Friday, October 4, 2013

Youngstown Beer Festival promoter hopes the fest is the start of your Beer Journey

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 and we’ll see you there tomorrow!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Come Celebrate Oktoberfest at OctoBREW Fest on Saturday

To say that Phill and Sandy Reda know a bit about beer is a bit of an understatement. To say they know how to run a beer festival is too.

The husband and wife team own and operate Vintage Estates, perhaps the best kept secret for craft beer and wine lovers in the Mahoning Valley. There’s a reason they seek out first timer visitors and give them a gong shot, as the first visit to the store which houses 26 craft beer taps, a beer engine for casks, 800-plus bottles of wine and more than a thousand different kinds of craft beers in bottles and cans often leave one at a loss for words and in need of a mental reset.

With the addition of Magic Tree Pub & Eatery, just down the street on South Avenue from Vintage Estates, they've added a full-service restaurant, 30 additional mostly craft beer taps, a banquet center, sports bar, live music stage and outdoor patio that caters to beer, wine and food lovers of all levels.

And in addition to The Big Tap In, an annual craft beer festival they've hosted for four years in the spring, they've added a new beer festival, too, focusing on fall beer and customs.

OctoBREWFest, a celebration of fall seasonals, is Saturday, September 21 at 1 p.m. at the Shepherd Event Center in Boardman (the old Sam’s Club on South Avenue), will feature more than 30 firkins, more than 30 other craft beers in kegs, cider, farm-fresh food, local eats, polka music, and coincides with the start of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, all of which which Phill thinks is a pretty cool thing.

What makes OctoBREWFest stand out from other beer festivals, however, is how a majority of the beer is being served: Unfiltered, naturally carbonated by yeast, straight from the firkin to your tasting glass.

“Sandy and I went to England,” he said when asked why have a firkin festival. “Firkins, that’s where the real ales come from. No carbonation, unfiltered. That’s real beer,” he said, smiling. Based on those experiences, and with the success of Cask Corner at this year’s Big Tap-In in April, they decided to host a second beer festival this year, focusing on firkins.

A firkin is a small barrel of beer that is one-fourth the size of a regular barrel of beer. It contains between 10 and 11 gallons of beer that has not been cold-filtered, pasteurized or carbonated by outside equipment. The beer that is housed inside the firkin is naturally carbonated by the yeast used to make the beer. A real firkin contains ingredients that have not been processed in any way outside of simple fermentation by the yeast. A firkin of craft beer today is comparable to the ale beers that were produced hundreds of years ago, before industrialization and mass production subjected them to processes that removed or killed the yeast, stripping the beer taste, and vitamins and minerals.

“There are people who don’t know what a firkin is,” Phill continued.  “That’s fine. I want the real craft beer people who are going to enjoy these beers to come to this, not the guy who buys a ticket to drink all the beer.”

“There’s a certain vibe – a good vibe – we get here and at Vintage Estates. That’s what we like. And with the Farm-To-Table food, frankfurters, polka music, we’re going to have fun. I’m proud of what we do.”

In addition to great beer and farm fresh food, the festival also benefits local charity Making Kids Count, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the Mahoning Valley that believes that every child deserves to feel special, regardless of circumstances.

A limited number of tickets are still available at for $58 or at Vintage Estates or Magic Tree Pub & Eatery. Doors open at 1 p.m. and the festival runs until 5 p.m.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Are DUI Checkpoints Effective? Or Intrusive and Unconstitutional?

I understand the concept of DUI Checkpoints. There are times when people drink up too much and get behind the wheel, and sometimes bad things happen. I know that it's dangerous, and it's all been discussed before. 

Drunk driving is bad. I get that. 

I was a reporter for radio and print in my past, I've covered my share of deadly and non-deadly crashes, read too many police reports while typing up the police blotter, and been present at a checkpoint before, and been stuck in a checkpoint, too, so I can see this from all sides. I get it. Drunk driving is a problem.

But I don't think it's as big a problem as our state and local law enforcement make it out to be. Based on the numbers, it's more of a harassment and a witch hunt that hinders far more people than it helps and impacts the bottom line of far more bars, restaurants, bands and other entertainment events than they generate in fines for city/county/state. 

One bar owner I talked to said the checkpoints hurt his bar "Big time." And with little result on arrest report, sadly. 

DUI Checkpoints have ridiculously minuscule rates of DUI arrests

That's what bugs me.

Even a small checkpoint has, at minimum, a dozen officers and just as many cars, from multiple departments, who've had three times as many hours in logistical work as are spent on the actual checkpoint. And that's expensive. I know they're "working overtime" and "paid by grants" ... but that argument is asinine. 

Governments get money from one source: Taxes. 

Taxes that we, as citizens and business, pay. So saying it's a grant doesn't matter. Saying it's regular time, extra time or overtime doesn't hold water, either. All we're doing is overtaxing the officers with extra work that's going to catch up to them eventually during their regular work, when they're supposed to be protecting and serving. And in this day of reduced budgets, where every department is fighting for money, and tax bases and revenues are shrinking, the investment isn't worth the return.

