWeek A photo posted by Harrisburg Beer Week (@hbgbeerweek) on
BW: OK, so here’s the biggest question of all: what’s the reason for Harrisburg Beer Week?
TP: I think our biggest reason was to show people that Harrisburg wasn’t just penny drinks and a Mardi Gras, dance club atmosphere. We wanted to show that Harrisburg is smart and loves cultured things. In craft beer, there is culture.
SB: And we have such a growing community. I mean, between last year and now, there are so many breweries that have opened, or breweries that we know are in the works to soon be opened and will open later this year. But then, giving back to the community, and choosing a beneficiary was also very important. Because we also thought it would be silly to just collect a bunch of money to throw a fun party, and it also doesn’t say what our community is about. I think our community truly loves to be involved together and to give back, too.
JW: I think it wasn’t forced at all, either. We never had to force this on the community, or the breweries themselves. Everyone’s been more than willing to come out and support the cause.
CM: Just to piggy-back off what Sara was saying – it does go way beyond beer. It’s not just about drinking, it is about the community. And I think we’ve all met a lot of really cool people while doing this and at Beer Week.
CN: And I think it’s cool that, I feel like we’re part of fostering relationships between not just between different breweries, but different businesses. And that would’ve never happened without Beer Week.
Find the perfect Harrisburg Beer Week event here.