A Thirst for Knowledge

 A Thirst for Knowledge

Dayton AleFest celebrates 20th anniversary Aug. 25 with something for everyone

By Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti

Joe Waizmann is a man who is dedicated to learning and teaching about beer. An avid homebrewer, former wholesale distributor and co-founder of Warped Wing Brewing Co., he says—pun very much intended—that he has a “thirst for knowledge” about all things beer-related.

Waizmann has served as a judge for the Great American Beer Fest in Denver and the experience gave him an idea. “I thought Dayton should have (a beer festival),” he says. So, in 1999, he put together the city’s first AleFest, an outdoor event that attracted a modest 175 people.

This year AleFest celebrates its 20th anniversary from 3-7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at the Dayton Convention Center with an event that is expected to attract 1,500-2,000 people, which Waizmann calls “a manageable size.” This is an impressive undertaking, following on the heels of Cask AleFest in June, an event that featured more than 15 cask-conditioned beers and was open to a crowd of 300.

Its two-decade history makes AleFest “the longest-running beer fest in the state of Ohio,” Waizmann says. This year’s event will event will have a VIP admission during its first hour, then general admission for the remaining three hours of the event. Waizmann expects to bring in 250 to 300 different beers for attendees to try, a more curated selection than the event’s high of 400 beers.

AleFest has benefitted from the increased interest in craft beers over the past two decades. According to the Brewer’s Association, in 2017 craft beers accounted for just shy of 13 percent of the U.S. beer market, bringing in some $26 billion.

And while the overall beer market declined slightly when measured by number of barrels the craft beer market grew by 5 percent. The health of this portion of the industry is largely due to the quality of product that comes from craft brewers, who can tailor their beers to a variety of tastes.

Waizmann quotes Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman, who says, “You’ll never meet an ex-craft beer drinker.” The loyalties these beers build tend to be permanent.

That’s not to say that beer aficionados can’t find a new favorite or two to add to their repertoire. Within the more than 250 beers at this year’s AleFest will be a variety of styles, alcohol levels and rarities. The rarer beers may be of particular interest to attendees because this will be an opportunity to try varieties that are aged, are part of limited runs or are brewed using unique methods. Waizmann has created this selection by working with the 20 craft breweries in Dayton and four area wholesale distributors to curate a selection that features the city and the region while bringing in beers from all over. “There will be something for everyone,” he says.