Amateur hour: Brooklyn home brewers compete for glory in Gowanus • Brooklyn Paper

Amateur hour: Brooklyn home brewers compete for glory in Gowanus

Brewed awakening: “Pride of Brooklyn Homebrew Festival” organizer Casey Soloff breaks into his homebrew stash.
Photo by Tyrone Z. McCants

Some of the most interesting beers in Brooklyn don’t come from craft breweries or beer bars — they can be found fermenting in the borough’s home kitchens and basements.

On April 12, the “Pride of Brooklyn Homebrew Festival” will return to Littlefield in Gowanus for its second year, offering 25 amateur brewers the opportunity to show off their finest creations — and local beer-lovers the chance to sample them.

“Craft beer is becoming more experimental and adventurous, and people are becoming more curious about how to make their own,” said festival coordinator Casey Soloff. “There’s a real interest among a certain segment of people who want to understand what goes into it and who want to make the type of beer they want to drink.”

The best beers at the festival will be awarded prizes by both professional judges and the audience, but Soloff said the event is as much about community as it is competition.

“Brewers are overwhelmingly nice people,” said Soloff, who has himself dabbled in home brewing. “People come here with a tasting glass, but it’s really more like a hangout. The people who provide the beers are really passionate about them.”

Last year’s first-place winner said that concocting creative brews is the key to winning the judges’ and drinkers’ favors — and it is also the most rewarding part of the hobby.

“I love brewing because it’s a creative, alchemical process that involves science, botany, history, principles of cooking, and experimentation,” said Shannon Bowser. “You can make specific styles of beer that you want to drink that may be hard to find, or expensive to buy.”

Bowser, a sculptor who lives in Philadelphia, took home the top prize in 2013 with a French saison called “Bel Soleil,” and is hoping for a repeat performance this year with her persimmon gose, “Triumph of Spring.”

But win or lose, Bowser said the greatest prize is just creating a new brew that friends and other beer geeks love.

“Home brewing builds a great community of like-minded people,” she said. “You get a huge sense of accomplishment and pride when you brew a great batch that your fellow home brewers actually enjoy drinking.”

“Pride of Brooklyn Homebrew Festival” at Littlefield [622 Degraw St. between Thirs and Fourth avenues in Gowanus, (718) 855–3388, www.littlefieldnyc.com]. April 12 at 1 pm. $25 general admission, $55 VIP (includes t-shirt, early entry, and 33oz growler to take home).

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