Ale Fest

Ale FestAle Fest

Celebrating Craft beer 12th Annual Dayton Alefest Returns To Carillon Park

By Kyle melton

AleFest 2009 Participants Raise Their Glasses

Changes in cultural attitudes take root over the course of years, often decades. When the shift seeks to debase monolithic corporate institutions, the challenge is often met with firm resistance. As a man on a mission to educate beer lovers in the Miami Valley about his passion for craft beer in all its myriad forms, Joe Waizmann seeks to present an event that provides education on the culture of craft beer in a relaxed atmostphere. Now in its 12th year, Dayton AleFest returns to Carillon Park Saturday, August 28.

As local historian Curt Dalton documents in his book Breweries of Dayton: A Toast to Brewers from the Gem City: 1810-1961, Dayton’s thirst for beer was satisfied with numerous breweries large and small found throughout the city. Like many cities throughout the United States, the passage of the 18th Amendment (a.k.a. prohibition) brought an end to one of the nation’s most prolific industries. While the amendment was eventually repealed, the damage done to the breweries of Dayton was insurmountable. Although a handful of breweries opened shop after prohibition, Olt and Miami Valley Brewing Company among them, by 1950, no beer was produced in Dayton.

As the big American breweries of Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors domi-
nated the market, some entrepreneurial beer enthusiasts took up the torch of the American brewing legacy and started the craft brewing movement. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, several small beers entered the market and found a niche for their product. By the 1990s, the craft beer market hit a stride, with over 1,100 craft breweries in operation by the end of the decade. As American tastes shifted toward hand-crafted, small batch beers, events such as AleFest emerged to
further spread the word about craft beer culture. Initiated by Waizmann, a former wine and beer distributor, Dayton AleFest was originally held at Polen Farm in
Kettering. It later moved downtown to Second Street between St. Clair and Jefferson, then to the outside apron of Fifth Third Field, and finally its current location at Carillon Park. While the event has witnessed tremendous growth over the past decade, AleFest began, like most things, rather humbly.

“It’s grown from year one (hosting) about 175 attendees to this year we’re anticipating between 4,000 and 4,500,” Waizmann said. “We started with approximately seven or eight advance promotional outlets that put up posters and brochures and sold advance tickets, and today there are over 50 in and around the Dayton area. Likewise, the number of breweries was something on the order of 20 breweries and 60 beers. This year, we’ll have over 100 breweries and over 300 beers
to choose from. Quite an evolution in a short period of time.”

Although events such as those presented by Waizmann and others in and around Dayton throughout the year serve as high-profile affairs that cater to craft beer enthusiasts, the presence of so many establishments throughout the region works on a daily basis to present additional beer options to their customers.

“I think what strikes me are the number of staff, not only at retail, but also at better taverns and restaurants, who are themselves educated and enthusiastic about the category,” Waizmann observed. “That eliminates a lot of the guesswork for the consumer and the intimidation factor. The availability is widespread, not just in the number of locations, but by location the varying number of bottle, draft, and craft beers that are available. It’s all about experimentation, and
everybody’s doing it.”

For Waizmann, Dayton’s AleFest serves as his flagship event. Over the course of his involvement with this event, he has continued to expand his dedication to sharing his passion for craft beer into other events in other cities throughout the Midwest. While creating AleFest events in Chicago and Columbus, his connection to Dayton is strong and supported by the variety of events he hosts here throughout the year. In addition to AleFest, he organized AleFeast, held in February and featuring beer and food pairings, as well as Cask AleFest, which examines craft beer served in traditional casks and served at room temperatures. In all these settings, Waizmann seeks to provide opportunities for both novices and more experienced beer lovers to explore the wide range of beers that are currently available. In an attempt to further heighten the local buzz surrounding craft beer, he teamed up with local restaurants, taverns and distributors to introduce the first Dayton Beer Week, which began Sunday, August 22 and continues through AleFest on Saturday, August 28.

“Dayton Beer Week kinda came about from some folks at Heidelberg Distrib-uting, but it also was inspired by the growth of the category and there’d been talk for three or four years about doing something leading up to it,” he explained. “Consumers for that entire week should find anything and everything under the sun. I think there’s no doubt that (Dayton Beer Week) will result in an increased awareness of the category. The typical craft beer consumer is neither brand, nor style, loyal. We love to experiment. Here we’ve laid out an entire week’s menu of all these cool craft beer events from which to choose. Of course AleFest itself is continually evolving with all these great beers and features and fun. I think it just creates a focused buzz for an entire week with respect to a category which is kinda on fire and has everyone’s curiosity piqued.”

