By Jillian Morgan
Garrison Brewery, along with The Noble Grape, hosted its sixth annual Home Brew Off Awards Gala on Thursday night. The Home Brew off is a competition which aims to showcase the talents of local homebrewers in Halifax.
Inside the brewery, there was dim lights and fairy lights which were draped around the floor to the ceiling windows. Craftbrew enthusiasts and supporters mingled while bartenders poured samples of the contestant’s homebrewed beer.
While the event has been popular with local homebrewers since it began, this year’s contest had more entries and judges than ever before. Tracy Phillippi, Marketing and Communications Director at Garrison, said that this is because people have “awakened” to the value of craft beers.
“People are bored,” said Phillippi. “They’re sick of light lagers and once you try a real craft beer, no matter what style it is, it sparks your interest because it’s full bodied, full flavoured, it has some character and it’s produced locally.”
In 2013, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reported that beers brewed on a national scale have seen a decline due to an increase in interest for locally brewed beers, speciality brews and premium brews that incorporate creativity, originality, and a “full bodied” taste. A “full bodied” taste requires a much more complex recipe allowing the beer to be thicker and sweeter.
Gail Dominey and Barb Wade came out to the Home Brew Off to support their husbands who are both local homebrewers.
“I think it’s important to support all local craftsmen,” said Dominey. “Small businesses are the heart of the Maritimes.”
The winner of the Home Brew Off is invited to brew a full-sized batch of their recipe with Garrison’s brewmaster Daniel Girard. It will be packaged and released as a limited edition seasonal drink along with two cases of the finished beer, a 75 dollar gift card to The Noble Grape and a trophy which will be displayed inside the brewery.
While Wade herself said she doesn’t drink beer, she isn’t surprised by the increasing interest towards locally brewed beer and Dominey agrees.
“It has much more flavour and it’s just better than the mass produced beer,” said Dominey.
“Once you start enjoying craft beer it’s really easy to want every style imaginable and it becomes a healthy addiction for people,” said Philippi. “What better way to have an addiction than to support your local economy and local businesses.”
The recent demand for craft beers has helped popularized homebrewing and gives local brewers an opportunity to make their mark in the Canadian beer industry. In Nova Scotia, Phillippi suggests an ambitious brewer begin with manual labour such as working on the bottling line of a microbrewery and work their way up.
“I would suggest learning all-grain brewing and start to brew your own recipes,” said Philippi. “Think critically about the style of beer you’re producing and push the boundaries of what you’re capable of doing.”