When the Arc of Cumberland & Perry Counties hosted a beer and wine tasting fundraiser last year, it was clear that the brews were of particular interest to attendees.
It didn’t take long after the end of that event for a new idea for this year’s fundraiser.
“With all of the craft brewers popping up in the area, we thought it was a good choice,” said Anne Couldridge, director of development at CPARC.
On Oct. 14, CPARC will host “Spirits of the Community Home Brew Competition” that shows off the talents of area home brewers, as well as offers samples from five professional brewers — Larsen Meadworks in downtown Mechanicsburg, Marzoni’s Brick Oven & Brewing Company in Lower Allen Township, Burd’s Nest Brewing Company that is set to open in Carlisle, Mellow Mink Brewing that is set to open in Hampden Township, and Rhone Brew Company in Carlisle.
CPARC officials approached Jeremy Rhone, owner of Rhone Brew Company, about the idea after he poured beer in the organization’s last fundraiser.
“We’ve seen that craft brews are so big in the area,” Rhone said. “They wanted to try a home brew festival to raise awareness for their organization.”
Couldridge said the plan is to make this an annual, big event for the nonprofit, which provides support and training to people with intellectual disabilities and their families. This year’s competition will fit a theme CPARC officials think works well for the month of October, given other Oktoberfest celebrations.
This year’s event will be held at a new location: S. Wilson Pollock Center for Industrial Training, 262 Silver Spring Road, Silver Spring Township. With a more casual atmosphere than the previous location at Thornwald Mansion, the location also allows CPARC officials to show attendees exactly what the organization does to help those in the community.
Along with samples from the five professional brewers, there will be 19 home brewers who will compete in a Beer Judge Certification Program sanctioned competition.
There are no shortage of home brewers in the region. For Rhone, who sells equipment and ingredients to home brewers, there are quite a few in the Midstate who are trying their hands at craft brews.
“We have a really strong stream of regulars,” Rhone said of his customers, who he says come from across the region, including Juniata County. “I think we have someone new who comes in every day.”
Rhone said there could be any number of reasons to start home brewing. He tried making wine before he trained to become a professional brewer. Others like to treat it as a hobby, or as a way to drink craft brews for a fraction of the price of those on the market.
For others like Robert Coalson of Silver Spring Township, home brewing simply fit his interest and abilities.
“It’s kind of in my wheelhouse,” he said.
Coalson is a pharmacist who moved to the area eight years ago from Philadelphia. The move had more to do with job opportunities than the beer, but he said he can tell the region has embraced the craft brew trend.
“My wife and I have been into craft brews for some time,” he said. “It’s interesting how the area has really blossomed in craft brews. There was Al’s of Hampden, and it’s grown exponentially through the years.”
Watching “Brew Dogs” on the Esquire channel is what piqued Coalson’s interest in home brewing. Three years later, he finds himself preparing for CPARC’s competition, with six other home brew competitions already under his belt.
“The odds haven’t really been in my favor,” he said with a laugh. “I placed in two. In two other ones, I thought I would place, but I must have been on the outside looking in. There seems to be a sizable home brew community here. I see a lot of familiar faces (at competitions).”
Coalson will offer samples of his all-grain brews for judges and attendees at the Oct. 14 event. Though the type of brews allowed for home brewing is somewhat narrowed, judges will still compare brews to their own categories before comparing them among all the samples. The competing home brewers may also bring more than one type of brew with them for the competition.
That is something Couldridge hopes is a boon for both home brewers and attendees.
“It’s a good opportunity for home brewers to have their beers tasted,” she said.
Coalson said that’s important for someone like him who constantly tries new recipes instead of redoing a previous batch.
“What I like is that you do get unsolicited feedback,” he said. “You quickly realize what you did well and what you didn’t do right, even if you thought you did.”
Attendees will be able to vote for their favorite brews, and a crowd favorite prize will be awarded along with the judge prizes that involve cash prizes and gift cards to Rhone Brew Company.
The menu will feature more than beer. Sassy Gourmet will cater the event with food donated by Karns and Giant Food Stores.
A silent auction will include a number of items from businesses, including a Sunday brunch for two at Hotel Hershey; domestic airline tickets from Southwest; admission tickets from Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire; ski or snowboard packages from Ski Roundtop; weekend canoe trip from Blue Mountain Outfitters; an autographed book from Dean Koontz; and gift cards from local businesses.
Tickets cost $35 for beer tasting, and designated driver tickets are $20. Couldridge said CPARC officials hope they raise between $15,000 and $20,000 with the event.
Spirits of the Community Home Brew Competition will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 14 at the training facility in Silver Spring Township. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.cparcfoundation.org.