COMSTOCK, Mich. – Winners of the 7th Annual Bell’s Homebrew Competition were announced Nov. 6 during the 8th Annual All Stouts Day at Bell’s Eccentric Café, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., in downtown Kalamazoo.

Eleven homebrewers placed out of the 146 that submitted this year.

First place went to Evan Monroe for his hoppy Saison brewed with peaches.


Monroe will get to brew his recipe at Bell’s original brewery to then go on tap at the adjacent Café. He will also head to the 2017 Great American Beer Festival in Denver as a guest of Bell’s and compete alongside a Bell’s brewer in the Pro-Am Competition.

“Our judges saw a lot of experimentation again this year and overall, there was a solid mix of traditional beer styles and those that pushed style definition. Our top winners reflect that mix very well,” said David Curtis, Bell’s General Store Operations Manager and competition organizer.

Second place went to brothers Chad Hutson and Daryl Hutson for their Belgian Double IPA.

Third place went to Jay Vanbuskirk for his Black IPA.

This year’s runners up are (in no particular order):

  • Ross Winter – Imperial Stout w/bourbon soaked oak chips
  • Steve Morren – Sour Brown Ale
  • Kevin Kolk – Hibiscus and ginger fruit beer
  • Andy Akers – Belgian Wit/American Pale Ale hybrid
  • David Cohoe – Golden Ale with a roasty character
  • David Lyman (2013 competition winner) – IPA
  • Stephen Hardy – IPA
  • David Nowell – Grape Saison

“The number and skill of those who have competed over the years is incredibly inspiring. We are very proud to support this community and to see that familiar drive and passion reflected by so many,” said Laura Bell, Bell’s Vice President and Co-owner.

More information about when this year’s winning recipe will be tapped at the Café will be released as it becomes available. Judges’ comments are available to be picked up at the Bell’s General Store.

Previous first place winners include –

2015: Bale So Hard, a Farmhouse Ale brewed with HBC 438 and Mosaic hops, from David Hellen

2014: Coffee Mustache, a California Common style beer brewed with coffee, from Matt VanNatter.

2013: Proud Mitten, a dry hopped IPA/Pale Ale made with Centennial, Citra and Simcoe hops, from David Lyman.

2012: Manden Med Leen, a black IPA brewed with Belgian yeast, from Nick Rodammer.

2011: A Bit of Heat from Geoff Groff, brewed with paradise seeds, rose hips and habaneros.

2010: Oscar’s Folly, a collaborative IPA from Jarrett Cupp, Bailey Cupp and Paul Gentz.

home brew league

If you heard the name “Home Brew League” you might think it was some kind of summer softball showdown or a group of guys playing fantasy football. But for Boyd Culver and Chris Musil, owners of Coldbreak Brewing Equipment in Cedar Springs, the Home Brew League is a revolutionary idea to test the skills and bring together some of the best home beer brewers in Michigan. The inaugural competition they’ve created is a one-of-a-kind brewing challenge that stretches the skill of the participants and has them producing beer that rivals your local microbrew favorites.­

“The way we do it, it’s the only one like this in the country,” proclaims Musil. “There’s 32 teams and each division has 8 teams. Each team has 4-6 homebrewers.” Unlike other brewing competitions, all 32 teams submit the same style of beer for each round of the tournament. Culver adds, “There’s homebrew competitions all over the place all the time, but there’s definitely not one like this. There’s 32 teams all brewing the same beer.”

The league’s “season” stretches from the beginning of May through the end of October. Throughout the season, there are seven different events where teams compete with a new variety. The teams who rack up the most wins during the season then move into the “playoffs,” where one set of talented brewers will be crowned the first ever Home Brew League Champion.

This unique setup quickly captured the interests of local brewers who are anxious to see how their beer measures up. “Having these monthly competitions is really helping me refine my palate when I’m drinking a beer and what to look for when I’m creating my recipes. Plus, I’ve been brewing like crazy. It’s keeping me on my toes,” says John Wesorick, a member of a team known as “The Brew-Tang Clan.”

The idea for the Home Brew League came to Boyd and Chris as they were looking to create a fun promotion for their store, Coldbreak Brewing Equipment. They convinced three other local brewing suppliers, Siciliano’s Market, O’Connors Homebrew Supply, and Gravel Bottom Brewery and Supply, to sign on as sponsors. They were overwhelmed when it was time for brewers to sign up. “We didn’t think we were going to fill it up at all, and then it sold out in 24 hours,” said Culver. “The Siciliano’s division sold out in just 8 minutes.”

Although the event has already proven to be a winner for the stores business-wise, Musil explains that it’s not just about creating revenue. “It’s not all about us. It’s about getting everybody together. It’s about the community.” Culver adds, “That’s the cool thing, there’s four stores that are essentially competitors, all joining together for this great event.”