Throughout Dayton Beer Week, notable establishments throughout the Miami Valley such as
Thai 9, South Park Tavern, Chappy’s, Spinoza’s, Leaf & Vine and The Pub at The Greene will be partnering with such notable breweries as Stone, Dogfish Head, Brooklyn Brewery and Founder’s to host a variety of beer tastings and pairings throughout the week.

“There are beer dinners to in-store tastings to special keg tappings, casks, or firkins, there are things happening all over the city the entire week,” Waizmann said. “I think it’s going to reach a critical mass. I think that enthusiastic momentum is going to spill directly over into AleFest. Sunday is probably gonna be a day of rest for most folks. Ultimately, the objective is to expose more people to the wonders and the excitement of craft beer as a category. I think between Dayton Beer Week and AleFest in tandem. I think we’re going to establish an entirely new understanding and appreciation and base for craft beer.”

While this year will witness a full week’s prelude to the main event that is  AleFest, the grounds at Carillon Park will certainly experience a deluge of beer enthusiasts onto the lawn to partake in perhaps the largest beer festival offering in the entire state. Not only are consumers excited about the event, but breweries also get excited about Dayton AleFest.

“This is one of my favorite events to work and attend,” said Lisa Farmer, representative of Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland. “Many events are less about the beer and more about consuming as much as you can. I’ve found that the people that attend this event are pretty educated and fun to talk to. (Dayton) is the only city that is hosting (a beer festival) that doesn’t have a brewery in it. Great national exposure. I think the people outside the Miami Valley would be amazed at the craft scene here.”

“AleFest is a who’s who,” Waizmann explained. “Out of a hundred breweries, there are selectively the top craft breweries that are available in and around the Dayton market. You’d be hard-pressed to find a significant craft brewery that’s not represented. It’s a pretty good cross-section.”

In addition to the roll call of prominent breweries throughout the world and the introduction of a small selection of cask ales to this year’s event for the first time, Waizmann seeks to make this event for beer lovers at every level, keeping the emphasis on a relaxed environment fueled by education and exploration.

“A lot of these people are out and about and seeing the availability of more and more craft beer, I think we’re all curious by nature,” he suggested. “They see an event such as one of the ones that I do, they say, ‘Hey, here’s an opportunity, without being intimidated, and in a fun, friendly environment where we know we’re gonna have some knowledgeable people advising us and answering some questions; we can see what this whole thing is all about.’ Maybe they know a fair amount about food and/or wine, some very directly related categories, but this whole craft beer thing is still a little bit of an unknown territory. Why not check it out, especially under those conditions? The fun for me is to keep it fun, friendly (and) educational in a laidback way (while) always looking for ways to enhance the event. (It’s) not just for the uninitiated, but also for the beergeeks and the hopheads, thus the evolution this year of the availability of cask ales.”

As beer enthusiasts throughout the Miami Valley flock to events throughout the first Dayton Beer Week and, ultimately, to Carillon Park for the AleFest, Waizmann and all of his collaborators in this event espouse an enthusiasm for craft beer that is undeniably contagious. As word of mouth continues to spread about the culture of craft beer in the Dayton area, Waizmann is hopeful about the future of the category in the city.

“It’s a hallmark of the entire category of craft beer: it’s all about enthusiastic sharing,” he said. “In respect to growth in five years, I think that these are a couple of events that have helped create an atmosphere for better beer. There are other events that also do the same. I think that, as a whole, these events and these establishments are also creating and paving the way for more events and growth. I think that, ultimately, the objective for someone is to finally open another brewery
in the city.”

The 12th annual AleFest will be held Saturday, August 28 from 2 to 6 p.m. at Carillon Park, 1000 Carillon Boulevard. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the gate. Admission is 21 and up. For information about ticket outlets, Dayton Beer Week events, and a complete list of participating breweries, call (937) 298-4545, send an
e-mail to AleFest@earthlink.net or visit online at www.AleFest.com

Contributed photos
and logos.

Reach DCP freelance writer Kyle Melton at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com

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