The fourth annual Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)South Okanagan’s Home Brewers Competition was a sold-out hit on Saturday.
The 150 tickets sold out in just a few days, and the brewery room at Tin Whistle Brewing Co. was packed with people all eager to sample one of the 18 homebrewed beers on tap.
In the end, the People’s Choice award went to Warren Everton for his Reindeer Games pale ale. A seven-year home-brew veteran, Everton attributed his brew’s performance in part on his decision to make it with as much broad appeal as he could.
“It’s Nordic because I used a Norweigan yeast for it,” said Everton. “It’s a kind of slightly fruity and hazy pale ale, fairly easy drinking, and you could have more than just one. I thought it would appeal to the public, and it’s what I like to drink too. I try to think of what would appeal to the public, because this is a public event. It’s kind of the every-person’s beer. Some of the beers are a bit more bitter, or dark, or that kind of thing. “
The Judges’ Choice this year was a hard-fought competition. The judges, members of CAMRA and local breweries, took extra time and were so impressed by the selection that they made two honourable mentions. Everton’s Reindeer Games took home one honourable mention from the judges, with the other going to Eric Harding and Brenda Hardisty’s Apogee Spruced Up Rye IPA.
In the end, the top prize, the chance to brew a commercial batch of beer, and bragging rights went to the team of Taylor Ballentyne, Mike Romer, Jason Lanki, Kyle Finnerty and Malcolm Potts. Their German Pilsner edged out the competition thanks to its skilled creation.
“It’s a collaborative effort, ” I have a background in wine-making. We do it out of my friend’s garage, and everybody plays their part,” said Ballentyne. “Definitely we wanted to target a few styles, you want to make everything, but you only have so much time in the day. We kept making and reiterating recipes until we saw what worked the best.”
Ten individual, partner and groups of brewers had their stations set up in Tin Whistle’s brewroom, with 18 different brews among them. The number and quality of the beers made it a tough challenge to pick a single winner for the judges.
“Lots of contenders, lot’s of fantastic choices, it was hard to narrow down,” said Michelle Gowing, the CAMRA SO judge. “[The Judges’ Choice] was a very strong contender, with a very delicate palette to it that is very hard to achieve. Pilsner’s can be very standard and regular. This one really stood out as a unique version of a very commonly done beer.”
With a sold-out crowd and a growing number of brewers and brews to taste each year, the quality of the competition is rising. CAMRA SO’s president, Kim Lawton, is happy to see the growth of the home-brewing community alongside the increasing number of local professional breweries.
“That’s the beautiful thing about craft beer, it just keeps getting better, and better, and better,” said Lawton.“Our whole craft brewing industry here in Penticton, and across B.C. just keeps growing; we’re learning more; people have more resources, they have more people to talk to. We had a ton of professional brewers here today, and they’re part of this community. Everyone wants to just keep improving the quality of their beer, and over the years we just keep seeing better and more innovative beers.”
The Judges’ Choice brew will be made into a commercial batch with the assistance of local brewers, and will be available to the public after release.
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