Second winter homebrew fest a big hit

BENNINGTON — By all accounts the second annual Southern Vermont Wings and Winter Homebrew Festival on Saturday was a great success, with more homebrewers and patrons than ever.

The festival for the first time moved into the former Bennington Brush building on North Street, after its first iteration took place at the Masonic Hall on Main Street. Event organizer William Gardner, co-owner of Hopridge Farms and brewer at Madison's Brewing Company, said that the venue change allowed them to sell about 100 additional tickets compared to the previous year. The event was declared officially sold out last Tuesday afternoon.

In total, 24 homebrewers and five restaurants were offering samples of their brews and wings, respectively. Attendees received six tickets for sampling the wings and a commemorative glass with which to sample the pours from the brewers. The festival was open to everyone from 1 to 5 p.m., with a special VIP hour from noon to 1 p.m. that featured exclusive pours for people that purchased the limited number of VIP tickets.

Festival-goers were asked to vote for their favorite brewery, drink, and wings. Jeremy Meerwarth of Wicked Awesome Brewery took first place in the best drink category for the second year in a row with his Peanut Butter Cup Stout, and Ramuntos of Bennington repeated as winners of the best wings, despite some tough competition from Madison's, The Lounge at Pangea, The Chuck Wagon, and Hannaford.

The winner of the best brewery award, who also won the award for best VIP brew, was a newcomer to the festival, and to festivals in general. Three Teachers Brewing began as a partnership between three educators from Amsterdam, New York, Phillip Parillo, Brendan Cetnar, and Rich Peters, who discovered that they shared a mutual love of beer and an interest in brewing. Last summer, they debuted some of their creations in a backyard bash for about 100 of their friends and family members. The reviews were excellent, and the trio decided to try their hand with the public for the first time. If the results of the vote were any indication, these teachers have a bright future ahead of them.

Beer-lovers had plenty of varieties to choose from, but besides the India pale ales, stouts, porters, dunkelweisens, witbiers, brown and amber ales, and more, there was also a large selection of ciders, meads, and even a barleywine or two. For the VIP section of the event Wooly Mammoth Cider introduced a hopped cider, Graf, inspired by the fictional beverage from Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series. Wooly Mammoth collaborated with Meerwarth on that beverage. Another table that was popular during the VIP period was Camp Norton Brewing, of Bennington, due to their strong mead, which was flavored with honey and juniper berries. The drink, which was inspired by a historical beverage enjoyed by vikings, came in at over 20 percent alcohol-by-volume.

Another group entering a homebrew festival for the first time were Arlington Heights Brewing Company from Auburn, Mass. These four neighbors, Jeff Crowden, Joe Sabato, Mike Bowles, and Scott Swenson started brewing together over the past year. Crowden, a graduate of Southern Vermont College, convinced the others to make the drive up to Bennington for the festival, where they debuted their Pineapple Vog, a New England-style IPA, and their One More, Out the Door vanilla pale ale.

The event was the result of a collaboration between Hopridge Farms and the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce. Entertainment was provided throughout by Beard and Glasses, and vendors included the Chuck Wagon, Outdoor Secrets Unwrapped Hot Sauce, Key Lime Chocolates, and Mad Hops Beer Drops. Hopridge Farms and the Chamber also collaborate with the Taphouse at Catamount Glass on the annual Four Corners North Homebrew Festival, which is expected to take place for the fourth time this summer, and the Rock N Brew event at Southern Vermont College last October.

Derek Carson can be reached at, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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