Jungle Jim’s beer festival welcomes geeks, newbies

By Jim Witmer

If you think Jungle Jim’s has a vast selection of beer on a normal shopping day, then you’ll be even more impressed with its International Beer Festival. Jungle Jim’s has built a reputation in just about every food category possible, and their craft and import selection is also destination-worthy.

There will be many samples of what is regularly offered day-to-day, as well as new offerings from local Cincinnati and Dayton breweries and some from as far as Kentucky and Indiana—which haven’t before appeared on Jungle Jim’s shelves.

While it sounds like it will be international in flavor, the trend of local brews will be the star of the show. Many local beers are not packaged, so they can only be experienced by visiting the brewery. At the festival, however, many of those beers will make an appearance, as well as some unusual “one offs” and cask ales.

The festival runs two days, so the options to accommodate your weekend schedule are vastly improved on June 17 and 18 from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Oscar Event Center at 5440 Dixie Highway in Fairfield. It will be in its 11th year, one of the longest running in the Cincinnati-Dayton area and certainly one of the most comprehensive. The festival has come a long way from its humble beginning of less than 20 selections and a dollar hotdog cart. It now features more than 400 beers and a picnic lunch consisting of a BBQ sandwich, chips, coleslaw or potato salad and water included in the admission price.

Those wishing to beat the crowd can purchase a ticket for early admission at 6:30 p.m. for the first crack at sampling firkins and other rarities before the long lines form, while the main event pouring starts at 7:30 p.m. The early admission or VIP option has been a popular trend at beer festivals for those who don’t have the patience for waiting in long lines. If cost is not an issue, then this is the way to go. On the other hand, there are many who are happy to find their share of enjoyable samples during the three-hour festival at regular admission price.

Jungle Jim’s Beer and Wine Operations Manager Ed Vinson says that the serving of beers will be done mainly by representatives of the actual brewery, not just volunteers, and this provides a better educational experience for attendees who want to ask questions of experts. “We do a better job of education for the customers. The room is full of brewers, brewery reps and professionals,” Vinson says. “This is really necessary when they come to our festival.”

This is certainly an advantage worthy of note. If you are interested in knowing about the background of the beer, the ingredients, the brewery, etc., a volunteer pouring the beer (with all due respect) just can’t provide that level of interaction.

Another unique aspect is the Brew Crew membership advantage with access to rarities and favorites at each serving table (previously known as “Bonus Brews”) that are only available to members. If attending, this is highly recommended. It doesn’t cost anything to become a member. Just sign-up online at junglejims.com/kiosk.

“Outside of the Beer Fest, Brew Crew members get a monthly e-newsletter that contains information about staff Expert Picks beers, 90+ Rated beer, and an Educational Section—we explore a variety of topics relating to beer,” Jungle Jim’s Beer and Wine Department Graphic Designer Beth Kuhnell says. “Members also get to be the first to know about upcoming beer events at both Jungle Jim’s locations (such as) Pint Nights, rare beer tappings/releases, special events, festival info, etc.”

The charity aspect of Jungle Jim’s International Beer Festival is very impressive, and all proceeds will benefit One Way Farm Children’s Home, a nonprofit organization in Fairfield that cares for abused, abandoned, neglected and troubled youth and children. Donations from local businesses and breweries include everything from bottle openers to T-shirts to raffles for bicycles and canoes and can be purchased for a noble cause. “One Way Farm is exceptional,” Vinson says. “Last year this event raised $10,134.40. Hope we beat it this year.”

For those who enjoy pairing cigars with their beers, selections will be available from the walk-in humidor to take to the Terrace, as well.

This festival will be a huge attraction to beer geeks and newbies alike. A two-day beer festival event of this magnitude at a grocery store is unusual, to say the least. As Vinson best summed it up, “We’re not a normal grocery store!”

Jungle Jim’s International Beer Festival runs 7:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 17 and 18 at the Oscar Event Center at Jungle Jim’s International Market, 5440 Dixie Highway in Fairfield. Early admission costs $55 and regular admission costs $45. Non-drinkers/designated driver tickets cost $20. For vendors or more information, please visit junglejims.com/beerfest.

Reach DCP beer writer Jim Witmer at JimWitmer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP beer writer Jim Witmer at JimWitmer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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