Arts, Dining & Entertainment

Think your home brew can “Make the Cut?”

On Monday, Jan. 5, Beverage Warehouse in Winooski and 14th Star Brewing Company in St Albans announced a home brew competition with the goal of giving an amateur Vermont resident home brewer the chance to see if their home brew can compete commercially.

The challenge is a statewide competition, with partners including Farrell Distributing and revered craft beer destinations The Farmhouse Tap & Grill (Burlington), Three Penny Taproom (Montpelier), Worthy Kitchen (Woodstock), Prohibition Pig (Waterbury), and Mule Bar (Winooski).

“This is a chance for us to give back to the home brewing community and give someone a chance to prove that their beer belongs in the marketplace. We are longtime home brewers ourselves and having the opportunity to grow and build our brewery, along with amazing partners like Farrell Distributing, has been a dream come true. We’d like to share that dream,” says Steve Gagner of 14th Star.

Jennifer Swiatek, the owner of Beverage Warehouse in Winooski, was the creator of the contest. “Our intense enthusiasm is what spurred this idea,” she said. “It is a daily conversation here at the Beverage Warehouse… the love of beer. Folks will wait in line for hours to get a taste of Vermont, and they do it with smiles. We talk to a lot of home brewers and beer lovers who say ‘I wish I could do this for a living, maybe one day…’ Well, I decided I wanted the Beverage Warehouse to give them that ‘one day,’ that shot, to see if they could make the cut.”

“What sets this apart from some of the larger, similar competitions is that we are not taking the recipe,” explains Gagner. “The beer will be produced and sold under our license for legal reasons, but it will be very clear that this is the competition champion’s beer. This allows the home brewer to see how his or her recipe stacks up to the other craft offerings in the marketplace and could potentially help them decide if the leap to professional brewing is for them.”

The competition, currently titled “Make the Cut” will consist of three phases:

Registration: Competitors will register at beginning  Jan. 9. Registration is only open to Vermont residents and proof of residency will be required of the finalists. Registration fee is $10 – 100 percent of which will be donated to charity (50 percent to Purple Hearts Reunited and 50 percent to the charity of the winner’s choice). Competitors (individuals or a team) will brew their single best recipe and mail or deliver six 12 oz. or three 22 oz. bottles to 14th Star Brewing at 133 North Main St in St Albans. Mailed entries must arrive before March 31. Delivered entries can be brought to the brewery between March 30-31 only. These initial entries will be judged by a panel of professional beer judges, as well as amateur judges comprised of members of the industry and the media. Registration will also be capped.

The final match-up: The two finalists will be contacted to brew a 120 gallon batch of their beer at 14th Star Brewing, which will then be sold in tasting pairs at the participating craft beer destination (listed above) for a short time period, along with a ballot for voting. The votes will be collected from each bar and will have an impact on deciding the competitions winner.

The winner: the winning brewer will brew production sized batches of the winning beer at 14th Star Brewing. The winner will be announced the week of the Vermont Brewers Festival in July. Upon announcement, the winning beer will be available at select bars and restaurants, as well as in cans at local craft beer stores, statewide. The winner will also be invited to pour their beer at 14th Star’s tent at the festival, and a donation will be made to a non-profit of their choice.

Full competition rules and restrictions will be posted at

14th Star Brewing was founded in 2011 by Vermont Army National Guardsmen upon returning home from Afghanistan, with the goal of being a responsible corporate citizen of their state and local communities and to give back to the communities from which they came, all while brewing world-class craft beer. 14th Star recently moved into a brand new 16,000 sqft facility on Main Street in St Albans.

The Beverage Warehouse is the largest “liquid outlet” in Vermont with a full liquor Store and over 1,400 beers and over 4,000 wines. Jennifer Swiatek has been with the company for 28 years, starting at age 15 in the bottle redemption.

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