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 http://www.octobrewfest.com 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.