BENNINGTON — Hundreds of people celebrated the craft of beer brewing at the second annual HomeBrew Festival on Saturday.
More than 50 brewers from around the region showcased their beer at the event at Four Corners North.
Spencer Lanning took first place with a Coffee Maple Oatmeal Stout. Earning second place was Toby Potterton, and third place was a tie between James Casey and Jeremy Meerwarth.
A section of County Street from North Street to School Street was closed off. Brewers set up tables under two large tents. Attendees enjoyed live music and visited food vendors. Among other refreshments was homemade root beer and craft soda. Each attendee sampled from a commemorative tasting glass.
In the mid-afternoon, Toby Potterton was receiving much praise for his Pownal Porch Pale Ale. As the name suggests, it's brewed on his own front porch, with two different kinds of homegrown hops. He also poured a Whiskey Barrell Porter.
He's been brewing for about 12 years, since he learned about it from a friend. He said it takes repetition to get a good batch.
"You need to keep good records so when you have a batch that works, you can replicate it again," he said.
"The way you tell if it's good, is you offer it to your friends. Then you offer them a refill. If they say yes, you know it's a good batch."
Brewers go through a process of trial and error to get a batch just right, said Victor Gabriel and Aaron Maas, of Hudson, N.Y.
"There's definitely a science to it," Maas said. He's studied culinary arts, specifically baking. Gabriel has a background in geology.
They've been brewing together for about three years and on Saturday were pouring under the name of Good Schist Brewery. Their table was adorned with a cardboard cutout of David Hasselhoff, of Baywatch and Knight Rider fame, and numerous rock samples, reflecting Gabriel's field of study.
They were pouring the second batch they've made of a Hefeweizen, a wheat beer they named the "David Hoff-eWeizen." Their first batch of a "Buzzed" Honey Barley Wine is almost perfect – Gabriel said that, after they make it a second time, it would taste just right.
"Maybe it takes you a couple times, another one takes 10. Eventually you get it just right," he said.
Maas agreed. There are numerous variables that can affect the final product.
"When you get to create something that's yours, whether a home run or not, it's great to have something that's yours," Maas said. "I've been pursuing brewing professionally. To me, it's the greatest thing. There are so many different styles, there's literally something for everyone."
Right next door, Danielle and Aaron Longtin of Bennington, who also aspire to open a brewery someday, were pouring under the name of Harmon Hill Brewery.
Aaron Longtin said their rhubarb wheat was made using 50 pounds of rhubarb they received from a friend. It was well received, he said as he poured the last of it into an attendee's glass.
They've been brewing for about eight months and are eager to try new recipes, new hops and malts, and refine their technique.
"I read a lot of books about brewing. I try to learn something new every week," Danielle Longtin said.
Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.