Big beers, bigger benefits

Big Beers and Barley Wines: a treat for geeks

By Hayley Fudge

Photo: Big Beers and Barley Wines takes place Oct. 3 at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds; photo: Jim Witmer

Those Daytonians seeking out the hard-to-find, heavy and funky beers are in for a treat. The Miami Valley beer geeks’ version of trick-or-treat comes in the form of Big Beers and Barley Wines, an annual festival held at the Roundhouse at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.

The event, now in its seventh year, brings more than 80 elusive beers together in one spot for an evening that highlights “big” beers, all of them typically over seven percent ABV and not your run-of-the-mill flagship brewery offerings.

From imperial stouts to barley wines to double IPAs, the festival pleases those newly engrained in the craft culture and experienced tasters alike. Local brewery representatives and premium beer vendors are on hand pouring beer, showcasing beards and enhancing the festival’s overall experience with their vast beer knowledge and passion.

The event has grown each year in both participants and offerings, a testament to the excitement about Dayton’s emerging presence as a beer-producing powerhouse in
the making.

The long wait to reveal the festival’s beer list is intentional, and the excitement is palpable among those who know the kind of offering Big Beers and Barley Wines brings to Dayton. The barrel-aged selections will be plentiful, according to Pam Skelly, the event’s organizer. Make sure to take advantage of the opportunity to try some of those, including Quaff Bros. Orange Melvin and S’More of What, Yellow Springs Gin Barrel Aged Captain Stardust, Warped Wing Barrel Aged Pirogue, Jackie O’s Barrel Aged Brick Kiln, MadTree Barrel Aged Ye Olde Battering Ram, Toxic Sour Barrel Aged Quad, Hoppin’ Frog Barrel Aged Boris, Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout and Upland Barrel Chested Barleywine.

While having access to all the rare and great beers under one roof is reason alone for the event to sell out, there’s a bigger purpose for this event. BB&BW serves as the largest single fundraising event for the Resident Home Association (RHA), a local organization that provides services, care and support for the developmentally disabled and their families.

Mike Schwartz, the reigning king of Dayton’s craft beer community as owner of Belmont Party Supplies, BrewTensils and the newly opened Ollie’s Place, came up with an idea seven years ago to do a big scale community beer tasting event with RHA being the beneficiary.

RHA was founded in 1966 from a grassroots effort that led to the first private, nonprofit agency to provide residential services and support for people with developmental disabilities in Montgomery County. A small group of local parents with developmentally disabled children, who were worried about their children’s care when they were no longer around or able to care for them, came together to form an organization that has grown significantly from its humble beginnings. Schwartz and his wife, Donna, were involved in that early effort. Nearly 50 years later, the RHA serves more than 80 people through 13 different locations in and around the Miami Valley.

“Our commitment is to provide homes in the community for people with developmental disabilities when they can no longer live with their own families due to death, prolonged illness, aging caregivers or issues related to abuse, neglect or dependency,” says Pete Roll, executive director of RHA. “We also provide opportunities for people who want to live more independently, assisting with everything from transportation to daycare to respite care and other services.

Unlike some fundraising events where proceeds are split up or the beneficiary only sees a portion of the proceeds, all funds go directly to RHA.

Admission to the festival includes a tasting glass, 20 samples of unique and rare craft beers, door prizes and live entertainment. Local food vendors will also be on hand to provide some sustenance alongside the libations. Onsite parking is available at the fairgrounds, but remember the beers at Big Beers and Barley Wines pack a punch. Plan to make a designated driver, Uber or a cab a part of your evening plans.

Big Beers and Barley Wines takes place Saturday, Oct. 3 from 4-8 p.m. at the Roundhouse at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, 1043 S. Main St. Tickets are $40 in advance of the event and can be purchased online at or at Belmont Party Supply, BrewTensils, Ollie’s Place, 5th Street Wine & Deli, Bee Gee’s Market, The Barrel House, Boston’s Bistro & Pub, Chappy’s Tap Room, King’s Table, Lucky’s Tap Room & Eatery, South Park Tavern, Thai9 and Trolley Stop. If the event doesn’t sell out in advance, tickets will be available for $45 at the door. Designated driver tickets can be purchased at the door for $10 each. Tickets are limited and the event usually sells out, so it is advisable to purchase them in advance.


Hayley Fudge is one of Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geeks. An enthusiast of craft beer and the culture that surrounds it, Hayley aspires to share her love of beer with others by whipping up beer-infused cupcakes on the regular. Reach Hayley Fudge at

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Hayley Fudge is one of Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geeks. An enthusiast of craft beer and the culture that surrounds it, Hayley aspires to share her love of beer with others by whipping up beer-infused cupcakes on the regular. Reach Hayley Fudge at

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