BENNINGTON, Vt. (NEWS10) – No winter was in sight on a balmy 50-degree day, as crowds enjoyed the fifth-annual Winter Homebrew Festival in downtown Bennington. The festival was once again organized by the Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce and Hopridge Farms and topped out at over 500 attendees.

The Saturday festival opened its doors at noon to exclusive VIP ticket holders for a private tasting of regional food and brews. General ticket holders were able to attend from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The festival invited the Northeast’s top homebrewers who brought with them their own personal, home-brewed cider, mead, braggot, and wine. The nineteen home breweries in attendance were battling it out for coveted titles like “Best VIP Hour Beverage,” “Best Overall Brewery,” and “Best Overall Beverage.” New for 2022, the festival also welcomed a professional panel of brewers to judge the homebrews for themselves.

Panel of judges:

  • Joey Nerney of Calmont Beverage Company
  • Christian Engel of Ratu’s Liquor and Market in Wilmington, VT
  • Kellen Beardsley of Vermont Beer Makers
  • Sean Dunleavy of Harvest Brewing
  • Josh Frament of Brown’s Brewing Company
  • Orion Howard of Bright Ideas Brewing
  • Seth Barrows of Farm Road Brewing

In addition, the festival invited regional restaurants and food providers to serve soups, chowders, chilis, and stews in sample sizes to the crowd. The crowd then got to vote who had the “Best Winter Dish in the Region.”

Like the last few years, the festival again sold out just before doors opened. “We pretty much hit the spot we wanted to, especially as we try out this new space,” says Will Gardner, co-producer of the festival and owner of Hopridge Farms. “Of course, the phone starts ringing and people start reaching out on Facebook to get tickets, but we warned them that every year we have seen this festival sell out. Each year word spreads about the uniqueness of this festival and so each year we end up shutting off ticket sales sooner and sooner. We always strive to find the perfect balance between homebrewers, space, food, attendees, and safety.”

This year’s awards went to:

  • Favorite Winter Dish: M&J’s Taste of Home with Roasted Corn and Potato Chowder
  • Best VIP Hour Beer: Teddy K’s Brewing with Dark and Minty Stout
  • Best Beverage: Bear Hole Brewing with Slick Machines Begin to Rust, Kettle sour with key lime and activated charcoal
  • Best Home Brewery: Bear Hole Brewing
  • Best Professionally Judged Beverage: Albany Brew Crafters, Jason Galea, with Windy Acres Wild Ale

The Winter Homebrew Festival will return in 2023. For now, though, the organizers suggest checking out their seventh-annual Summer Homebrew Festival in August.