Last year's champion, Lloyd Cicetti, had the honor of having a batch of his 2009 blue ribbon fetching beer brewed by the zymurgistic artists at Barley's (a long time ago, they helped teach me to make beer too!).

Here, Cicetti pours his freshly tapped Blood Thirst Wheat Ale, which was made with blood oranges imported from Sicily. It was more orangey than clovey, and I imagine it'd go nicely with spicy ethnic foods.

But maybe I should begin at the beginning. Last Sunday, Barley's annual homebrew competition culminated in the expected annual midday blowout. I had a ton (wait, make that a "growler") of fun serving as a judge and chatting up the always-humorous and outspoken local brewers who were the other judges (like my pals Angelo and Scott from Barley's, Eric Bean from CBC and the other top dogs of malt and hops from Elevator, Gordon Biersch, Hoster's and Zanesville's Weasel Boy).

It was great sampling quaffs from all those local pros in a single go (for instance, Weasel Boy's dark brew was the best I've yet tried from the WB), and I felt proud and lucky thinking we lived in a terrific city that's whipping up so much super high-end suds in its immediate environs. And the homebrew offerings were pretty damn impressive too. After the judging and ceremonial tapping of last year's first place finisher, a sort of afternoon free-for-all drinking and laughing party ensued in the packed Short North brewpub. What a blast!

Most years, the winner receives a standard Barley's tap handle for their championship beer. This year, the multi-talented Cicetti took those handle matters into his own clearly capable hands and crafted this beauty, which duly--and quite vividly!-- notes its blood orange content.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to run into ace Alive photographer (and noted shunner of the "yardbird") Jodi Miller at a big ol' Sunday afternoon beer-lap-a-thon, and I hereby thank her for these excellent photos.

This year's top scorer, Andrew Shultz's Witbier, will be available for thirst quenching at Barley's guaranteed bang-up 2011 version of the event. And thus the cycle of camaraderie, happiness and deliciousness goes on and merrily on. See you there next year.