AleFest expanded

With new wine offerings, AleFest hops

By Kevin Tucker

Photos: Sarah Browning

Ever since Col. George Newcom founded his tavern in the city more than 200 years ago, Dayton has had a love affair with suds. And never has that been more evident than with the explosion of the beer brewers that have made the scene in recent years, with assuredly more on the way.

At last count, the area boasted 13 breweries, including the Toxic Brew Company, Dayton Beer Company, and Carillon Brewing Company, among others, according to Fueling this modern-day resurgence is Ohio’s brew license law that allows for on-premise taprooms as part of the brewing license, coupled with the rapidly increasing popularity of craft beers.

To be considered a brewer of craft beer, one must be small, independent, and use traditional ingredients, according to

Once thought to be lagging behind intrastate cities with larger population bases, Dayton recently has become a major player on the craft beer landscape and has developed a beer culture, unique unto itself. What has manifested is a newly formed regional beer community. From lagers, IPAs, and stouts to pale ales, ciders, and amber ales, these aren’t your dad’s Pabst Blue Ribbons.

In fact, the city is in the midst of celebrating Dayton Beer Week, which features a variety of different beer-centric events at featured watering holes located throughout the city. Culminating this seventh annual celebration of the Dayton region’s favorite brews is the 18th AleFest Dayton to be held Saturday at Dave Hall Plaza in downtown Dayton.

The Bosses

AleFest Dayton is Ohio’s longest running craft beer festival, according to festival co-owners Amanda Pond and Jennifer Dean. The pair took over ownership three years ago from Joe Waizmann, who originated the festival as a way not only to bring people downtown, but to educate them about craft beers as well.

“I am hugely into the craft beer scene and love the sense of community and camaraderie that the Dayton craft beer scene exudes,” Dean explains. “To be able to grow Ohio’s longest running craft beer festival into an event that brings people downtown, supports a number of local nonprofit organizations and get to have a blast while doing it—well, doesn’t everyone want that job?”

Pond says the festival is in the planning stages all year and utilizes some 350 volunteers to help see the event come to fruition. She expects around 4,000 people to attend this year’s rendition.

“Everybody likes to drink – the difference is that we’re a little more upscale,” Pond says, explaining the festival’s continued popularity. “The event is eclectic and we have a lot of variations of beer. It can also be educational with brewers and distributors on hand to discuss their products.”

AleFest Dayton 2016 will feature more than 400 craft beer selections from over 75 different brewers throughout the country. New this year is a Wine Garden featuring more than 20 wines, an all-Ohio draft beer tent, a Mystery beer tent, Cask Alley featuring 12 unique casks, and food trucks. With help from sponsor Mitosis, attendees can download the Alefest Dayton mobile app through Google Play or the App Store, which provides all the information you need to know, such as the beer list, before passing through festival gates. Just search for “AleFest.”

A portion of the event’s proceeds will go to benefit a number of area nonprofit organizations.

According to Dean, excelling in a field traditionally geared toward men can be difficult.  But the  pair have proven it possible – and successful. Dean handles the business development and logistical side of things, while Pond is responsible for digital marketing and publicity.

“Being a female in a male-dominated industry is tough – you have to work a lot and know your stuff,” Dean says. “We handpick each beer that is showcased at the event and work closely with the distributors and local breweries to ensure that we have a unique selection that includes limited brews and the best seasonals available.”

Their affinity for the city, as well as for the emerging craft beer scene, is evident.

“We are super Dayton-proud, and I think that shines bright in this event,” Dean says. “It is such an amazing feeling to bring thousands of people together in the heart of our city to drink the best beer out there, make new friends, listen to great music, and enjoy fantastic food while supporting the organizations that make our city a better place to live, work, and play.”

The Distributor

Cavalier Distributing District Managers Giri Dodballpur and Chris King have worked with suppliers and brewers worldwide to help coordinate events for Dayton Beer Week, in addition to AleFest Dayton. In fact, they played an integral role in picking out the beer list along with Pond and Dean that will be available to patrons of the festival.

“Dayton has been a little behind the times in the craft beer market, so our goal is to showcase what Dayton has to offer,” Dodballpur says. “We’ll have different beers and different styles, so no one will be left out.”

King says that AleFest Dayton helps Cavalier develop its market. After tasting selections at the festival, patrons make suggestions about bringing the brands they enjoyed to this area.

