Homebrew Clubs and Unaffiliated Brewers Excel at 2019 Indiana Brewers Cup

Homebrew Clubs and Unaffiliated Brewers Excel at 2019 Indiana Brewers Cup

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

The 21st Annual Indiana Brewers Cup is now in the books and the brewers are starting to get back their scores and comments from the judges. This is a special time for brewers, the ceremonies and camaraderie gave them a chance to enjoy the company of other brewers, but it also strengthens the love of brewing and the desire to improve. Now to read the reviews and start to plan how to improve their beers.

Professional brewers do this to stay viable and make beer that will draw patrons in to their business. Homebrewers do it for other reasons, often for an unabashed love for making beer and having other people enjoy their work product. They can’t get paid for their beer, so the economic motive doesn’t enter in to making beer for social gatherings or competitions, it’s more basic than that. It’s a need to become a craftsperson, to make something from scratch and have it acknowledged. True, some brewers don’t need or seek the acknowledgement, but then they don’t get the feedback either.

It’s not easy to put yourself out there and let other people critique your beer. Homebrewers have jobs and other commitments, and truthfully, they have little to gain from having judges tell them what they got right and wrong, and yet they do it. It is to be commended and ultimately raises the bar for all craft beer in the state. As such, we should most definitely celebrate all the homebrewers that entered their products into the Indiana Brewers Cup (IBC), whether they were awarded medals or not.

image credit: Foam Blowers of Indiana

By the numbers, IBC showed that homebrew is very strong in Indiana and around the country. Seventy-one brewers were awarded medals, representing 31 different clubs and 21 unaffiliated brewers. The winners came from both the US and Canada, and there were 14 states acknowledged on the platform, including California and Texas. This is a tribute to IBC and demonstrates how strong a competition it is year in and year out.

The entered beers totaled 769 for the 33 competition categories, with medals awarded to the top three in each category and in best of show. However, as with the pro division, beers had to achieve a minimum score in order to be deemed medal worthy. Despite the fact that these were amateur beers (perhaps in name only), only one category didn’t have three beers that achieved the necessary score. Out of a possible 99 competition medals, 98 were awarded. That’s much higher than for most other competitions that use this format.

Andrew Korty of the central Indiana club Foam Blowers of Indiana (FBI) was named Indiana Homebrewer of the Year for 2019. This was a well deserved award as he snagged two golds, a silver and a bronze medal for a total of nine points. His first place awards came in the European Amber Lager and Amber Hybrid Beer categories for his Czech Amber Lager called Better on a Boat and his altbier called Keeping up with Gisela. The European Amber Lager group was his balliwick as his silver was also in that division, for his kellerbier called Alla Dooch Annafest! See all the IBC homebrew results here.

Andrew’s Bronze medal came in the very different English Pale Ale category for a best bitter called Muscle Relaxant. Of his awards, brewing, and his club Andrew told me, “There are many talented and experience people in FBI, and I’ve learned so much from them about process, equipment, recipe formulation, and more. Also, I can always count on clubmates to give me honest feedback about my beers, even when it isn’t high praise. You can’t improve your beer with that kind of objectivity.”

Homebrew clubs have the best names. Ninkasi was the Sumerian Goddess of beer/ image credit: MONK

The clubs represented by their individual winning brewers came from all over the state and country. Groups from Munster, Louisville/southeast IN, Terre Haute, Martinsville, Evansville, Kokomo, and all over the Indianapolis area. Beyond Indiana, clubs from Denton, TX, Lincoln, NE, Detroit, MI, San Diego and other places had brewers enter beers and win medals.

I love the creativity of homebrew, but also the ingenuity of their club names. For some reason, clubs love to have initialisms for their names. Examples include the club of the home brewer of the year FBI, Circle City Zymurgy (CCZ), Boneyard Union of Zymurgical Zealots (BUZZ), Brewers of South Suburbia (BOSS), Ohio Valley Homebrewers Assoc. (OVHA), Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity (QUAFF – maybe Quaff On! Brewing could give out a C&D instead of receiving one, but I doubt they would do that), Illiana Beer Rackers Union (IBRU), Louisville Area Grain Extract Research Society (LAGERS), Midwestern Order of Nin-Kasi (MONK), and the Tippecanoe Homebrewers Circle (THC).

Even if they don’t use initialisms, the clubs often have great names, like The Lincoln Lagers Homebrew Club from Nebraska, Brew-Tang Clan from Maple Grove, MN, The Brü Club from Noblesville, Lift a Leg Homemade Beer from Wood Grove, IL, and Draft Punk from Sachse, TX. Andrew Weaver from Lift a Leg Homemade beer was the Best in Show winner for his Berliner Weisse called Lemon Ass Juice, so the creativity and excellence was limited to just the names of the clubs.

FBI walked away with the Homebrew Club of the Year award for at least the fourth year in a row. They accumulated 17 medals, plus both the second and third places in the Best in Show competition. CCZ of Indianapolis brewers garnered eight medals, while the Lincoln Lagers grabbed six and OVHA had five.

image credit: Primeval Brewing

Among the winning brewers from those clubs, Tim Palmer and Nathan Compton of FBI accounted for six medals, including two golds and a third place for Best in Show. These two brewers will soon be opening their own brewery – Primeval Brewing in Noblesville. Tim Palmer said, “We thought that 2018 was the last year that Nathan and I thought that we would be competing as homebrewers, but as with all large undertakings, there are bound to be issues and delays. So here we are in 2019 and we were able to compete again at the homebrew level and what a great year it was for Nathan and I.”

He added, “Five combined medals and a 3rd Place in the Best of Show. All the beers are ones that are planned to be served at the brewery. In addition, it was a fantastic showing for our club, Foam Blowers of Indiana. We had Andrew Korty taking Homebrewer of the Year and FBI took Homebrew Club of the Year!  Such a fantastic group of people who have shared so much to help each other out to become better brewers, but also have become good friends!” With two award-winning brewers in the house, I think we can look forward to some great beers from them.

On the other hand, some brewers stepped from one type of beverage to another and still had success. Nick Boling of CCZ won the homebrew portion of the 2018 Whitestown Brewfest for his beers, but took two medals in the mead categories for the 2019 IBC. He said, “I have only been making mead with a purpose for 8 months. I am my own worst critic in that I entered 3 meads (2 traditional and 1 berry) just to receive the feedback. I never dreamed I would actually place! The differences between beer and mead fascinate me, the processes are not even remotely close to the same. This is what has made me interested in mead making. It’s a nice change of pace. In my 5 years of brewing my startup mead got me a silver and bronze, I’m very happy!”

As for the evening itself, Nick remarked, “The night as a whole was great. We sat next to the best of show beer brewer. He made ‘Lemon Ass Juice’ and it was hilarious to see the reactions when his beer name was mentioned. Even though we don’t always win it’s still fun to meet with other brewers, get good ideas, and even mingle with the professionals! I talked Milkshake IPAs with Derek Kunzman from Urban Vines, and then his milkshake took home a bronze. He said mine was spot, on and clearly his medal shows he knows his stuff!”

This reflects the overall feeling of community and the connection between the homebrewers and the professional brewers. The Indiana Brewers Cup is central to building this togetherness and helps to propel Indiana brewing to new heights. The contest and evening are perhaps most important for the homebrewers, whether they are looking to open breweries, using brewing as a social outlet, or just making beers for friends.


banner image credit: Tom Wallbank of Foam Blowers of Indiana

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