Construction Junction is one of our favorite re-use centers in Pittsburgh, and every year the facility puts on a fundraiser in the form of a beer festival known as the CJ Steel City Big Pour.
We've been wanting to attend this one for a while, but the relatively expensive ticket prices had kept us away for a while (it is still a fundraiser, after all). But while it took us a bit longer than we would've liked to finally attend this one, we made it happen and attended the afternoon session of Big Pour #13.
Armed with our glasses, our necklace cupholders, and a thirst, we hit the festival to see what it is all about.
Approximately 50 Breweries at the CJ Big Pour
Before attending Big Pour, we weren't really sure how a beer festival would work at Construction Junction. It is a big facility, but it is not that big that we thought it would work as an event space. Considering most of the public side of the facility is full of products, we thought the brewery list would be fairly small.
We were wrong.
As it turns out, the processing side of the facility (that is traditionally employees only) is opened up for this event and is a massive warehouse that is just as large, if not larger, than what you see when visiting on a shopping trip. This entire section of the facility housed about 50 breweries by our estimates plus others that overflowed into the parking lot and other outdoor spaces.
By my estimates I'd say about 2/3 of the breweries were local to Pennsylvania, with the remaining being from surrounding states like Ohio or New York (plus a few from further away).
Normally with beer festivals we like to highlight some of the beers that we tried and loved, and, while we could go on a tangent about how the Burn Your Suit from Eleventh Hour is one of the best barrel-aged beers we've ever had, I want to take a different angle with this one. What I really enjoyed from our Big Pour experience was that they featured a lot of breweries that haven't even opened yet!
Breweries like Sobel's, Hulton Liquid Works, and Altered Genius had tables and were sampling some of their brews even though their formal taprooms are not open yet, which was quite nice to get a sneak preview of what is to come. Likewise, the Three Rivers Alliance of Serious Homebrewers (TRASH) also participated as well with some of our favorite creations of the entire event.
While it is impossible to guarantee that this kind of preview is available every year at Big Pour, we have to say it was a highlight during our visit all the same.
Don't Forget the Food at Big Pour
One of the things that makes Big Pour standout amongst other beer festivals in Pittsburgh is that many local restaurants and food vendors participate as well. While this is not that unique on its own right, what makes this one different is that the food samples are free.
During our festival visit in 2019 food vendors like Burgatory, Cinderlands, Point Brugge (plus Park Bruges), Azorean Cafe, and so many more joined in on the fun- each giving out free bites for those who wanted to get a snack. Some were small, like Point Brugge who offered samples of Belgian frites and fried waffles while others were larger like Cinderlands offering a modestly sized burger.
Suffice it to say, you should probably plan to go to this one hungry if the food vendors return in future years.
While the food choices are plentiful, it is also worth noting that many of the food vendors did run out during the course of the session. Others made it closer to the end of the session, but several still ran out with some time left to go. So if food is on your agenda during the beer festival (as it should be), you would be wise to tackle them early on.
Overall, CJ Big Pour is quite the fun beer festival. While there is no major theme other than being a fundraiser for one of our favorite re-use centers, it ends up being quite a great party all the same. Beer, food, and supporting a good cause- what more can you ask for?
CJ Big Pour takes place at Construction Junction each September. Tickets historically sell out fairly quickly so get yours early. When visiting, be sure to download the Big Pour app to get a sneak preview of all of the beers available and to vote for your favorites!
Looking for more beer festivals in Pittsburgh? Click the previous link to find more of our favorites!