Homebrewing has quickly grown from something associated with snobbery to include more than a million people in the U.S., according to the American Homebrewers Association. Vermont is known for its delicious, small batch brews and a new contest called “Make the Cut” is looking for the next big thing in brewing.
Jason Dennis, beer and wine manager at the Winooski Beverage Warehouse, is both the contest organizer and a homebrewer himself. He says that around 300 homebrewers will be selected to enter the contest, and then a panel of beer experts and beer amateurs will judge their brews. The two finalists will have the opportunity to make a 120-gallon batch of their recipe at 14th Star Brewing in St. Albans.
At this point, each of the finalist’s brews will be sold on tap at the brewery and anyone there can vote for their favorite. Dennis says they didn’t want to limit the judges to beer professionals. “The tasting pairs that will be sold at bars, they will count as one vote towards the overall competition. In addition to the other judges and industry professionals, the people’s vote will count as well. We wanted to bring more people into this competition than just beer snobs or beer judges,” Dennis says.
The winner of the contest will be invited to pour and sample their beer at the coveted Vermont Brewers Festival in July. The winning beer will also be canned and sold in restaurants and stores throughout the state.
So how did the idea of a homebrewers competition come about? Dennis says, “We’re always at the Beverage Warehouse, surrounded by beer and people who love beer, and we see the look in people’s eyes that wonder, ‘Geez, I wonder if I could do that. I wonder if I have what it takes to do something like this.’ Jennifer [the owner] was great at calling in different people in the industry, collecting a bunch of friends and industry professionals and helping to remove a lot of the legal hurdles.”
Dennis says that several successful brewers started as homebrewers and that they are excited to give someone the opportunity to bring their brewing to the next level. “There is so much work going behind the scenes to give a brewer the shot at brewing in Vermont, one of the most important places in the world for brewing,” Dennis says.
Half of the registration fee for the contest will go to the Purple Heart Foundation, a non-profit that supports veterans and their families, and the other half will go to the charity of the winner’s choice.
Learn more about the “Make the Cut” homebrewing competition and register here.