BENNINGTON — One month ago, Bennington businesses and community members teamed up to host the first Craft of Beer Homebrew Competition, which event organizers are now calling a great success.
Forty-three homebrewers had the opportunity to showcase their beers, but it was Joe Prandini, with his citra double India pale ale, who received the most votes and took home the top prize. Second place went to Jeremy Meerwarth with a watermelon ale, and in third place was Rich Sager, with a blackberry ale. Madison’s Brewing Company has reached out to all three, and hopes to feature their beers on draft for a period of time, starting in the fall.
Event organizers Will Gardner, a brewer at Madison’s, and Peter Odierna, director of the Bennington County Industrial Corporation, said that about 1,000 people came out for the event, with about 500 purchasing tickets for unlimited three ounce homebrew samples.
“One of the biggest positives was the attendance,” said Gardner, who said that they learned a lot from running the competition, and were looking forward to next year.
He said one of the most common comments he received after the event was that the beers were of a much higher quality than had been expected, with many comparing it to a small-scale craft brew festival.
As a side competition, brewers were encouraged to decorate their tables, and they did not disappoint, said Gardner. The winner of that competition was Steve Weingold, who mounted his tap into the front of a rusty, old tractor. His brew was appropriately called Rusty Tractor Brown Ale.
“We’re going to keep it in the same location,” said Gardner. “We love that area.”
He did say that they were looking into purchasing a large tent to use in future years, in case of inclement weather. While they hope to bring more people and vendors out next year, the number of brewers will still be capped at 50. “90 percent of the homebrewers have indicated that they’d like to come back,” he said.
Odierna pointed out that about 40 percent of the brewers were from within 20 miles of Bennington, while the rest traveled for the competition, from as far away as New York City, Rhode Island, Saratoga, and Montpelier.
Odierna said that five participants in the competition are now engaging in conversations with the BCIC, the Vermont Small Business Development Council, and the Town of Bennington to start businesses to sell their crafts. He said that two seem very committed, while conversations are still in early phases with the other three.
Commemorative glasses were given to everyone who purchased beer samples. (Photo submitted by Michael Harrington)
Both Odierna and Gardner were quick to note that the competition would not have been possible without the support of many partners, sponsors, and volunteers. Gardner made sure to thank Rich Albert, Trish Gardner, Michael Bolognani, the Town of Bennington, Adam Volpi, Rob Raffone, Mike Harrington, Matt Harrington, and the crew. Odierna thanked the businesses that sponsored the competition, namely, BCIC, Hawkins House, D’s Market and Deli, Wills Insurance, Jacobs Law Office, Northshire Brewery, Madison’s, Bank of Bennington, Colgate Park, Kevin’s Sports Pub, A Kind Place and Green Mountain Hydroponics, Price Chopper, The Tap House at Catamount Glass, Bennington Potters, Earl’s Service Station, and Uncle Bob’s Septic.
For vendors and community members who are interested in getting involved in next year’s competition, visit the event’s web page at craftofbeer.weebly.com, or email Odierna at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Gardner at email@example.com.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.
Steve Weingold presented his Rusty Tractor Brown Ale in a unique manner, literally hooking up the tap to a rusty tractor. (Photo Submitted by Michael Harrington)