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War of the worts! Brooklyn’s beer-makers battle at home-brew fest

The Brooklyn Paper
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There are drinking games, and there are drinking contests.

Brooklyn’s home brewers are emerging from their closets, basements, and garages armed with their finest suds for an April 28 smackdown that will see two beer-makers crowned kings — no small achievement in a borough known for its brew bars and ever-growing community of swill-makers.

“If you love beer, this is one of the greatest events ever,” said Justin Israelson, the owner of the Ditmas Park bar Sycamore, which organizes the sip-off every year with Brooklyn Homebrew. “There’s good food, good beer, good conversations. Everybody in the beer community is pretty awesome.”

And that community is also awesome in scale, too.

Due to the overwhelming number of entrants, Brooklyn Wort — which is named after the sugary liquid that becomes delicious alcohol after fermentation — held prelims this year. Judges tasted over 100 brews before whittling down the field to the 25 worthy of competing in the finals at Public Assembly in Williamsburg, a larger venue than Israelson’s Cortelyou Road watering hole.

The chosen brewers will compete for a $200 people’s choice award, voted on by attendees who sample all the brews, or the $800 judge’s choice, awarded by a panel of suds specialists from lauded drink tanks such as Brooklyn Brewery and Bierkraft.

The borough’s micro-est of microbrewers are just the latest example of Brooklyn’s passion for doing it ourselves — not to mention Kings County’s obsession with nostalgia.

Brooklyn boasted 45 breweries at the turn of the 20th century, but beer-makers soon fled the former beer capital in an exodus that started before Prohibition and continued long after. By 1976, the borough was brewery-less, and stayed that way until Brooklyn Brewery opened in Williamsburg in 1996. Brooklyn is now the home of other successful beer-makers including Kelso in Clinton Hill and Six Point in Red Hook — not to mention dozens of home brewers.

The folks at Brooklyn Homebrew, which opened in 2009 as the only supply shop in town for do-it-yourself beer-makers, say they welcome the enthusiasm — and competition — saying it helps the quality of local brews.

“We’ve had growth each year since we’ve opened,” said Benjamin Stutz. “And this year, we were able to bring in some fresh brewers and make the event even better.”

Sample beer and pick the borough’s king home brewer at Brooklyn Wort [Public Assembly, 70 North Sixth St. between Kent and Wythe avenues in Williamsburg (718) 284-4586] April 28, 2 pm or 4 pm, $35. Visit www.brooklynwort.com.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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