American Craft Beer Week!

Dayton Big Blues & Brews returns

By Kevin J. Gray

Photo: Volunteers with the Doug Epple Foundation pour craft beer samples at the 2012 Big Brews and Blues

Friday, May 17 marks the official start of the outdoor beer festival season with the fourth annual Big Brews and Blues. This event raises money for Diabetes Dayton, a local diabetes advocacy non-profit that helps improve the quality of life for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Big Brews and Blues pairs some of the region’s top local blues talent with craft beers from Ohio and other states in an outdoor, upscale environment (see callout for band line-up and schedule). Each of the six beer stations will feature a flagship beer from an Ohio brewery. In addition, two of the stations will focus solely on self-distributing brands in Ohio. The event is an all-draft tasting, with all beers poured from kegs.

The timing of the event ties in with American Craft Beer Week, a national event promoted by the Brewer’s Association. All beers at Big Brews and Blues will be American craft beers, and the organizers of that event have worked with retail and on-premise organizations throughout the Miami Valley to create specials and promotions throughout the week leading up to the big event on Friday.

The event started four years ago as Fling Fest, a beer tasting and triathlon of indoor and outdoor games: darts, cornhole and disc golf. The idea was to incorporate games that one could play while holding a beer. The event came together in roughly two weeks and was a success. The following year, rebranded as Big Brews and Blues, the event moved to Old River Park – before the University of Dayton purchased the land – and focused on beer, blues and an 18-hole disc golf course. In 2011, Big Brews and Blues moved to its current location at Carillon Park. As the event grew, more space was needed for parking, so the disc golf tourney has become its own event, held north of town each fall.

This year, attendees can look forward to a line-up of all draft beers with a focus on Ohio breweries. As was the case in previous years, guests can redeem multiple tickets for full pours of their favorite beers or can choose smaller samples of a larger variety of styles. In addition, starting at 8 p.m., guests can buy growlers of their favorite remaining beers – the organizers ask that guests do not bring their own growlers, but rather purchase them at the event.

Also new this year are timed tappings that will take place throughout the evening. The timed-release line-up (as of publication date) includes Yellow Springs Brewery’s Bowerbird (a golden strong ale aged on blackberries); Mt Carmel’s Ardennes (a Belgian Quad and the newest addition to their snapshot series); Jackie O’s Mystic Mimosa (brewed with zested grapefruit, orange juice and tangelo); and Great Lakes Rye of the Tiger (the latest addition to GLBC’s hoppy lineup).

Beer geeks will also want to seek out some of the following beers from Ohio and elsewhere, many of which are rarities to find on draft or mark the first tapping in the Dayton market: Elevator Brewing Company’s Big Vic Imperial Mogabi Wheat Ale, Weasel Boy’s Anastasia Russian Imperial Stout, Triple Digit’s Chickow!, Fat Head’s Head Hunter IPA, Anchor Brewing Company’s Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout, Widmer Brothers’ Alchemy Ale, Triton Brewing Company’s Four Barrel Brown and Southern Tier Brewing’s 2X Steam. Cider lovers should hunt down Ace’s Honey Apple Cider. For those interested in learning to brew, stop by the DRAFT table and see their homebrewing demonstrations. As always, beer lists are somewhat subject to change, so look for the details in the event program for a full listing.

In order to understand more about the event and the organization it benefits, DCP sat down to discuss Big Brews and Blues with the event’s two co-chairs – Susan McGovern, Executive Director of Diabetes Dayton, and Dave Boston, proprietor of Boston’s Bistro and Pub. Below are highlights from that conversation.

The proceeds of Big blues and Brews go to
benefit Diabetes Dayton. What is the
mission of this organization?

