D-Vine Wine & Beer Fest is Great, But It’s About So Much More Than Craft Beverages

D-Vine Wine & Beer Fest is Great, But It’s About So Much More Than Craft Beverages

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Is there a cause important enough that craft beverage producers would actually pay to serve at a festival? For breweries, and increasingly for wineries and distilleries, festivals are events that need to be thought of as marketing opportunities, not merely chances to support the community and increase brand awareness. If attending a festival can’t reliably bring more people to your tap/tasting room or forge a path in an area in which they are looking to distribute, then it often isn’t worth it.

And that’s when breweries are being paid stipends for the beer they bring to a festival. So having a festival where wineries, breweries, and distilleries are willing to shell out cash for the opportunity to give away their product, it must be something special. That’s exactly what Walter and I found at the D-Vine Wine & Beer Fest in Columbus on Saturday, the 7th of March.

D-Vine is a major fundraiser for DSI (Developmental Services, Inc.) of Columbus. This organization is responsible for supplying support services for any person with any type of developmental disability in South Central Indiana. Opened in 1975, DSI currently serves more than 2500 clients with their staff of 800. They have a wide range of programs for all ages and for the families of those with disabilities, including First Steps, an early intervention and support program for families looking for advice, therapy, and plans for finding services. There are also music therapy, outreach in homes (called REACH), group homes, and vocational programs that help people throughout their life.

The crowd a D-Vine Wine & Beer Fest. image credit: DSI

All of this good work requires 1) significant funds and 2) strong people. Thanks to their fundraising activities and staff/volunteers, the second group is helping to raise the first. D-Vine Wine & Beer Fest in the winter and a large golf outing in the summer are the primary charity fundraisers for DSI, providing gap funds to help clients with a myriad of outside-the-programs needs.

This was explained to Walter and me by Claire Hirsch of DSI during our visit to The Commons in downtown Columbus for the festival last weekend. Her examples for how the funds are used included things like replacing broken glasses and providing clothes for job interviews. It’s easy to forget how small things like these might fall through the cracks when large programs are being implemented, yet they’re just as important as the big ticket items.

With this background giving us a clear vision of the day for, the D-Vine Wine & Beer Fest was a wild success on every level. People packed the upstairs of the Commons, with wineries, breweries, and distilleries around the edges. The stage was used for announcing door prize winners and holding the raffles of items donated by the vendors – yes they paid to be there and then donated items to be given away. It’s important to keep in mind that not just the attendees paying to attend and buying all those raffle tickets were contributing to the cause.

As such, it’s important to recognize these community-minded and generous craft beverage providers – they included Hog Molly Brewing, Easley Winery, Windy Knoll Winery, Upland Brewing, Holtkamp Winery, Cedar Creek Winery, Brewery, & Distillery, Huckleberry Hill Winery, Ertel Cellars Winery, Winzerwald Winery, Hoosier Brewing, Best Vineyards Winery, Huber Winery & Distillery, Butler Winery, and Mallow Run Winery.

Andrew Spaulding of Hoosier Brewing with D-Vine attendees. image credit: DSI

The guest tables were crowded with people, their raffle tickets and samples, along with bottles they purchased and full pints of beer that could be had for a small price. The volunteers from DSI made their way around the floor making sure everyone was happy, and Bert’s Quality Provisions hauled BBQ up from their truck outside to the second floor for purchase. It was a lively atmosphere and many clients of DSI were responsible for helping out, taking pictures, and other tasks within the vocational training program.

This was the 12th annual D-Vine Wine & Beer Festival, and it has grown in popularity and its goals each year. Claire joined DSI in 2019, so this was her second D-Vine fest, and she has implemented important additions to the fest to help it keep growing. Last year she added the VIP ticket option for attendees, and this year that program grew significantly. The number of booths and attendees have been expanded under her watch, and now the problem may be running out of room at their location. It’s a good problem to have, but don’t look for many other things to change in the future – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Claire and DSI Communications Director Tom Harping told Indiana On Tap that this year’s event raised around $17,500 for individuals with disabilities, and that this year’s attendance was around 700, with online ticket sales exceeding those in previous years. Keep DSI and D-Vine in mind when planning your wine, beer, and spirits events in the years to come. If craft producers understand that this festival/cause is important enough to pay to be a part of, we should make sure that their efforts are successful.

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