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Columbus AleFest brewing up appreciation for craft beer

Courtesy of AleFest

Around 200 beers from more than 70 American and European craft breweries are ready to hop into downtown Columbus this weekend for AleFest.

AleFest is scheduled to hold sessions from 1-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. Saturday at Brewmasters Gate, located at 495 S. Front St.

Joe Waizmann, AleFest organizer and founder, said attendees will have the opportunity to sample 20 craft beers and receive a tasting glass and guide to take home from the fest.

Though this is the eighth year for the fest, it is the first time downtown Columbus will host the fest since its start in the city seven years ago. Last year, the event was held at Aladdin’s Shrine Center.

By holding the event downtown, Waizman said the organizers hope to attract a varied crowd.

“We really wanted to organize one downtown, and kind of reach a diverse audience,” Waizmann said.

He also said he hopes to share his love for craft beer in a responsible, enjoyable manner.

“Since the 32 years I have been doing this, I have developed a thirst for knowledge and I want to share that with others,” Waizmann said.

Part of the proceeds from the event will go to Scioto, Olentangy & Darby Zymurgists (SODZ) Columbus-area homebrew club.

Zymurgy is the area of science related to fermentation.

SODZ’s mission is to educate and support brewers of all levels, from those who are inexperienced to those who are seasoned home brewers.

“It’s a good resource to test ingredients, recipes, source ingredients, and there is also a camaraderie built because it is a certain population and culture of craft beer,” Waizmann said.

He said the culture spills over into the distributors, brewers, retailers and most importantly, the consumers.

AleFest mostly centers itself on American beers because the event falls on American Craft Beer Week, which started Monday and will end Sunday.   

This year’s AleFest, however, will incorporate some international beers also.

“I just added some high-end Western European breweries as well,” Waizmann said.

The growth of the Arena District is another reason why Waizmann decided to have the event downtown, in addition to the convenience of neighboring business Shadowbox Live catering the event.

“This district in general is making a real resurgence, and that is what attracted me to it,” Waizmann said.

There are a number of Ohio breweries that will be represented at AleFest, including Great Lakes Brewing Co., Hoppin’ Frog Brewery, Maumee Bay Brewing Co., Brew Kettle and Christian Moerlein Brewing Co.

German-inspired Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant, will feature its Märzen, Czech Style Pilsner, Blond Bock and Maibock beers at AleFest.

“For the Märzen, we use dark roasted and caramelized Munich malts,” said Gordon Biersch brewer Keith Jackson. “This beer has a strong malt character with a caramel aftertaste.”

BJ’s Brewhouse will offer HopStorm I.P.A., which is its newest edition to its full-time lineup. The beer has a strong bitterness, which is caused by the hops, said Erik Canter, general manager of BJ’s at Polaris.

“It is six complex hop varieties, and is an American style I.P.A.,” Canter said. “I love it personally, it’s one of my favorite beers.”

Waizmann said the craft beer audience is so great because it doesn’t have a typical consumer in its sharing, casual community. Waizmann also said the craft beer community is becoming more mainstream.

“It started off as an underground movement, and now its coming to the surface and more people are discovering it today,” he said. “Once you develop a taste for it, you’re not going back.”
Items that breweries and distributors donated will be auctioned off in a silent auction.

“It’s all across the board,” Waizmann said of the pieces to be auctioned. “People love cool beer stuff.”

Tickets for AleFest are $40 and are available at www.AleFest.com and at the door the day of the event. Attendees must be 21 years of age or older.

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