Home brewers on display
Hundreds sample the creations of 25 brewers during the 4 Corners North HomeBrew Festival
BENNINGTON — Blood Of Thyne Enemies mead. Drink Me coffee porter. Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout.
They're not the names on tap at the bar, but they were among the tasting selection of 100 homemade recipes offered during the fourth annual 4 Corners North HomeBrew Festival Saturday.
William and Trish Gardner cofounded the County Street event in partnership with the Tap House at Catamount Glass, Hawkins House and Bennington Potters to bring some attention to the northern section of Bennington's downtown, and to the beer, wine, cider and mead people make themselves.
"Home brewers don't really get the opportunity to sell their beer," William Gardner said. But, he added, it's not for a lack of taste.
"This stuff is as good, if not better than a lot of craft beer that's for sale," he said.
At Bennington's Madison Brewing Company, for instance, their wintertime Nor'Beaster Chocolate Imperial Stout - made with whole coffee beans and cocoa nibs - was born of Gardner's Roast Beastly Imperial Stout. That's the recipe he won a Bennington home brew competition with a decade ago.
As part of the top prize, Gardner was allowed to brew a batch of his beer in the Madison Brewing Company's system, and it came out "really good."
"They said, `Do you want a job?'" Gardner said. "And I said, `Yes!'"
Gardner has since become Madison Brewing Company's head brewer. In the meantime, thanks to the 4 Corners North HomeBrew Festival, 25 more home brewers from all over the Northeast got the chance to share their recipes on Saturday.
In the entrance of one tent sat Shield Maiden Brewery founder Julia Humphrys-Nelson, who donned spidery face-paint to go along with her mead samples: Valkyrie's Tears, Viking's Blood and, of course, Blood of Thyne Enemies.
"Which is perfect for drinking out of a skull," she added.
Humphrys-Nelson said she's currently trying to collaborate with other Bennington area homebrewers to potentially open a brewery. A few tables down, Connecticut-based Wicked Ways Brewing Co. co-founders Jacob Hicock, Richard Holland and Bryan Kutzner wore jokers' hats and talked of similar hopes and dreams.
"We just love to come to these for people to say our beers are great," Hicock said, adding that it meant the three of them — with Lick Me 'Til Ice Cream Ale, Luscious Lips strawberry mint blonde ale and Drink Me coffee porter — were doing something right.
Jeremy Meerwarth, a home brewer of 12 years who founded Wicked Awesome Brewery in Bennington, must be doing something very right with his Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout. A two-time winner at the Winter Wings & Homebrew Fest, it took the 4 Corners North HomeBrew Festival "Best Home Brewed Beverage" prize on Saturday.
While beer was the main draw on Saturday, Trish Gardner said she and her husband are trying to grow the street festival part — the free part — of the event to encourage more attendees.
This year Roxy and the Road Kings played live music, the Bennington Beledi Tribal Bellydance swished and swirled in colorful skirts, and U.S. Army recruiters, Bennington Area Trail System, food trucks and local vendors all set up just beyond the large, white brew-tasting tents.
The Bennington Fire Department helped out by setting up water barrels for the festival, and the Bennington Rescue Squad provided an ambulance, too. In addition, the festival offered a free shuttle back and forth to the Southern Vermont Arts and Craft Festival, held a couple of miles to the west at Camelot Village.
"It is a community effort," Trish Gardner said.
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