A preview to the annual rare beer festival, this time with no ABV cap.
Dayton has a lot of great festivals, but there’s one that stands above the rest in terms of selection of rare beers. Big Beers and Barley Wines, which returns this Saturday, October 1, to the Montgomery County Fairgrounds Roundhouse, is a festival for beer geeks, put on by beer geeks. Organizers work for months in advance with breweries and distributors to cherry pick the line-up of nearly 90 beers, carving out one-off beers, pub exclusives, and limited releases and combining them with vintages of old favorites, beers seeing their festival debut, and beers created exclusively for the event.
This year promises to be the biggest yet. While previous Big Beers have showcased giant barley wines and imperial stouts, those beers were capped at 12% alcohol by volume (ABV) by Ohio law. Not so in 2016—the cap was lifted on August 31st. Mike Schwartz, a founding member of the event team and owner of Ollie’s Place, Belmont Party Supply, and BrewTensils, drove the planning team to think big for this year’s line-up. “Big Beers and Barley Wines’ goal is to bring as many rare beers to the beer connoisseur as possible,” Schwartz explains. “This year with the alcohol cap removed, we have put the emphasis on Big Beers!”
Big Beers and Barley Wines will be the first regional festival to present these huge beers, and Gus Stathes, the main beer buyer for the event (and beer guru at Ollie’s Place) has been like a kid in a candy shop, lining up beers that were not available in Ohio before. “We’ve always focused on securing the most exciting and special beers that we can get our hand on for this festival,” explains Stathes. “This year’s list is more exciting in that without an ABV cap, we have access to a much more broad spectrum of options.” Beers like Hebrew Jewbelation 17 and Deschutes Abyss 2015 are scheduled to see their Ohio festival debut, alongside local and regional giants like Hoppin’ Frog T.O.R.I.S. The Tyrant triple oatmeal imperial stout, Dayton Beer Company’s Midnight Dream Raspberry Imperial Stout and a Evil Twin’s Molotov Heavy, an enormously hoppy triple IPA.
But don’t let the focus on huge beers prevent you from trying those with a more “modest” ABV. Look for cellar projects from Green Flash like Oculus Savage and Nocturna Morta Boysenberry. Quaff Brothers killed it last year with their Orange Melvin and are promising more of the same in 2016. This year, they’ve teamed up with MadTree to create Gus Juice, a Gnarley Brown barrel-aged variant with honey, cocoa nibs and cinnamon named after one of the festival’s organizers. MadTree also has three rarities on the docket under their own name: a brown ale called Ford the Mill, a wild ale named Chamomile Levanto, and a 2015 BA Coffee Axis Mundi.
Want to go even more local? Nearly all of the Miami Valley local brewers will be attending. Warped Wing BA Abominator was a hit last year and returns this year, this time infused with Maple. Toxic’s Barrel Aged Night Ender is also scheduled to make an appearance—a boozy variant on an already deceptively boozy imperial stout. Fig Leaf, which is opening in Middletown the first week in October, will debut their Ponderous Porter—try it at the festival days before you’ll be able to try it at the taproom. And when you’re ready for dessert, seek out Eudora’s Mother Fuggle on chocolate covered bananas—a dessert beer indeed.
What makes the event even better than the fantastic beer line-up is the worthwhile cause it supports. “Not only is Big Beers & Barley Wines the premier craft beer tasting event in the region, 100% of the proceeds benefit the Resident Home Association of Greater Dayton, Inc.,” explains Peter Roll, RHA Executive Director. “Resident Home provides services to people with developmental disabilities where the primary source of funding is Medicaid dollars. Those dollars do not fully meet the needs of the people we serve. Events like Big Beers help us provide for those unmet needs. This helps us buy clothing, pay for uncovered dental services, purchase new eye glasses, pay for leisure activities and other things on our clients’ wish lists.”
Established in 1966 by a group of parents with developmentally disabled children, RHA has expanded to now provide homes, daily living support and services to around 80 adult individuals in the community. Pam Skelly is the event organizer with RHA. She notes that, “Big Beers is near and dear to my heart as it is with so many other participants—Big Beers gives us the chance to enjoy and talk beer with fellow beer geeks.” Skelly also emphasizes how the event funds the RHA wish list: “The RHA wish list helps us to support the hobbies and individual interests of the people we serve. The people we serve derive so much joy from the little things in life—a country concert, a night out for pizza and a movie, jewelry-making parties and so much more; supporting these hobbies and interests is so very important. We could not do any of this without the support of the Dayton beer community.”
The Dayton-based non-profit employs a staff of full- and part-time resources and works with other organizations such as Sinclair Community College and Choices in Community Living to extend their reach into the community. The web of support that RHA provides their clients through their various programs and partnerships gives their clients the assistance to live and work with a high level of autonomy within the community. Roll adds, “When you support Big Beers, you are supporting a very worthy cause and we very much appreciate our patrons.”
Early ticket sales have surpassed previous years’ numbers, so the organizers are expecting a possible sellout and they are advising would-be attendees to get tickets as soon as possible. Tickets are $45 in advance and $50 at the door (if available). Tickets may be purchased at Ollie’s Place, Belmont Party Supply, BrewTensils, 5th Street Wine & Deli, The Barrel House, Bee Gee’s Market, Chappy’s Tap Room, Kings Table, Lucky’s Tap Room, South Park Tavern, Thai 9 and Trolley Stop or on the web at www.bigbeersdayton.com.