Because DUI Checkpoints return minimal results:

An OVI checkpoint in Austintown, Ohio, on June 15, 2013, had 588 cars pass through. There were two DUI arrests and six other citations issued. That's a 0.34 rate of return on DUI, and a 1.36% arrest rate for ALL charges. That's just not smart use of tax dollars, if you ask me. And a huge inconvenience to the 582 other cars that were unreasonably stopped and searched without probable cause (more on that, later). (Source

Also on June 15th, there was a DUI checkpoint in Franklin County, north of Columbus, which was conducted by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Hilliard and Dublin police departments. In 2009, Franklin County ranked first in DUI arrests in Ohio, so you'd think a bigger city, bigger area, bigger checkpoint and that history would give significantly greater odds, right? 


In a six-hour period, a total of 814 cars went through the checkpoint. There were 332 cars that were checked, 39 that were diverted for issues.

A whopping four people were arrested for DUI. (Source


That's a 0.49140049140049 percentage for DUI arrests.

There were 14 people cited for driving without a license. So it seems to me that it would make more sense to do a "Driver's Licence Checkpoint" than a DUI Checkpoint. And yes, they do those, too, but it seems to be only during the day. Which tends to target people trying to get shit done during the day, and hoping they can do it in their lunch hour, only to get stuck in a checkpoint and the "LET ME ZEE YOUR PAPERS!" 

On March 17, 2013 -- St. Patrick's Day ... the day everyone in Youngstown is Irish and drinks -- a checkpoint was set up on Market Street near Breaden Street. The results: 564 cars went through the checkpoint, 19 were diverted, three OVI arrests, one warrant arrest. That's a whopping 0.53% rate of return. 

Said one officer, “We were surprised; we didn't have as many cars go through and didn't have as many arrests or citations as we would have thought," said Scott Weamer, assistant chief of the Canfield Police Department and member of the task force. (Source

If you can't catch people driving drunk on a drinking holiday, there might be something inherently wrong with your focus.

I don't believe it's because we can find out on our smart phones via apps or online where the checkpoints are. A DUI Checkpoint held Friday, March 23, 2001, had one DUI arrest. And 24 other arrests for various traffic offenses and outstanding warrants (it is Youngstown, after all.) The story doesn't list the number of cars through the checkpoint, however, but one DUI arrest? For all that work? It's a huge waste of time and tax dollars. (Source

From 2001 through 2003, the Ohio State Highway Patrol staffed 96 checkpoints that averaged 5.18 DUI arrests. Of the 75,930 drivers stopped, fewer than 1 percent were arrested for drunken driving, according to a review of checkpoint statistics The Columbus Dispatch published in 2004.

And it's borderline 4th Amendment stuff. 

For those of you not hip to the Constitution ... here's the text of the 4th Amendment, which is part of The Bill Of Rights:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Texas says that the 4th Amendment protects its citizens from DUI Checkpoints. Four other states have determined checkpoints are against the individual state Constitutions. Seven other states also don't have DUI Checkpoints.  So, I ask on both the DUI Checkpoints and the Driver's Licence Checkpoints, where is the probable cause? Simply driving? (Source

In Ohio, one of the criteria to allow checkpoints is history of DUI arrests in a certain area. It's based on history, because it's surely not results driven. If you did anything that resulted in a 0.5% success rate, you'd stop. If you'd focus those officers on additional patrols those nights, and hit broader locations, and I'm sure you'll get more than two DUI arrests. And spend a whole lot less money.

And that's from a county sheriff: 

Erie County Sheriff Terry M. Lyons, who served on the task force, said officers who patrol for DUI enforcement produce more arrests. One checkpoint per year is staffed by 10 to 20 officers in the northern Ohio county, and Lyons said officers usually make no more than six arrests. "If you take that amount of officers for six hours and put them on patrol doing strictly DUI enforcement, you'll more than likely have better results," he said. (Source

 Maybe it's time for checkpoints to check out. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

2013-06-15 - Simply Slavic Festival in Youngstown

Saturday, June 15, 2013, is the Simply Slavic Heritage Festival 2013 in Downtown Youngstown on Federal Plaza East between Market Street and Walnut Street. Gates are open from Noon until Midnight, and admission is only $3, children 12 and under are free! 

I was there in 2011 and enjoyed the great ethnic beer they had in the Slavic Beer Garden, including these fine products:  

This year there will be several great European beers, including Zlatý Bažant beer from Slovakia, Karlovačko beer from Croatia, Zywiec beer from Poland; Obolon beer from Ukraine, Nikšičko beer from Montenegro and Laker Lager from Canada. Not a Slavic beer, but similar to the lighter American beers which some people prefer. They also had the traditional domestic beers available for those who aren't as curious to try some new beer.

On the spirit side, there will be Šljivovica plum brandy from Balkan, Kruškovac pear brandy, Sobieski Vodka from Poland, and don't forget, you can request a topper of Kruškovac on the Šljivovica shot to create a 'Juliška'! There will also be an assortment of Slavic wines available. (Sorry, was informed there will be no wine at the festival this year.)

And the food? Forget it ... amazing stuff. Probably my favorite food festival in Youngstown, hands down!

For more information, click here for their website or follow them on Facebook, and head downtown Saturday for great food, beer, music and baked goods featuring the unique heritage of Eastern Europe: Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. 

-- Eric