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Local brewing clubs join forces to raise awareness, camaraderie

This past weekend home brewers gathered in Midtown to brew beers focused on one secret ingredient. In six weeks a winning beer will be chosen for the public to enjoy at Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery.
All the participants gathered to hear the rules surrounding the challenge

All the participants gathered to hear the rules surrounding the challenge /Caitlin Hoop

The secret ingredient.

The secret ingredient. /Caitlin Hoop

One of the teams making mash of the malt and hops mixture.

One of the teams making mash of the malt and hops mixture. /Caitlin Hoop

This Sunday, members of GR Homebrewers Club and 616 Brewing gathered at O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply to compete in the Iron Brewers Challenge.

Four teams from GR Homebrewers and two teams from 616 Brewing participated in the competition. Each team was given the secret ingredient, caraway, and then had four minutes to run around O’Connor’s and gather all their ingredients needed to brew. After the time was up, each team had opportunity to create recipes, measure out ingredients and mill their grains. From there each team gathered outside to begin brewing.

Brewing beer is a timely and multi-step process. Once recipes are created, the malt and hops have to be mashed in hot water and boiled anywhere from 45 to 75 minutes depending on the type of beer desired in the end. From there, the mixture has to be cooled and the yeast is then added to ignite the fermentation process. For the Iron Brewer’s Challenge the fermentation step lasts about six weeks.

Once the six week mark hits, all the teams will bottle their beers and gather at Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery in Ada. The brewers at Gravel Bottom will then judge each beer and choose a winner. Gravel Bottom will reproduce the chosen beer and put it on tap in their taproom. Along with this accolade, the winning team will also receive gift cards from O’Connor’s and Elk Brewing.

Although the prizes are great, the home brewing scene is more focused on collaboration with each other and the camaraderie between the clubs. This was evident on Sunday, with home brewers swapping stories and tips across kegs. This is a community brought together over beer.

“We are all looking to see each other succeed,” says Rob Qualls, the president of GR Homebrewers. “We all share the same passion for brewing. The clubs have respect for each other at the end of the day.”

In six weeks, be on the lookout for the second part of this article, which will showcase the winning beer as well as Grand Rapids home brewing clubs in depth.

616 Brewing and GR Homebrewers would like to thank Martha’s Vineyard for allowing them to use the parking lot for the event as well as O’Connor’s for donating all the supplies and ingredients.

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