On bad days, Sadie Terrick feels like she is “breathing through a straw.”
“It’s scary. It makes it very difficult to breathe (and) it happens fairly often,” says Terrick, 13, of Indiana Township. “There’s such a small airway. I’ll have a bad day probably every month. And I’ll get really sick every two months.”
Terrick has Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disorder that causes breathing difficulties, lung infections, pancreas problems and other serious symptoms.
And she is the inspiration behind Brewing Up a Cure, an annual homebrew festival now in its 11th year started by members of Three Rivers Underground Brewers, or TRUB. Sadie’s dad, Shane Terrick, is a member of the group that has raised more than $250,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
“We just wanted to put something together where we could share our beers with people, and then we decided, ‘Well, if we’re going to do this, let’s do it for charity,’” Shane says of the first Brewing Up a Cure. “Then someone said: ‘Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Let’s do it for Sadie.’
“It blew me away. These guys were willing to put in all this effort and time and their money to help my daughter and my family and everyone else with CF. It was amazing.”
‘So Many Beer Festivals’
They chose to hold the event in October because 11 years ago there were no craft beer or homebrew events going on in the city come autumn.
These days? Not so much.
“I mean, there’s a beer festival now every weekend, at a minimum, or there’s a new brewery opening,” Shane says. “It’s getting harder (to stand out). That’s why we’re really pushing the charity side of it.”
The first year, in 2007, Brewing Up a Cure drew 150 people to a church in Highland Park.
“We were selling tickets outside the church,” recalls TRUB member Shane Walters. “Like scalpers.”
Year by year, it grew and changed venues — from the church to Mr. Smalls Funhouse in Millvale (where 350 people showed up) to the Pittsburgh Athletic Association in Oakland (450 to 550 people), and eventually to the PPG Wintergarden Downtown, its permanent home.
In 2014 and 2015, Brewing Up a Cure drew 600 to 650 homebrew fans.
But last year, sales dipped to about 400.
The Shanes blame the fall off on the now ubiquitous nature of beer-related events in the city.
“Soooo many beer festivals,” Terrick says.
So they’re adjusting. This year, TRUB scaled back on size and expectations and printed up just 350 tickets – enough to still turn a healthy profit to donate to the CF Foundation, but not so much that they’ll be stuck with hundreds of unused tasting glasses like they were last year.
They’re also exploring new ways of marketing, including Facebook ads, like this video introducing beer drinkers to Sadie and reminding them what Brewing Up a Cure is really about:
“The money we raise at this event goes to CF research to help find a cure so I can live a long and healthy life, like everyone else,” Sadie says in the video.
‘Crazy, Experimental Stuff’
Brewing Up a Cure is Oct. 21. Tickets cost $50 for general admission or $60 for the VIP session, which gives you an extra hour to sample the beers and talk to brewers.
And there will be many beers to sample: 60 to 80 homebrewers will attend, the organizers say, all of them eager to share and discuss their unique creations.
“A lot of crazy, experimental stuff,” Shane Terrick says. That means light lagers, thick barley wines and everything in between. Maybe even a jalapeno beer (which is a favorite here at Four One Brew).
In addition, local craft breweries are getting into the act with collaboration beers. Hop Farm and Roundabout, both in Lawrenceville, and Leaning Cask in Springdale are all brewing special beers just for this event.
General admission ticket holders get all the beer they care to sample from 7 — 10 p.m. The VIP crowd can enter at 6 p.m., when brewers will offer special selections that will not be available when the doors open for everyone else.
“It’s less crowded for the VIPs, so you get more one-on-one time with the brewers,” Shane Terrick says. Food and non-beer beverages, including cider, mead and non-alcoholic drinks, are also available.
The 150 VIP passes are almost sold out, they said. Sales of the 200 general admission tickets are still lagging.
The Real Reason to Attend
Why go? In a crowded field of craft- and home-brewers vying for your attention nearly every weekend, why choose this event over others?
Because Sadie. That’s why.
This is a girl who starts and finishes each day by putting on a tight vest connected to a machine that pumps in air to create extreme pressure on her torso. The pressure, combined with vibrations, rattles her lungs and breaks up mucus deposits that make breathing so difficult.
“It’s like when someone taps really hard on your back, but constantly and all around,” she says. “That’s how it feels.”
Each vest treatment lasts 30 minutes. She also has to visit the school nurse every day before lunch to take a large bag of pills.
She never complains, her dad says. Perhaps because it’s all she’s ever known.
The regular hospital visits separating her from her friends and school work, the checkups every two months, the bad days when it feels like the only oxygen making its way into her lungs comes through a straw … That’s the only life Sadie has ever lived.
She does her best to be a regular kid. She’s speaks honestly and eloquently about her CF. She has lots of friends. She’s on the volleyball team at Dorseyville Middle School in the Fox Chapel Area School District, and she gets straight-As in the classroom.
“She’s a normal, sassy 13-year-old kid talking back all the time,” Shane Terrick says with a smile. “And she thinks this [Brewing Up a Cure] is pretty cool.”
That she does:
“It’s a really good feeling to know that people want to help you and that people may not understand what’s going on but they are willing to help you out the best way they can,” Sadie says. “Even if you don’t understand what someone with CF is going through, you have to understand that no matter what, even if you just buy a ticket, everything is going to help and even the smallest donation can make the biggest difference.”
Over the last decade, homebrew festival Brewing Up A Cure has raised $250,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. You can sample local homebrews, chat with brewers and help an important cause. Tickets include beer samples and food.
Where: PPG Wintergarden at PPG Place (Downtown)
When: October 21, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
How much: $50