BENNINGTON — “Oh, this beer here is cold, cold and hop-bitter, no point coming up for air, gulp, till it's all — hahhhh.” ― Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"
It’s that time of year, Southern Vermonters … time for the 13th Homebrew Festival in downtown Bennington on April 29; time to celebrate the finest homebrewed beer, cider, mead, braggot (beer and mead mixture, for the uninitiated) and wine in the region.
Four-ounce samples will feature sours, pastry stouts, New England IPAs, porters, pilsners, fruited mead, Belgians, hard ciders, white and red wines, and more.
A $40 general admission ticket buys visitors all the drinks they can handle — please bring a designated driver! — and this year, samples of home-chef foodie treats like pulled pork, mac and cheese, and chili. Additional themes for the chefs: soups, chowders and stews. The goal is to be voted the Best Home Chef by attendees.
The similar goal for the brewers from throughout the northeast is to be crowned Best Home Brewery. Among the participants are Invisible Mountain Brewing, SPARGE Homebrew Club, The Jolly Fool Brews, River Valley Brewing, Level 3 Brewing, Catseyesoup Brewery, Breadwater Brewing, 7 Balls Brewing, Side-Gig Brewery, Intolerance Brewing, Wicked Ways, Whole Nother Level, Flying Fox Brewing, Marshall Mash Brew Lab, Smooth Liquidation, Three Teachers Brewing, TYRANNICAL RUFFIANS, Vintage Tree Cider, Three Girls Brewing and Wilderness Brewing.
Attendees also will vote on their Favorite Brewer, Favorite Beer, VIP Hour Beverage and Favorite Non-Beer Beverage.
“When I started the HomeBrew Festivals back in 2015, I had no idea it would take off like it did," said Will Gardner of Hopridge Farms in a release, who produces the festival with the Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce.
“My original goals were to showcase the art of homebrewing, the wonderful local homebrewed beverages and hopefully start a more robust craft beer scene in Bennington. I feel that with the help of the Southwestern Vermont Chamber, we have surpassed all these goals and have given our community a festival to be excited for and proud of.”
A second Homebrew festival will be held on Oct. 7.
“There is an economic development angle to this festival,” said Matt Harrington, executive director of the chamber, in a statement. “We set out seven years ago to work with Hopridge Farms to not only produce a great, fun festival for the community but to pave the path for possible breweries in the future. As we continue to host festivals like these, we continue to give brewers (and distillers) permission to put their toe in the water of running a business.
“We take great pride in the fact that this festival has produced great brews, as well as great businesses,” he said.
Several regional home brewers who attended past festivals went on to open breweries, including Farm Road Brewing and Harvest Brewing in Bennington.
Vendors will be on hand, selling everything from maple products to chocolate to hot sauce. Those include Outdoor Secrets Unwrapped Hot Sauce, Highland Ledge Farm, i want pig candy, The Jupe Box, Uzume's Pots, Hangry Hogg and Willow Creek Adk.
The festival will be held at the Bennington Sports Center at 230 School St., rain or (hopefully) shine.
According to the chamber: Ticket gates open at noon to exclusive VIP ticket holders ($55 per ticket) for a private tasting of the best homebrews in the region. Ticket holders with general admission will be able to attend from 1 to 4 p.m. All tickets can be purchased at vthomebrewfests.com. Each ticket holder receives unlimited sampling of the brews and regional food, and the ability to vote for the winners of each.
Sponsors include Presenting Sponsor Coggins Auto Group, VIP Hour Sponsor Fidium Fiber and Brewer Sponsor The Bank of Bennington, the Bennington Sports Center, media sponsors the Bennington Banner and CAT-TV, and musical provider Jim Woodard.
For more information and to order tickets, visit vthomebrewfests.com.
Noting the April and October festivals, Harrington said, “… We think spring and fall will be ideal times to have some fun and gather as a community.”