Diabetes Dayton is a local independent diabetes association. We’re not associated with any of the nationals. That’s a constant challenge to educate people that we are not associated with American Diabetes Association (ADA) or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Both are wonderful organizations, but their missions are different. ADA is advocacy and patient and professional literature; JDRF is research to find a cure. We were actually founded 50 years ago with the main intent to offer Camp for Kids with diabetes because at that time, in 1963, the only option for kids with diabetes was to go to a so-called “crippled children’s camp.” So, a couple of doctors, one of whom was the health commissioner at the time, said, “We want a camp just for kids with type 1 diabetes.” So that’s how this agency was born. We became a Dayton affiliate for the ADA for a while, but then the ADA said that any money raised had to go to the parent organization and we wanted our money to stay here. So, as the need grew, the agency grew. And we now still do the camp – this is the 50th anniversary. We actually started a second camp for kids with type 2, which used to be unheard of, and so now we have two camps going: one for type one and type 2. –Susan McGovern

In addition to the kids’ camps, how else do
you help the local community?

We have supply assistance for people who don’t have insurance, so if they need testing supplies, syringes, etc., we can help with that. Ohio is one of four states that do not mandate coverage for diabetes, so you can be declined. You can have coverage and not have your diabetes covered. So, we have a very active supply assistance program so that we can keep people testing, get people insulin into their bodies. We do free education. Again, if you are not fortunate enough to have insurance and you get diagnosed with this disease and you go to the hospital, they’ll bill you about $650. So, we have free accredited classes so people can get that education. Often times, people will take their one allotted education that is covered [by their private insurance], then want some additional information, so they can come back to [our classes]. We don’t charge. We just want to make sure people get the education to know how to deal with this. So we’ve got supply assistance, free education and the diabetes camps. Our slogan is, “Until there’s a cure, we help you live.” We’re not the research organization; we’re the organization that helps people live with this disease every day. -SM

How did the event get started?

[Diabetes Dayton] didn’t have a signature fundraiser. We tried a couple of things. We tried a walk, but JDRF does a walk, so people were confused. We tried a swim meet but nobody came. We tried Zumba and nobody came. We threw a beer event and 800 people came. People asked why a diabetes association was throwing a beer event. If we were throwing a gala, no one would think anything about it, and there’s plenty of alcohol at a gala. This is a very upscale craft beer tasting with a blues festival. So, it’s very specific. And we placed our event at the end of a national beer week so we could capitalize on that. -SM

How will the event tie into American Craft Beer Week?

The event is focusing on all American craft beers, with a focus on Ohio microbreweries.   -SM

All flagship beers will be Ohio beers; those will be half-barrels of all of those beers that will be the mainstay of each one of the booths. Each one of the sponsors gets one half-barrel of Ohio beer. There will be two Ohio self-distributor craft booths that will be all sixth-barrels, with maybe a firkin thrown in to keep it mixed up. Self-distributors include Dayton Beer Company, Yellow Springs, Jackie O’s, Weasel Boy and possibly Columbus Brewing Company, Barley’s and others. –Dave Boston

Will there be events leading up to the festival?

Because we’ve involved retailers and on-premise, we want to encourage them to have a special event, tapping or pricing related to American Craft Beer Week. The goal is to not have a duplication of what we have at the event; and that we can give customers something that’s a little different. Boston’s is going to incorporate their Thursdays tasting, with a brew school event on Saturday as part of American Craft Beer Week and to bookend the Big Brews and Blues Festival. –DB

The following businesses will be offering special promotions during American Craft Beer week: Boston’s Bistro and Pub, Bee-Gee’s Minit Market, Beef O’Brady’s, Belmont Party Supply, Brewtensils, Bottle 121, City Pub in Capri Lanes, The Filling Station, King’s Table, Milano’s, South Park Tavern, Trolley Stop, Tom’s Deli and Wine Works. They all contributed and are supporting the event with a donation for American Craft Beer Week with us. -SM

Big Brews and Blues takes place Friday, May 17 from 5-9 p.m. at Carillon Park. The event is tented, so it takes place rain or shine. Tickets are $30 each or four for $100 in advance or $35 at the door. Details and tickets (as well as a full list of paper ticket outlets) are available at

Band Lineup

5 p.m.    Joe and Jack Waters

6 p.m.    Them Bones

7 p.m.    Johnny Mack and The Heavyweights

8 p.m.     Big Joe  Blues

Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin J. Gray at

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