Awards & Events

‘Big Tap In’ Draws Craft Beer Fans to Metroplex

By Brian Fry

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Craft beer enthusiasts were all buzzing when it was announced that The Big Tap Real Craft Beer Festival would make a triumphant return in 2019. The festival was an annual event for five years, bringing lots craft beer lovers, breweries, musicians, and vendors from all around northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

The five-year hiatus event resulted in an even higher level of energy and enthusiasm that was palpable in the newly refurbished ballroom at the Metroplex Expo Center on Belmont Avenue. Approximately 1,400 people attended the event, which included VIP and general sessions.

The Big Tap In is the brainchild of Phil and Sandy Reda, former owners of Vintage Estate and The Magic Tree Pub and Eatery in Boardman. The event raises money for Project MKC, a local charity benefitting area children with numerous programs including a diaper bank, after school tutoring, and summer food program, just to name a few.

Sandy Reda is proud of the positive impact The Big Tap In has on Project MKC. “This is a big fundraiser for them,” she says. “They plan to use the proceeds to expand their diaper bank program. Diapers are an essential item for any parent of a newborn and a major expense that many low income families have trouble covering.”

The Big Tap In attracts breweries from all over the world, with a major focus this year on the numerous local breweries that have opened since the last event five years ago. Penguin City, Noble Creature, Birdfish. Modern Methiods, Numbers and many others had booths that were very busy throughout the day.

“Our event gives breweries the opportunity to showcase their products to a lot of people who are enthusiastic beer drinkers,” Reda says. “This helps them generate new business in their respective brew pubs and breweries and can help gain consumer awareness for the beers that are sold by retailers and restaurant / bar owners in the region.”

While locals love The Big Tap In, nearly 50% of this year’s ticket sales were to people living outside local zip codes. This had the neighboring hotels fuller than normal with the desk manager at the Comfort Inn and Suites reporting that the event had a noticeable impact on itd business this weekend. Station Square Ristorante saw a significant number of diners come in after the event ended, and local Uber drivers were kept quite busy by the attendees, they say.

Phil Reda has always felt the event provides a positive boost to the local company and this year was no exception.

“Economic impact is significant for local hotels, restaurants, bars, and transportation drivers,” he says. “There is also a long term positive impact due to the increased awareness of the breweries from our local area. The people who attend this event will come back and visit these breweries again.”

The Big Tap in gives local businesses besides breweries the opportunity to showcase their products and services. Vendors were selling everything from t-shirts to hot sauce to gourmet popcorn. “Restaurant Row” featured six local establishments including Kravitz Deli, Bruno Brothers Pizza, Barrel33, and The Magic Tree Pub and Eatery. Business was brisk as the day moved along at most of the food booths.

Local bands and musicians also gained exposure by taking the stage as the event progressed highlighted by impressive marches through the venue by The Youngstown Samba Club and Steel Valley Pipes and Drums. Local act Black Wolf and The Thief opened the day with a show that set the energy level on high for the rest of event.

“This event provides a dynamic and enthusiastic captive audience for all the vendors, musicians and restaurant owners to share their passion and build awareness for their business”, Phil Reda says.

Many of the attendees were already clamoring Big Tap In next year and local businesses echoed those hopes. Good news for all: The Reda’s say the event will return in 2020.

Pictured at top: Event organizer Phil Reda meets with the crew from Herman’s Hot Sauce.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.