In 2013, when a de-sanctified 100-year old church went up for sale, Rick Crowther moved in and opened Hickory Creek Brewing, a homebrewing and winemaking supply store in the rural town of Warren, PA. Replete with stained glass windows and 10,000 sq. feet of room, the unique space offered opportunities to interact with customers in fun and engaging ways. After getting to know the brewers in the area, Rick decided to create the HCB BrewFest homebrew competition and says, “We had a good turnout getting 32 entries. The categories for our first BrewFest were very basic: Light, Amber and Dark. Entries that year were about 70% extract brewers and 30% all grain.”
This year, the 4th Annual BrewFest grew to 56 entries and 8 categories, included musical entertainment by the folk rock band Egypt Hollow, food and even games for people to play. Each of the brewers brought a six-pack of the beers being entered. Two bottles went to the judging rounds while the other four bottles were put out on the bar for people to sample, compare and most importantly talk about with each other.
“We had great support this year from our vendors and the prizes were awesome and the brewers love it when they actually win something for making beer. We used the BJCP scoresheets and people loved the feedback from the judges,” Rick said. There were seven judges and to improve the quality of feedback provided to entrants, less experienced judges were paired with veteran judges using the BJCP scoresheet as a guideline.
Rick sums up the BrewFest experience by saying, “Our event is always evolving as we try to make it better and more enjoyable for everyone. This year the local Chamber of Commerce has asked us to help put on a Fall BrewFest at the first annual Jake’s Witch Project. I think that brewing is catching on in our rural area and people are having fun which is really what it is all about.”
2017 BrewFest Winners
Barrel Aged – Darren Schott and Greg Spade
Belgian – John Willis
Fruit and Field – Scott Johnson
Imperial – Matt Ebling
IPA – Craig King
Lager – Gus Bratz
Open – Rick Crowther
Porter and Stout – Scott Johnson
BEST OF SHOW – Gus Bratz