Big Tap In beer festival attracts 3,000 attendants

By Brian Fry


There is no doubt that “The Big Tap In” has a positive impact on our Valley. The economic and social influences go well beyond The Shepherd Center here where this year’s event took place.

Co-organizer Phill Reda explained that the event is a labor of love and commitment.

“It all started out of the love of draft beer. Sandy [his wife] and I attended a beer festival and she said, ‘We should do this.’ I said, ‘OK, sounds like fun!’”

The Big Tap In has grown from those humble beginnings into one of the most anticipated and respected beer events in the Midwest region. In fact, people traveled from around the country to attend this year’s event, bringing more than 3,000 beer lovers to Boardman. That number reflects only paid attendance, and doesn’t account for the numerous beer industry personnel who traveled to our valley for the party.

Local resident Kevin Maloney has attended all four “Big Tap In” events.

“There is a plethora of craft beers here all under one roof. Normally, you would have to travel out of our area to enjoy an event like this. It is the best beer event in Youngstown every year, hands down.”

Jay Taylor, sales and marketing manager for The Elevator Brewing Co. in Columbus, agrees. “This is a tremendous platform for craft breweries to gain exposure for our brands. This is a must-attend event in our industry.”

The economic impact is palatable the moment you turn onto South Avenue from U.S. Route 224. All of the hotels at the Route 224-Interstate 680 corridor were booked several weeks ahead of the event. Restaurants all along 224 have felt the positive impact since Friday.

The event is structured to benefit local charity “Making Kids Count.” Founder Jenny Kennedy pinpointed exactly where the proceeds will go.

“The money raised today will launch a backpack program in the Lisbon schools. Kids will receive a new backpack full of food to take home for the weekend.”

This is the second year that The Big Tap In has benefited “Making Kids Count.”

The strength of The Big Tap In lies in the commitment of more than 125 volunteers who work the tents and the floor of the event. Local Valley resident Bob McPhail was volunteering for the first time this year.

“First of all, it is a lot of fun for a great cause. The Redas are great people, and they have a tremendous commitment to our Valley. I’ll definitely be back next year.”

Beer lovers aren’t the only ones rejoicing in the success of The Big Tap In. Every hotel room within the vicinity was booked, and area restaurants and retailers have been reaping the benefits since Thursday.

Co-founder Sandy Reda explains that though The Big Tap In has its roots in craft and microbeer, it has taken on a life of its own.

“Look around you,” she said with a smile. “The impact of this event goes well beyond a glass of beer. We are so proud and pleased at what this has become.”

You can read a full review of the event and the best beers of the year Wednesday in The Vindicator and’s Valley Food page.

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