The way the league is organized isn’t the only unique aspect. The Home Brew League is also putting its competitors’ brewing knowledge to the test with some uncommon beer varieties. The first event in May required each team to brew a British Golden Ale. If you’re not sure what that is, you’re not alone. Brewer Rick VandeKopple says he had never even heard of it before. “There’s a lot of reading done online to find out, O.K., what’s this style like? It was all a new experience to try and build this recipe. It’s kind of a cool way to be forced to branch out,” said VandeKopple.

home brew league

Even the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) judges for the event were entering new territory. “This was a new style for me,” said Jim Halliberger, a judge who volunteered to offer his expertise. “I’ve been judging beers 20 years, and I’ve never seen a competition like this. To do a single style every month for several months…it’s just a really different idea.” The other beer varieties for this season include Scottish Heavy, Dunkles Weissbier, Pre-Prohibition Porter, Marzen, White IPA, and Foreign Extra Stout. “The styles are all something that people usually wouldn’t brew,” Culver explains. “And every month we have one mandatory ingredient, and most of them are Michigan ingredients.”

There are prizes for the winning teams after each event, but the last team standing in December will get to brew 15 barrels of their championship beer at Cedar Springs Brewing Company and have it served on tap. That’s an enviable prize, but some competitors say they’re only doing it for fun and for the expert feedback to help them become better brewers. “We thought it’d be kind of a fun way to take our beer making to the next level,” said Rick VandeKopple. “The judges let me know about a little bit of an off flavor they found, so that helps me get my brewing level up so that I can brew a better beer.” One of those judges, Mark Thomson, believes their feedback and these competitions are doing exactly that. “I expect there to be a lot of good beer. I think overall, the quality has gone way up in the ten years I’ve been tasting home brews,” said Thomson.

Culver and Musil agree that the entire homebrew community is on the rise, both in terms of sheer numbers and in terms of quality. And with the public’s appetite for craft brew rising right along with it, any one of these competitors could become another successful brewing entrepreneur. “The majority of brewers at one point were homebrewers,” claims Culver. “Brewers are like guitar players. We don’t know who the greatest guitar player is to ever hit the big stage, and it’s the same concept with homebrewers. I know a guy who won’t leave his basement who makes the best beer I’ve ever had.”

To learn more about the Home Brew League or Coldbreak Brewing Equipment log on:



rat festYpsilanti, MI – Long before Arbor Brewing Company was born in 1995, owners Matt and Rene Graff earned their stripes as homebrewers. In celebration of their roots in the homebrewing community, ABC will host the sixth annual Rat Fest homebrew competition in February.

Rat Fest started as a competition between the brewery staff and members of the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild to brew 24 beers in 24 hours on just two systems. Over the course of the first two years, the event grew and the brewery opened the competition to homebrew clubs in Southeast Michigan.

This year the microbrewery has invited eight home brewing clubs to demonstrate their brewing creativity on a 10­ gallon brewing system, affectionately known as The Rat Pad. The AABG Hopheads, AABG Yeasters, Burns Park Brewing, Brighton Home Brew Club, The Brew Divas, Motor City Mashers, The Sons of Liberty and Hyperion Brew Club are each brewing four beers for the public competition.

As an added bonus, the ABC Microbrewery brew staff has come up with a challenge for the homebrewers; one of their four beers must be a sour. The result is a wide array of fantastically tart, puckering brews.

This year’s Rat Fest will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. on February 20th at Arbor Brewing CompanyMicrobrewery in Ypsilanti. Tickets are $30 in advance, or $40 at the door, and include a commemorative tasting glass, beer samples and appetizers. Tickets can be purchased in person at the microbrewery or by phone.

For more information visit their website at


KALAMAZOO – Think your homebrew is a winner? Enter it in the annual Bell’s Homebrew Competition on Sept. 19 at the Kick-Off and Expo event at Bell’s Eccentric Café, and you could find yourself in Denver for the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (GABF).

The first place winner gets to brew his or her recipe at Bell’s original brewery and have it served on tap at the Eccentric Café. The first place winner will also win a free trip to the 2016 GABF in Denver as a guest of Bell’s Brewery with exclusive access to some of the festival’s events.

Bell’s will cover the airfare cost of a round trip to Denver—so long as the winner is within the continental U.S.—as well as lodging for two nights. While the winner is in Denver, he or she will team up with Bell’s for the 2016 Pro-Am Competition, which pairs homebrewers with commercial brewers to compete for top honors. The winner will also attend the awards ceremony and members-only session.

The only requirement of entering the competition is that participants use Bell’s wort in their brew, which they can obtain at Bell’s Homebrew Competition Kick-Off and Expo event on Sept. 19.

The Kick-Off and Expo event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and sign-up for wort pick-up will start immediately at 11 a.m. and distribution of the wort will start at 1 p.m. Only a limited amount of wort is available, so it will be distributed in a first-come-first-served fashion. In the past years, over 200 individuals have been able to receive wort.

Learn more about the event here and start planning your perfect recipe. Entries are due by Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.