GRAND RAPIDS — The short version of this article is this: I am bummed I had to miss Big Brew Day at the Calder Plaza this year. Don’t know about Big Brew at the Calder? Can’t begin to fathom why I would be saddened for my absence? Read on.

Big Brew day falls on the first Saturday of May each year. The day was chosen by the American Homebrewers Association as a celebration where all homebrewers can belly up to their mash tuns and share a communal “toast,” connecting brewers from all over the U.S. in a single moment of fermented frivolity.

Three years ago, the folks at Siciliano’s Market devised a way to make the day particularly special for the homebrewers of Grand Rapids, and Big Brew at the Calder was born.

The first time I heard what Steve Siciliano wanted to do for the big brew I thought, ‘huh, sounds like a hell of a time.’ It was only after he secured the venue and began to hash out the details of what it would take to pull it off did I realize how much work would be involved in making the event successful.

In order to have 50 simultaneous batches of beer being made on the plaza, one must consider that the city drains may not be used, so waste water removal must be sorted out, water for the brew itself must be provided (delivered), a practical and efficient means of chilling the beer needs to be implemented, the plaza needs to be divided equally among the brewers, the brewers need to make sure to haul in and haul out their systems and 50 batches of ingredient need to be weighed, ground and prepped in order to be GIVEN to the homebrewers.

That’s right — Steve, Barb and the rest of the crew of Siciliano’s provide all of the above, free of charge. Why? To say thank you to the brewers that helped make Grand Rapids Beer City USA, that’s why!

Seriously, that’s why.

To me, one of the most wonderful things about the event is seeing regular customers I had known for years interact with one another for the first time. The event brings together seasoned and beginning homebrewers in an environment that promotes the strength of the community by way of achieving the same goal in 50 different ways.