Beer geek boutique

I nsane beers at Big Beers and Barley Wines

By Kevin J. Gray

Like craft beer? I mean, really like craft beer? Really good, really big beers? Then get tickets now for Big Beers and Barley Wines, Dayton’s boutique beer event, held Oct. 6 from 4 to 8 p.m. in the Roundhouse at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.

The annual fundraiser for the Residents Home Association (RHA) was originally planned to be a small beer tasting. But when RHA organizers met with Mike and Donna Schwartz, owners of Belmont Party Supply and Miami Valley BrewTensils, Mike urged the group to go big. With Belmont’s help, the event quickly transformed into a premium beer festival.

Now celebrating its fourth anniversary, the event saw about 300 people in its first year. Organizers are expecting two-and-a-half times that this year. That’s some rapid growth in just four years, although organizers have worked to keep the event intimate – as they describe it, a boutique beer event.

What makes this beer festival stand out from others? For starters, the beer list. Big Beers and Barley Wines is exactly that – huge beers. Beers with enormous flavors and complex profiles. Think beer geek wet dream. Beers so rare you may never see them again. Beers that you will be rushing to brag about on Untappd (Beer geeks, don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about).

When co-organizers Natalie Philips (of Belmont Party Supply) and Pam Skelly (of RHA) put the beer list together, they looked for beers that will amaze people. Big boozy beers with huge flavors, yes, but also quality beers that score highly on beer sites like Ratebeer and BeerAdvocate, where beer geeks vote for their favorites. Additionally, the organizers work directly with breweries year-round to score some truly rare, sometimes one-of-a-kind, beers for the event. This year, for instance, the head brewer and brewing assistants from Maumee Bay Brewing Company, a Toledo, Ohio-based microbrewery, are hand-delivering a keg that they have specially brewed for the festival.

The complete beer list is kept under wraps until the day of the event, but organizers have started leaking some of the beers on the event’s Facebook page. Some of the beers announced to date include:

Great Divide Barrel Aged Old Ruffian – a special-release barley wine aged for over nine months in Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey barrels

Founders Devil Dancer – a triple IPA dry-hopped for 26 days straight with a combination of 10 hop varieties for a fiendish hop bite layered over a demonic malt backbone.

-Mikkeller Barrel Aged Monks Brew – a Belgian Quad aged in bourbon barrels, and Mikkeller Barrel Aged Monks Brew, Raspberry edition. It’s the same beer, this time brewed with raspberries and aged in red wine barrels

-Evil Twin Even More Jesus – a thick fudge-like body, pitch-black color, amazingly overwhelming aromas of chocolate, coffee, dark fruits and muscovado sugar.

-Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout – a complex imperial stout made with heaps of coffee and chocolate, then aged in bourbon barrels and served on draft.

-Mikkeller/Three Floyds BooGoop – a delightful buckwheat wine brewed as a collaboration by Three Floyds and Mikkeller at De Proefbrouwerij in Belgium.

Where do these beers come from? They come from a lot of hard work on the part of festival organizers and from the generosity of the brewers and distributors. Phillips explained: “The fact is that everybody is really into the RHA. We go out and meet the brewers, we go to the breweries, we talk to the reps and talk about what a great thing this event is. That tends to move the breweries to get involved.”

The fact that 100 percent of the proceeds go to the RHA also makes the event worth supporting. Established in 1966, the Resident Home Association is a Dayton area non-profit that provides quality residential services and support to citizens with developmental disabilities. In addition to providing homes in the community to people with developmental disabilities, RHA provides daily living support and other quality-of-life programs such as a senior day program, transportation and other individualized services such as local outings and trips out of town. With the help of the Dayton beer community, last year the RHA raised over $13,000 for the people they serve.

There’s also a good chance you’ll see a long list of who’s who in the local and not-so-local beer community. Look for brewers and brewery and distributor reps throughout the event. Folks from event sponsors Belmont Party Supply and Miami Valley BrewTensils will be in abundance. Many of the other top local craft beer establishments, including The Trolley Stop, South Park Tavern, King’s Table, Lucky’s Taproom & Eatery, 5th Street Deli, Bee Gees Minit Market, Boston’s Bistro, Blind Bob’s, Jimmie’s Ladder 11 and Harrigan’s act as pouring sponsors. In addition to donating to the event, these establishments provide volunteers to work the tables. That means the people pouring the beer are knowledgeable and can help folks understand more about what they are tasting.

Some survival tips (these are some massive beers, right?). First, get tickets in advance. Some tickets may be available at the door the day of the event, but don’t chance it. Second, arrange a lift home. Again, these are some big beers. Third, eat before you arrive and schedule a half-time to eat some more at the event (Thai 9, Chappy’s and MONCO catering will have food available for purchase at the event). Be prepared to taste some amazing beers, and check the schedule for some timed tappings throughout the event. For more details, check out the event’s Facebook page ( or their website (

Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin Gray at

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