It’s finally spring and while some of us are still scraping ice off our windshields, Smoke in the Valley’s Brewers Ball – Home Brew Festival brought the heat by connecting craft beer enthusiasts with local homebrew hobbyists, inventors, scientists and nerds.
On a beautiful spring day, at Bad Sons Beer Co. in Derby attendees sampled 60 home brews from over 25 local homebrewers. But the best part is that these beers were specifically brewed for this festival.
From “Hazelnut Milk Stouts” by Two Devils Brew to “Strawberry Mint Blonde” by Wicked Ways Brewery, there were all sorts of creative twists to Stouts, IPAs, Pale Ales, Porters and Blondes. And while we tend to gravitate towards the big names in craft beer, this outdoor festival blew me away with all that is up-and-coming in Connecticut.
Smoke in the Valley is a non-profit organization that benefits several organizations and local charities in Seymour, Connecticut like Seymour Land Trust. They produce over a dozen local festivals every year including a large festival with non-stop craft beer, home brew and live music in October.
Who are homebrewers?
A homebrewer is not a brewery.
A homebrewer is someone who brews beer on a small scale for personal or family use. In Connecticut, homebrewers can produce up to 50 gallons of beer a year in a one person household and up to 100 gallons a year for households with two or more adults. However in many states, you can brew up to 200 gallons if you’re living in a two person household and 100 gallons if you’re single.
Homebrewers are not allowed to sell beer without a brewer license but they can attend beer exhibits and competitions like the Brewers Ball.
Showing your love and supporting homebrewers is extremely important because with enough traction, they can potentially go pro and become the breweries that open in our towns, cities and state.
So events like Brewers Ball (with a People’s Choice Competition) helps homebrewers solicit feedback, come up with new concoctions and build a following.
As an example, Front Porch Brewing started off as a collective of homebrewers and they now have a taproom in Wallingford!
Brewers Ball – Home Brew Festival
With admission to the festival, we were given a stylish reusable plastic shot glass for our pours and tickets to participate in the People’s Choice Competition where we voted for our favorite home brews based on three categories: farmhouse, hops and malts.
The festival had a great turn out and the tents were packed with people searching for their favorite pours. There were also plenty of porta potties with running water and paper towels.
Our Game Plan
In order for us to check out every homebrewer at the festival (a lofty but achievable goal), my best friend and I decided to divide and conquer.
We sampled one beer from each homebrewer and since most homebrewers had two to three beers available, we picked different pours for our first round. Just in time for the festival’s close at 4 p.m., we managed to do one last round where we sampled our favorites – more on that next!
Favorite Pours at Brewers Ball
One of my favorite home brews was “Heart Flapper” which had a sweet honey flavor.
“Sour Baby Dragons” by Loaded Dragon Brewing Company was another one of my favorites. Loaded Dragon is based in Northford, Connecticut and they hope to own a commercial brewery one day. I am whole heartedly rooting for their success!
Sour Baby Dragons is a goose style Ale with notes of key lime and tangerine sour. Let me tell you, it was so good that they ran out before the end of the event!
Loaded Dragon’s saying for this goose, “Sour. Sweet. Gone.” is clearly on point. Don’t forget to sweeten the deal by throwing in some Sour Patch Kids candy into the mix.
I also enjoyed “Double Dipped IPA” from Das Gud Brewery and “Black Jesus Black IPA” by Grandpap Finnegan in Norwalk. By the way, with a name like that, I had to try this stout. And…yep it lived up to my expectations!
Here’s the full list of homebrewers at the Brewers Ball:
- Neubeginun Brewing
- Spirit Brewing Co.
- Seaside Brewing
- Big Hunk of Metal
- Nothing Sacred Brewing
- Wicked Ways Brewery
- Knight and Day Brewing Co.
- Doc’s Hill Brewing Co.
- Loaded Dragon Brewing Company
- Meridian Craft Brewing
- Two Devils Brew
- Decent Human
- Grandpap Finnegan
- Grass Island
- Das Gud
- Black Sheep Brewing
- Pillar Brewing
- Blurred Lines Brewing
Other Highlights From Brewers Ball
Besides the beer, I discovered all sorts of local businesses like the Fairfield Theatre Company which offers live music and comedy in Fairfield.
There were also three food trucks on-site cooking up a variety of sweet and savory foods. Maple Craft Syrup served warm Belgian waffles with free samples of maple syrup and you could even buy brown sugar or craft beer glazed bacon.
Last but not least I can’t forget to mention the alcohol infused cigars, something that I hadn’t heard of before!
Guy & Lady Barrel is a Washington D.C. based cigar shop that infuses alcohol flavors like Bourbon and Cognac in six year barrel aged Dominican tobacco. Although I didn’t get to try any of their cigars, everyone I asked (both men and women) had nothing but good things to say about their cigar experience.
In short, Brewers Ball was a fantastic event for discovering all sorts of small-batch beers brewed by homebrewers all over Connecticut. It was also a great opportunity to meet them in person, strike up interesting conversations and support their ideas and creations.
OTHER LOCAL CRAFT BEER FESTIVALS:
Did you go to the Brewers Ball? Share your favorite home brews in the comments below!
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