There are nearly 63 million results if you Google the phrase “beer journey.” Dominic Gatta wants to make that number grow during Saturday’s Youngstown Beer Festival, which he wants to be more of a ‘Beer Journey’ than beer festival.
“I've been to a lot of beer festivals. Every one I've gone to has been at a different time in my life or I've gone for different reasons,” Gatta explained recently, sitting outside of V2 Wine Bar in Downtown Youngstown’s growing ‘Entertainment District.’ “When I first turned 21, we went to beer festivals to get drunk and see how many beers we could drink, or try or whatever. It wasn't anything like ‘Oh, I want to try this IPA because I heard about it,’ it was 'let's just drink a bunch of beers.
“In your mid-twenties you go to some, you do want to sample a couple of different things, but at the same time it's looking for the same end result. The last couple I've gone to since we've opened V2, I'm actually talking to Brew Masters and taking notes and looking for 'maybe we can bring this in' and really getting some more information so you grow this whole respect with this whole beer journey you're on.”
And he’s hoping the Youngstown Beer Festival will be a stepping off point for many new beer journeys.
“I wanted to put together a beer festival that has something for everyone,” Gatta said. “Not everyone likes IPAs. Not everyone likes stouts. Some people are still on Coors Light. That's what they like. Maybe we can get them to try something new. When you walk in, on the North Concourse there's going to be a Coors Light Tailgate area set up. Let them have a couple there, then move on and try things. On the South Concourse, we have a Peroni Bar with the Peroni Girls, a Gucci Fiat, a Photo Booth, so we have some things that are a little different than most beer fests. Redd's will be there with the Red and the Strawberry. We'll have an apple orchard set up, too” because not everyone likes beer.
There’s even going to be a ‘Nostalgic Beer Section’ to bring some experienced beer travelers back to their roots, with such selections as Old Milwaukee, Hamm’s and Coors Banquet Beer, pilsners and lagers that have been the first steps on many beer journeys. “We’re going to have beers people haven’t had in years that might have been the first steps on their journey.
“If you’re going to celebrate beer, celebrate all of them,” Gatta said.
The Youngstown-area owner of Gatta Promotions said he was looking for an event that could grow, that everyone in the area, not just those who live and work downtown can go to, be part of and be proud of.
“Once they moved the event (April’s Big Tap In, hosted by Phill & Sandra Reda, owners of Vintage Estates Wine & Beer and The Magic Tree Pub) from downtown out to Boardman, I said this event needs to be in Downtown Youngstown. I have a pretty strong commitment down here between V2 and a couple of things that I will be opening downtown, so hopefully we can grow this Youngstown Beer Week with this festival being the grand finale.”
“I don’t see it as a threat to anyone moving in (downtown). I invite them downtown. I'm going to compete with my own place on the same block,” he said of a place he’s hoping to open in the spring. “I want people to see Downtown Youngstown's a great place to eat and drink and there's a craft beer movement that's the same as in Cleveland, Ohio City and the like,” he said.
As for next year? Gatta is hopeful that the first Youngstown Beer Week combined with the first Youngstown Beer Festival can be something that grows. “I have pretty realistic expectations. It's not Cleveland beer week, we don't have the market for that. But I would like to make it something the community embraces, the tri-county area embraces. We have a beer festival we don't have to go to Downtown Cleveland or Downtown Pittsburgh for. We have a beer week that we can be proud of and have really cool and unique events here.”
The Youngstown Beer Festival is at the Covelli Center Saturday, October 5th. VIP Session opens at 1 with special food and beer pairings. The general session is open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. with more than 80 brewers and breweries represented and more than 200 different types of beer.
For tickets, visit http://www.youngstownbeerfest.com and we’ll see you there tomorrow!