Do you have a mini-brewery in your garage or back shed?
Do you brew your own pale ale, pilsner or lager? Do you make a stronger beer, a stout or dark ale? Perhaps you brew wheat or rye beer, sours, or fruit beers?
No matter what your concoction, there’s a class for you with a Home Brew section in the Kyneton Show pavilion competition for the first time.
Macedon Ranges Brewers Club is coordinating the competition, with hundreds of dollars in prizes thanks to sponsor, Woodend’s Holgate Brewhouse.
Founding club member Paul Chapman hopes it will encourage more people to try brewing their own beer.
“Most people are trying different craft-style beers and the next step is for them to realise they can make just as good a beer at home themselves,” he said.
While the new section is tapping into a growing trend, Ag Society president Vince Lakey says home brewing is not new.
“I’ve been making beer for 30 years,” Mr Lakey said. “I did it because of cost. I had seven kids – I couldn’t afford to buy beer.”
Vince says it’s a return to the traditional farming practices the Kyneton Show celebrates.
“Outlying farmers would have been making their own beer into the 1930s and 40s – spirits and wine too.”
He says while modern consumers have become divorced from the food process, increasing numbers are looking to make their own produce.
“People realise they can do it themselves,” Mr Lakey said. “They can take control of what they put in their foods and understand where it’s coming from, how it all happens, re-connecting with the seasonal cycles of agriculture: Why do you make salami in winter?
“You can make your own beer – and the flavour that you like. I can make my beer low alcohol – 2 per cent in summer, but for a winter beer, you might go up to 5 ½ per cent alcohol.”
The home brew category will beef up the pavilion competition particularly for blokes who already dominate the salami-making competition.
“Don’t stop at beers and salami,” Mr Lakey said. “Grow your own vegetables and fruit. Produce your own eggs and understand the agriculture and reduces your greenhouse emissions because they’re all local.”
But he hopes men and women will enter their home brews, saying research has proven women have a better palate.
There are two women among the 23 paid members of the Macedon Ranges home brew club but anyone can come to the monthly meeting at Woodend’s Holgate Brewery for free to taste beers and learn about the process – even if they haven’t started making beer yet.
Member David Ferguson says it’s a great way to learn.
“You can ask the internet or ask a person,” he said.
The club explores ways to improve the beer – even kit beer – controlling the temperature and the ferment.
“I joined so I could learn how to make a better beer,” club member James Carfi said. “I joined as a kit brewer then graduated to all grain brewing.”
Treasurer Rhys Allen said most people start with kit beers but that can be more limiting. “They don’t get what they want which can put them off,” he said. “When they take the next step, they get some control.”
Mr Chapman says people come to trade recipes and to trouble shoot, to find out what’s wrong with their brew.
“You really need to see the flaws. That’s what we really need to workshop,” he said. “But it’s constructive criticism in a supportive environment.”
Paid members get free malt and hops and other bonuses during the year.
Mr Chapman says they’ve improved their brewing standard over the last five years, mainly by comparing notes and what they’ve learned from each other.
The Macedon Ranges club won a recent state inter-club competition where they had to use supplied malt and hops. It won best showcase of malt and best beer, with $1000 tab on the bar at Federation Square craft beer specialist Beer Deluxe for members to share.
Mr Chapman encourages all home brewers to enter the Kyneton Show competition, even those who aren’t sure their beer is a winner.
“The judges will write comments about each entry so it’s a great opportunity to get feedback on your beer,” Mr Chapman said.
But don’t worry – only place-getters are named so no-one will know if your beer doesn’t win.
See the Pavilion section on the Kyneton Show website for details and get your beer in by Tuesday November 12 for judging for the show on Nov 15/16.