Michigan’s homebrewers brought their finest beers and cleverest taps to Grand Rapids last Saturday for the 9th annual Siciliano’s Market Homebrew Party at Johnson Park. The party is a celebration of the localist of beer, where Michigan homebrewers compete for awards, sample each other’s recipes, and share tips on brewing. Awards are given in a variety of Beer Judge Certification (BJCP) style categories, and the top ten overall rated beers compete for best-in-show.
Overall winner Russ Smith of the MOB (Muskegon Ottawa Brewers) club took home top honors with his German Northern Altbier. Smith’s name will be engraved on the Siciliano’s cup, and he’ll receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Sierra Nevada Beer Camp in Chico, California for his winning beer.
Among all the beers I sampled Brett Mytys’ Belgian sour beers stood out, especially the Flanders Red, which was one of the sourest beers I’ve ever tried, and maybe the most addictive. Mytys is the resident sour beer expert for his extensive experimentation with Belgian-style beers, the commitment to which he calls a “leap of faith.”
Mytys spoke at a Siciliano’s Market seminar the previous night, and is well-respected in the community. He says he’s not planning to open a brewery anytime soon, though he did admit his operation would — if it ever opened — be named Burhnam Park Brewing after Daniel Burnham, urban planner from Mytys’ hometown of Chicago. “Burnham thought every citizen should have a park within walking distance. I think every citizen should have a brewery within walking distance,” he said.
Michigan’s major breweries would be wise to keep an eye on Mytys and these homebrewers, many of whom are only a business plan and an investor away from making a major splash in the industry. Take Eric Hoffman, for example; he won a gold medal with MOB in the Specialty Beer category for a Sour Bourbon Barrel Russian Imperial Stout (14%), and he’s the brewer behind Muskegon’s soon-to-open Unruly Brewing. Next time I see Hoffman I expect it will be at his new brewery on the Lakeshore — just what Muskegon needs.
Other notable beers and party favorites included a saison by Brian Machiele of the Brewers on the Lake club; Blackberry Mead from 56th St. Brewery; a homemade oatmeal cookie by Joel Kamp and Chris Carr (MOB); and Joe Burdick’s garbage can tap setup, which might just revolutionize backyard BBQs everywhere.
The homebrew party saw 220 entries compete in 14 categories, and judges included several BJCP-Certified tasters, and notable Michigan brewers like Jake Derylo, Head Brewer at Brewery Vivant; Jake Brenner, Head Brewer at HopCat; Matt Blodgett, Brewer at Founders Brewing; and Rachel Holland, Brewer at Michigan Beer Cellar.
Cost of entry into the contest is $5 (not including the party), and each beer is judged on a specific BJCP category, then the top ten beers are judged against one another for the top award. The $35 party entrance fee includes door prizes, growler, mug, bottle opener, messenger bag, music by Jimmy Stagger, spare-rib dinner from Three Men and a Grill, and bottomless beer from some of Michigan’s finest homebrewers.
It’s a homebrew party and I’ll drink if I want to. And I did, so leave a comment if I missed anyone. More details at the Buzz: Siciliano's Market News & Notes.