Home-brewers from eastern Maine and beyond gathered last Thursday at Nocturnem Drafthaus in downtown Bangor to taste and discuss beer, wine and mead and name winners in the first-ever Maine Homebrewers Competition. The event, organized by Nocturnem and fellow Bangor-area businesses Central Street Farmhouse, Bangor Wine & Cheese Co. and Penobscot Bay Brewing, brought 70 home beer and wine makers together to celebrate the art of homemade, personalized alcohol.
In all, 60 beers and 10 wines and meads were entered into competition, mostly from the greater Bangor area, with a handful of entrants from Vermont and Canada. Zeth Lundy, co-owner of Central Street Farmhouse, attributes the runaway success of the first event to Bangor’s growing do-it-yourself scene.
“I couldn’t quote you specific numbers, but I know that Maine and Oregon both have the highest per capita number of home-brewers in the country,” said Lundy. “I think the nice synergy that’s developed between all these businesses downtown that all attract the same kind of person has resulted in a scene that’s started to really spread like wildfire. It’s a hobby that really keeps people captivated.”
Out of the 70 total submissions, eight first-place winners were narrowed down. The overall winner, Nate Engelberth of Old Town, created an India Pale Ale made with rye that Lundy said was spicy and fragrant.
“It was about a 7.7 percent [alcohol by volume] beer, with some really fragrant hops, which the rye was a nice, spicy compliment to,” said Lundy. “It was the one beer that all of us judges decided was just right. We all have different palates, and that one we all liked.”
Engelberth’s grand prize is to have his brew made and bottled professionally by Penobscot Bay Brewery in Winterport. The brewery expects to have the beer done by mid-to-late November, when it will be sold in bottles and on draft at Nocturnem Drafthaus.
“To my knowledge, we’re the first home-brew competition in Maine to do something like this,” said Lundy. “In fact, the only other home-brew competition I know of that has the winner’s beer made professionally is the one that Sam Adams does.”
Other winners include Chris Robertson of Bangor, who won first place in the Light Beer category with his superhoppy Amarillo IPA. Ricky McLain of Cabot, Vt. won first place in the Dark Beer category with his Robust Porter. The Wild Card category, for beers that don’t fall into specific areas, had a tie for first, with Chris McLaughlin of Bangor’s strawberry chamomile beer and Seamus Higgins of Eddington’s ginger beer.
In the Kit Wine category, for grape wines made with a kit, Dave Rocker of Hampden won with his Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz blend. Bill Leathem of Hampden won the Country Wine category with his raspberry wine. For mead, Matthew Thomas of Winterport won.