Beer in the ballpark

Beer in the ballpark

Great American Beer Tasting at Fifth Third Field

 By Sara Mastbaum

 
Photo: At the Shock Top booth in 2012; photo credit: Nick Falzerano/DaytonDragons

Whether you can debate the finer points of unfiltered IPAs, or remain a dedicated Bud fan, beer lovers can agree on at least one thing: they love a good beer event. The Great American Beer Tasting – scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 3 at Fifth Third Field in downtown Dayton – is offering up more than 90 different beers from around the country at more than 20 vendor stations.

Many beer events prefer to showcase specific styles. Festivals abound both locally and nationally to highlight innovations in particular types of beer. For example, the local Big Beers and Barley Wines tasting event focuses on excellence in high-alcohol and hard-to-find brews. Great American Beer Tasting organizers, however, have aimed for a wide variety of breweries that represent numerous styles. Of course, a wider variety doesn’t mean a lack of quality.

“Several of the beers come from our division called Rampant Brands,” said Jim Thomas, on-premise market manager for brand development at Heidelberg Distributing. “They carry a lot of unique, quality craft beers.” The diverse selections include Smuttynose IPA, Brooklyn East India Pale Ale and Samuel Smith Organic Chocolate Stout. Magic Hat Brewing Company, a craft brewer based in Burlington, Vt., and Goose Island Brewing Company of Chicago will also be on hand to offer up samples of their popular beers. Both breweries are known for offering a wide range of styles.

“We’ll have things that you’d only find in what I’d call boutique stores, like Dorothy Lane Market or Belmont Party Supply. There will be some Anheuser-Busch craft beers there also,” Thomas added. Anheuser-Busch, which produces staples like Budweiser and Michelob, also produces beer under several craft labels, like the popular Shock Top varieties.

Although beer geeks will enjoy swapping notes on favorite session beers, “you don’t have to be a beer connoisseur to really enjoy the event,” said Clint Taylor, Senior Marketing Manager for the Dayton Dragons and Fifth Third Field. “The event attracts a wide spectrum of people, from craft beer enthusiasts to people just looking to have a good time with their friends.”

Ninety beer options can be intimidating for some, especially those new to craft brews. Thomas and Heidelberg Distributing’s marketing and promotions coordinator Susan Kneidl, who co-organized the event, plan to arrange the stations according to style. They will place similar beers near each other so that patrons can get a feel for each type of beer. For example, all the pale ales – a dry, hoppy style – will be near each other, and wheat beers will have their own space, Thomas explained.

However, Thomas and Kneidl are keeping a couple choice selections under wraps.

“We do a special sampling at certain times during the day,” Thomas said. “Those beers are top secret.” These tastings are conducted as first-come, first-served. For all other tastings, patrons will receive a punch card for up to 20, 4-ounce samples. Complimentary samples include a taste of day-fresh Budweiser straight from the Columbus brewery.

In addition to beer lovers, the tasting is happy to accommodate designated drivers and those who choose not to partake. “We have designated driver tickets available for $5,” Kneidl said. “This includes five non-alcoholic samples as well as a complimentary soda or water.”

The event is now in its sixth year. “We’ve grown from about 200 people our first year to over 1,200 last year,” Thomas said. “The event keeps growing every year.”

The organizers attribute part of the event’s success to the venue. “The event is held entirely underneath the concourse, as far as sampling areas go,” Taylor said. “So either rain or shine, it’s a great event. People will be very comfortable with plenty of access to concession stands and restrooms.” Thomas added, “The event is laid out really nicely. Even if it’s a hot, 90-degree day, it feels cool underneath the concourse.”

The sampling area may be confined to the concourse, but the entire venue is part of the event. “We have all sorts of different games people can play during the event,” Taylor said. “For example, carnival-style games like ring toss and corn hole, held down on the field.” Concession stands will also be open, along with the Dragons team store.

Organizers look forward to continuing the tasting in the years to come. “We hope to make this an annual event,” Thomas said. “Which we’ve been able to do for the past six years.” Taylor agreed: “We’ve done this event every year in partnership with Heidelberg Distributing. They’re really the driving force behind it.”

 

The Great American Beer Tasting will be held Saturday, Aug. 3 from 2-6 p.m. at Fifth Third Field in downtown Dayton. Tickets are available for $25 in advance online, by calling 937.228.2287 or in person at the Dragons box office, team store and select area retailers. Tickets can also be purchased for $35 at the door. Designated driver tickets are available for $5. For ticket and venue information, please visit daytondragons.com.

 

Reach DCP freelance writer Sara Mastbaum at SaraMastbaum@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

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