Two weekend’s ago, Ann Arbor hosted its fifth annual Homegrown Festival. Yeah, yeah, I can hear all of the pot jokes you naughty folks are making but seriously folks, this thing is a winner. The festival brings together farmers, gardeners, nonprofit groups, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers and brewers—all under one big tent! There was music, tons of food and a most wonderful beer tent where I am not at all ashamed to say I spent most of my time
Arbor Brewing Company was there and I got to have my first Green Giant Organic Imperial Pilsner of the season. Wolverine Brewing was there with their lovely amber lager. I also got me some Pepper Smoker from the Original Gravity and shared it with some friends who had never heard of a pepper beer before (??????!!!!). Jolly Pumpkin was in the house and Boyfriend Ken used most of his tickets enjoying their libations. We also tried some hard ciders from Spicer’s Carriage House Ciders (the one with the cinnamon was to die for) and some awesome mead from Superior Lakes mead. I am really starting to enjoy mead despite not being a huge fan of honey. I also had kombucha for the second time in my life (my first time being the night before, as described below). I went back for seconds on this because it was a unique ginger beer that tasted like nothing I had ever really had before. Nice job, Unity Vibrations! There were also wineries there: DeAngelis Cantina del Vino, Flying Otter, and Sandhill Crane. I promise to try you guys next year! J
The highlight for me was something I was directly involved with: the Homegrown Homebrew competition. I’m not one to brag, so you didn’t hear this from me, but I think that event was freaking AWESOME! We solicited beers, meads, wines and ciders made with local ingredients: oats, grains, honey, fruit, vegetables, etc. We got 20 entries that ran the gamut from a watermelon beer to sour cherry mead to apple wine to kombucha. The creativity amazed me! We were a very informal competition and so the night before the festival, my friends and I very informally sat around my dining room table to judge the beverages. There were some great brews and some of the decisions were tough—the meads and wines were fruity and yummy, the ciders ranged from dry to sweet and the beers were extremely creative. I must admit to being somewhat skeptical about the kombucha. For some ungodly reason, I thought that kombucha had yogurt in it and I do not abide yogurt. Imagine my delight when I found only gingery goodness.
Our winners were Michael Topham (best beer, North Blend Cascadian Dark Ale), Roger Burns (Cherry Bomb mead) and Karl Vernon (Sweet apple cider). Most Creative Use of Local Ingredients went to Dick Dyer for using locally grown and malted barley, local yeast from Marshall and hops from his backyard. Honorable mentions went to Beth Bashert for her ultra-local mead: my friend used honey and berries from her backyard and peaches from across the street! We also gave an honorable mention to Stephan Kinnar for his kombucha.
The wonderful folks at Adventures in Homebrewing, Original Gravity, Carving a Niche and the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild donated prizes and my friends at Arbor Brewing Company donated the snazzy posters that I hung around town.
We want to keep this competition going so please keep us in mind as you brew! At any rate, “remember remember” the second weekend in September for next year’s Homegrown Festival. And for those of you wanting that “other” homegrown stuff…well, the Hash Bash will happen in early April!