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AleFest to pour into Columbus

Courtesy of Dave Obenour

Columbus is brewing up excitement for local, Columbus beer enthusiasts this weekend. About 100 breweries, including many from Ohio and Columbus, are set to serve up samples of more than 250 craft beers at Columbus AleFest, an annual festival celebrating craft beers from around the country.
The event is scheduled to take place Saturday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Aladdin Shrine Center.
AleFest was founded in Dayton 16 years ago and is celebrating its eighth year in Columbus.
“(Columbus) is an excellent craft beer market,” said Joe Waizmann, the creator and organizer of AleFest. “It has certainly grown over the years, as has AleFest. There are more breweries available to choose from, and the depth of selections of beers has increased dramatically.”
Waizmann, an Ohio State alumnus, said there has been major growth of craft beers since his college days, and he hopes OSU students will take advantage of AleFest to discover some of those beers.
“I was a freshman at OSU in ’74-’75 … and what’s clearly changed in the past 30-plus years is the evolution of craft beer,” Waizmann said. “It seems that the student age is the best time to discover beer, and there’s a tremendous amount of exploration at this age.”
Admission to AleFest includes 20 samples of craft beer, a tasting guide and a commemorative tasting glass. The event will also feature a raffle, silent auction and live entertainment.
For first-time AleFest attendees, Waizmann recommends staying hydrated and sampling responsibly.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time and play in your samplings,” Waizmann said. “It’s always a great idea to sample beer styles you’re not familiar with. That’s the objective – to open up your palette to new aromas.”
Waizmann, who has been in the beer business for 33 years as a wholesale distributor, importer, home brewer and beer judge, said the business is “in his blood,” and he created AleFest as a way to share his passion with others.
“I have a thirst for knowledge and wanted to learn more about beer and found myself becoming immersed in it, and it was through all that that I wanted to expose people to these wonders that I’d discovered,” Waizmann said.
As much as AleFest is about the drinkers, though, the event gives participating breweries a chance to “put their best food forward,” Waizmann said.
John Najeway, owner of Thirsty Dog Brewing Co., in Akron, said AleFest is an ideal opportunity to showcase the company’s new beers.
“What we try to do is determine if the festival is falling during one of our seasonal beers, and then we’ll look at new beers that we’ve only had on draft but are considering bottling, because it’s a good test market at festivals,” Najeway said.
Thirsty Dog is slated to feature its current seasonal beer, Irish Setter Red, as well as a new IPA, Citra Dog, which Najeway said the company is considering bottling in the spring.
Marcos Cruz, a December OSU graduate in microbiology, said AleFest sounds intriguing because of the opportunity to branch out from megabrewers.
“As a student, it’s fun to get away from Natty Light and try some more quality beers,” Cruz said. “To get the chance to try out beer from people who actually brew it themselves sounds interesting.”
Experimenting and discovering new favorite brews is what AleFest is all about, Waizmann said.
“I hope that everyone who attends has a good time and that they’re exposed to a lot of new beers,” Waizmann said. “I hope they take that enthusiasm and learning out to other establishments in the future.”
But in case OSU students are still unsure whether AleFest is for them, Najeway offered up another reason why he thinks they should attend.
“If Brutus could drink, he would go to Columbus AleFest,” he said.
Tickets for AleFest can be purchased for $35 in advance at alefest.com/columbus or for $40 at the door. Discounted designated driver tickets are also available for $10. Attendees must be 21 years of age or older.
The Aladdin Shrine Center is located at 3850 Stelzer Road.

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