“AleFest definitely helps us sell in our market,” King says. “People say they tried a certain beer at AleFest and desire to have it available here.”

Craft beers are becoming so indoctrinated into the beer culture that even big-name retailers are joining the movement so as to add a variety.

“Grocery chains such as Kroger are now receptive to the craft beer market,” King indicates. “They’re bringing craft beer to the masses.”

So what’s with the odd names for brewers of craft beers and their products? Beers that carry with them monikers such as Duck Duck Gooze, Arrogant Bastard Ale, Good Chit Pilsner, Leafer Madness, Hop Zombie, Hoptimus Prime, and Barrique Okarma? It’s all marketing, King suggests.

“Stories sell the beer,” he reasons. “Most of it is totally random…there’s no intellect or reason. It probably comes from beer-induced conversations.”

And now, a word from
our sponsor…

Mitosis, in its second year serving as a formal sponsor at AleFest, is the “Digital Experience Partner,” meaning that it supports Alefest and its events with website design and development, digital marketing, social media, and has created the mobile apps for all AleFest events.

AleFest Dayton has become a staple in a region steeped in innovation and reinvention, according to Mitosis Principal Director Tyler Back: “This event is really one of the best in the country and is key to celebrating community and the craft of brewing,” he says. “Brewing is a craft and those that create award-winning beers with raw materials from our region really deserve to be celebrated.”

The Bands

Together, for the past five years, Seventh Street founder Jimmy Allen is the first to admit the music his band plays doesn’t fit any one particular genre.

“We play a variety, if you will,” he qualifies. “Our sets consist of bluegrass to funk to Blues to southern rock to music with a ’70s and ’80s influence. We pride ourselves on the fact that there’s something there for everyone. We keep things hopping by changing it up.”

The Troy-based group plays mostly cover songs, but will throw in a few originals. The group consists of Allen (harmonica, percussion, vocals), Jason Hamilton (lead vocals, acoustics), Wes Billing (bass, vocals), Matt Bourelle (lead guitar), and Jon Berry (drums, percussives).

They derive their name from the street on which Allen lives in Tipp City.

“We started rehearsing at my loft in Tipp City and hosted our first concert at a block party on Seventh Street, so it only seemed natural,” Allen says.

What can festival attendees expect to see from the band Saturday?

“It’s going to be high energy with a lot of variety,” Allen promises. “When Jason and Wes are on their game vocally…it can be a real goose bump moment. It’s an honor for us to be part of this festival.”

Also performing Saturday will be CAAMP, whom Pond likens to the popular group Mumford & Sons.

The Volunteer/Patron

Kevin Cancino and his family have been visitors and served as volunteers at AleFest Dayton for the past six years. He says he does it because it’s a great way to help others while having the opportunity to be around those who also enjoy some of the amazing craft beers being produced around Dayton and across the country.

“It’s a lot of hard work once the event gets underway, but it’s a great event to people watch and listen to the comments about beers, as well as to sample a few while we’re there,” he says. I like that small businesses can thrive while doing what they love. I also like that these small breweries can get and be creative at all levels from the beer that they are branding.”

Cancino adds that AleFest Dayton continues to get better with each passing year as it serves as a showcase for the ever-popular craft beer market.

“It’s great being with my wife and our two older boys as we enjoy a summer day being part of an event that gives back while enjoying some very fine ales,” he concludes.

The Brewer

“So, we as Dayton breweries have to make a good first, or continuous, positive impression on regional craft beer fans. Last year was our first year participating, and it proved to be overwhelmingly successful,” Fith Street brewmaster Darren Link explains. “It’s great exposure to thousands of people at once, and we definitely see a crowd after the festival. The downtown location is an ideal way to feature Dayton breweries.”

The explosion of the craft beer industry has served to help rebuild the local economy, Link indicates, but is he concerned about the recent upsurge in competitors entering the local market?

“We don’t view it as competition,” he offers. “If people are coming to Dayton to go to Warped Wing, Toxic, etc., they will more than likely stop by [Fith Street Brew Pub] as well.”

“Rising tides raise all boats.”

AleFest Dayton will be held from 3-6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 27 at Dave Hall Plaza, at the corner of Fourth and Main Streets in downtown Dayton. For tickets or more information, please go to or download a mobile app at Google Play and the App Store by searching “AleFest.”

Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin Tucker at

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