GRAND RAPIDS — The conclusion of the National Homebrewers Conference happened last night with a Grand Banquet and awards ceremony. An amazing amount of people shuffled into one room to eat, drink and celebrate their fellow homebrewers.

There was a 45 percent increase in the number of competitors, with 8,172 homebrews judged in this year’s competition. The top three entries from 28 style categories advanced to the final round. From there, 1,020 entries were judges by 212 of the top beer judged in the country.

Robert Hilferding of Zephyrhills, Fla. won the Homebrewer of the Year award with his best-in-show entry in the Scottish and Irish ale category. The Meadmaker of the Year award was presented to Matthew Weide of Minneapolis, Minn. for his melomel, while Edward Walkowski from N. Abington Twp., Pa. won the Cidermaker of the Year award.

The winningest homebrewer was honored with the Ninkasi Award (named for the Sumerian Goddess of beer), having the most wins in the Final Round of the National HomeBrew Competition. This year, Arizona Society of Homebrewers’ Jeremy Voeltz was given this award.

A new award for 2014 — the Radegast Club of Year award — was presented to an AHA-registered club that made the most positive impact on its local community. This award was given to the Carolina BrewMasters of Charlotte, N.C. The group donated over $77,000 dollars to charitable community organizations in 2013.

The clubs themselves were also recognized. The Brewing Network won its fourth Homebrew Club of the Year award, and two Michigan clubs — Ann Arbor Brewers Guild and The Kuhnhenn Guild of Brewers Homebrew Club, were given top 25 honors.

Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery