Monday, February 9, 2015

Dayton AleFeast 2015

The Dayton AleFeast is a somewhat unique event in Ohio.  The Columbus Winter Beerfest, the Columbus Summer Beerfest, and a number of other beer festivals around the area focus on the "beer" part of the equation.  Food is generally unavailable as part of the admission, or it requires a much higher admission fee.  At the Dayton AleFeast, your admission includes both food and beer.

I attended my first Dayton AleFeast in 2013 with my wife.  We had a great time sampling all the delicious foods brought in by Dayton area restaurants and the excellent beers paired with them.  In 2014, we looked forward to going again but were disappointed to learn that the event had been canceled.  The creator of the event, Joe Waizmann, decided to postpone it to work on the Warped Wing Brewing Company in Dayton.  I had hoped he'd bring it back eventually.  When I saw it on the calendar for this year, we knew we had to go.

We arrived at the Masonic Temple in Dayton about fifteen minutes before the festival was scheduled to begin.  At that point, some of the restaurants were still bringing in food.  At about five minutes until the start, the musician came in with his equipment.  This gave the impression that things were not so well prepared.  The event did start on time, though.

Once inside, we grabbed a sample glass, plate, fork, napkin, raffle ticket, and headed to the downstairs level to grab seats at a table.  Then we started getting samples of food and beer.

The first beer we sampled was an excellent Wee Heavy Ale from Fifth Street Brewpub.  I hadn't tried any of Fifth Street's beers before, so this was a great introduction.  I'm looking forward to trying their other beers.  The wee heavy was mildly sweet, strongly malty, and hid its high alcohol content well.

Next, I tried Toxic Brew Company's Abby's Cure Belgian Trippel.  With each of their beers I try, Toxic seems to more firmly cement its place among my favorite Ohio brewers.  The trippel was very lightly sweet, fruity, spicy, and delicious.  Definitely a beer I can recommend to any fan of the style.  (I'm not alone on this one.  I saw several Toxic Brew Co. shirts and sweatshirts wandering around AleFeast.)

Warped Wing's 10 Ton Oatmeal Stout was also really good.  This oatmeal and coffee stout had a strong coffee flavor, milder chocolate notes, and a great mouth feel.

Eudora Brewing's Holy Cacao Chocolate Milk Porter was quite nice.  There was a definite sweetness and chocolate flavor to it that almost made me forget I was drinking a porter.

There were lots of good foods as well.  Brixx Ice Co. brought a Thanksgiving-like item.  It featured "waffles" made from stuffing (imagine stuffing grilled in a waffle iron), deep-fried turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  Delicious.

Jimmie's Ladder 11 brought in a chicken and sausage gumbo that was excellent.  I'm not usually a fan of gumbo but this one smelled great and tasted even better.

My wife and her best friend were impressed with the Blueberry BBQ Pork Sliders from The Amber Rose.  The Amber Rose will be having a craft beer tasting on Thursday, February 26, at 6:30pm.  See their web site for more information.

Thai 9's spring rolls were a big hit with us as well, especially the chicken spring roll.

Before I continue, I want to make it perfectly clear that the three of us who attended AleFeast 2015 did actually enjoy it and felt like it had been a fun evening overall.  That said, there were quite a few differences between AleFeast 2013 and AleFeast 2015.  Given Joe Waizmann's reputation for running a "quality over quantity" event, the folks running AleFeast have a few things to learn from Joe.

In 2013, we had the opportunity to try everything we wanted to try in terms of the beer and food at the event.  Rarely were we in lines more than 10 people deep.  It was easy to walk across the facility even during the high point in attendance.  I heard people describing the event as "better than Christmas" and "the thing I look forward to all year long".

In 2015, long lines appeared at most of the stations by about 5:30.  These continued pretty much until the different foods and beers began running out around 6pm.  By 6:30, I would estimate that at least half of the restaurants were out of food and probably a third or more of the beers were gone.  We left at 6:45, still a bit hungry and having not had the chance to try some of the beers we wanted to.  Compared with 2013, it was a disappointing experience.

Bear in mind that much of what I say in this paragraph is based on comments overheard during the event, and may be completely false.  I heard from one attendee that in 2013, only 500 tickets were sold for AleFeast.  The number in 2015 was 800.  That would explain the crowds.  Another said that one of the restaurants told him that the AleFeast organizers told them to bring enough food for 300 attendees (despite selling 500-800 tickets for the event).  Yet another claimed that people stood outside in line for 20-30 minutes only to find out that the tickets were sold out.  True or not, these comments are a far cry from "better than Christmas"...

I can't begin to imagine the time and work that must go into holding an event like AleFeast.  Kudos to the folks running it for putting the event together, getting it started on time, etc., having not run the event before.  Kudos, too, to the restaurants for managing to feed as many of the attendees as they could, and doing so at high levels of quality (and quantity).  The AleFeast event staff seemed to be working hard and trying to keep things under control.  I'm hopeful that in a couple of years they'll have shaken out the wrinkles and will have the event running at Joe Waizmann's standards.  If so, I'll be looking forward to attending.  I wish them luck and success, because AleFeast really was one of my favorite things... just not this year.

My advice for anyone attending in 2016 would be to get there early.  Make sure you get to the foods and beers you want to try the most as quickly as you can.

AleFeast Crowds at 4:30pm

Crowds at 6:20pm

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