GRAND RAPIDS — While the American Homebrewers Association’s National Homebrewers Conference was certainly a win for West Michigan, it was even more so for a group of local home brewers.

Jeff Carlson (PrimeTime Brewers), Nick Rodammer (Brewsquitos Homebrewing Club) and Kathy Troxell (Rivertown Homebrewers) were three home brewers who took home medals at the event, for three very different brews.

As we sat on a deck in July, enjoying the brewers’ winning drinks, the three medalists began to talk about their approach to home brewing.

For Troxell, she was more than pleased by the results. She won a silver medal in her first-ever competition with her Cherry Tart Kiss Melomel.

“I never expected to place in the finals — this was my first mead and my first competition,” said Troxell. “I was so surprised and overwhelmed. I didn’t believe my name had been announced. The guys at the table had to tell me three times I had won the Silver.”

But for all three home brewers, it’s not just about winning — it’s about what they learn in the process.

“You want some feedback, it’s probably the best advice to get,” said Carlson.

The long-time brewer took home two medals at the conference — a gold in the Specialty Cider and Perry category, and a bronze in the Standard Cider and Perry Category.

All of them agreed that winning solidifies the fact that a home brewer can be capable of creating something on par with some of the area’s best beer, cider and mead.

“My goal every time I make a beer that I’m serious about is, in my mind I want it to come out as good as anything you buy at a pub or in a store,” said Rodammer, who won gold with his Rodtoberfest in the European Amber Lager category. “Oktoberfest is probably my favorite style, which is why I was so happy to win a medal in it.”

Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery