"Pitch-A-Friend" night at Punch Buggy Brewing (Nick Kariuki/WHYY)

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Have a single friend you’re dying to play matchmaker for? Are you an awesome wingperson when out on the town? Just love talking about how great your buddies are?

Any of those things make you a good fit for “Pitch-A-Friend,” a new monthly event at Punch Buggy Brewing in Kensington. 

With an appropriate tagline — “Are you single and sick of swiping?” — the Shark Tank-style pitch series offers an escape from dating apps by inviting attendees to pump up their pals in person. 

After you reserve your spot ahead of time, the rules are simple:

  1. No roasting — only present positive things about your friend
  2. No nude pictures
  3. Get creative! Pitches can take any form as long as they’re under 3 minutes (most people use a powerpoint)

“It’s nice to go out and do something like this, to change up your environment, change up your norm, and, you know, do something that’s cool,” said Nisha Doshi, who was pitched on a recent Thursday evening by friend Keerthi Channarasappa.

“I thought she captured me very well,” Doshi said. “I think she made me sound funnier than I actually am and better than I actually am, which is very sweet.”

Doshi and Channarasappa are both part of a social group for South Asian Americans, and they brought several other members along for the ride. “We’re really just focused on connecting with our community and getting out and putting yourself out there,” Doshi said.

Some pitchees are probably lowkey hopeful they’ll get a date out of the night, but event organizer Melissa Schipke said pairing up isn’t the only goal. It’s mostly about friends having the chance to show each other off. 

“I really think it’s all about the way the presenter really communicates about the person,” Schipke said. “If you were to look at the presentation flat, like if you were looking at a dating profile, it’d be totally different the way it’s presented by the friend.”

“Pitch-A-Friend” night at Punch Buggy Brewing (Nick Kariuki/WHYY)

Schipke, who works in Philly as a tech CEO, conceived the idea last year with friend Ariana Brogan after seeing a TikTok video of a similar event in Seattle. 

Both are regulars at Punch Buggy. They’re hopeful the new event series will get more people through the doors, and expand the onsite dating pool.

The nanobrewery opened in 2019 at 1445 N. American St, a space that may or may not have previously been a porn studio. It’s expanding next month with a second location in South Philly that’ll offer axe-throwing. The original already hosts more standard events like Quizzo, comedy, and board game nights, said co-owner Rob Clark. He liked “Pitch-A-Friend” because it sounded unique — and useful.

“Some people, that’s the reason that they go out to the bar, to find somebody that they can have a connection with,” Clark said, “whether it be friendship, relationship, or something else.”

Punch Buggy already draws a jovial crowd of mostly people who live in the area, Schipke and Brogan said. 

“A lot of us are creative people and also we have a good mix of single people. And so it’s like, how do we help bring in new people that people can meet in a safe environment where you feel safe and it’s low pressure?” Schipke said.

“You’re an expert on the topic when it’s someone you know,” she added. “That makes it so easy.”

“Pitch-A-Friend” night at Punch Buggy Brewing (Nick Kariuki/WHYY)

Making the pitch

We decided to put the claim of “easy, unique, and fun” to the test. 

About a week before Valentine’s Day, single friends Sammy Caiola (WHYY’s gun violence prevention reporter and occasional Billy Penn dating essayist) and Nick Kariuki (WHYY digital producer with a fairly regular BP sports byline), set out to drink craft beer and pitch each other to a room full of hopefuls.

The night started with a free token for a house-brewed beer — Kariuki went for the “Stout Flavored Stout,” while Caiola grabbed a “Patchwork IPA” — before announcers called up the first presenter. 

This was the fifth-ever Pitch-A-Friend, and presentation styles varied widely. 

The tasting room projector screen showed everything from scrapbook-style overviews of an eligible friend’s hobbies, careers, and winning assets to deep dives on someone’s interests and dating styles.

A slide from a deck at”Pitch-A-Friend” night at Punch Buggy Brewing (Nick Kariuki/WHYY)

One presenter went so far as to conjure a fake survey of how other women reviewed her friend, and created a detailed pie chart.

Kariuki and Caiola went third and fourth, respectively. Here’s how it went.

Ready to try it? Pitch-A-Friend events are scheduled on the following dates: 

  • Thursday, March 9
  • Friday, April 14
  • Thursday, May 11
  • Thursday, June 8
  • Thursday, July 13

On Feb. 14 proper, Punch Buggy hosts an “Anti-Valentine’s Party” featuring sour beers and a dessert pairing. 

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Sammy Caiola

she covers. She has been a health reporter for the last eight years, first at The Sacramento Bee and then at Capital Public Radio. Her podcast,