The long-running contest takes place at Barley's Brewcadia on Sunday, April 22
For 23 years, Angelo Signorino, head brewer at Barley's Brewing Company, has hosted an annual homebrew competition at the brewery. The event functions as both a meet-and-greet between amateur and professional brewers, as well as a chance to acknowledge their homebrewing origins.
“When we first did it in '95 it was a different world,” Signorino said. “I judged it with Scott Francis, who owns the Winemakers Shop where I got my start. We thought it would be a way to pay respects to our roots and honor the tradition of homebrewers. It was an opportunity to connect with the homebrewers who didn't have the opportunity to interact with professional brewers.”
The winning entry is brewed on Barley's 10-barrel system and featured at the following year's competition. The first year's winner crafted an American pale ale. “He had moved to Chicago after he won the competition,” Signorino said. “So he came all the way back to help brew the beer. He documented it and submitted it to a beer magazine. This was before the internet, so to read about something you had to find it in print. That was cool to get that kind of attention on a national scale.”
That first year, Signorino and Francis served as the only judges (“It was brutal,” he recalled). They welcomed fellow brewers like Vic Ecimovich from Hoster and Ben Pridgeon from Columbus Brewing to attend, and invited Cleveland's Great Lakes Brewing, which didn't distribute to Columbus, to share its beers.
This year, Signorino gathered 16 judges to sift through the 40 to 50 entrants, including Colin Vent from Seventh Son, Tony Hill of 2 Tones Brewing and Seth Draeger of the forthcoming Parsons North Brewing Company.
Past competition winners have gone on to work at other notable breweries, or to open their own, including Jay Wince from Weasel Boy, Vic Gonzales at Pigskin Brewing, Doug Beedy at Elevator and Ryan Torres at Brew Brothers.
Last year's winner was A.J. Zanyk, whose Baltic porter, brewed with lager yeast, will be featured. “I put 100 gallons into bourbon barrels,” Signorino said, “and 200 gallons will go on tap Sunday.”
Above all, Barley's annual event is a nod to the camaraderie inherent among brewers.
“It's a remarkable community,” Signorino said. “I wish every industry was as collaborative as ours.”