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Front Street Brewery Homebrewers Contest
Deadline: Feb. 7th
Judging party: Feb. 9th., Beam Room, Front Street Brewery
9 North Front Street

DOWN HOME TASTE: Front Street Brewery will host its annual Homebrewers contest; deadline Feb. 7th. Photo by Trent Williams

DOWN HOME TASTE: Front Street Brewery will host its annual Homebrewers contest; deadline Feb. 7th. Photo by Trent Williams

Beer. it’s synonymous with, sports, chicken wings, and I’d even go as far and say America. Front Street Brewery (FSB) embraces it all and will hold their 6th annual Homebrew Competition downtown during their judging party on February 9th. Participants who wish to take home the gold will have until February 7th to enter their prized recipes.

“The best-in-show beer will be brewed once here at FSB,” Kevin Kozak, headmaster brewer at Front Street Brewery. says. “Our system is set up to make 20 kegs per batch so we end up with 20 kegs of the winning beer.”

The competition will award a first-, second- and third-place prize, as well as “Overall Best in Show” award. Requirements for the competition include a six-pack of the entrants best brew in 12-ounce unmarked brown bottles (also acceptable are equivalents like growlers, flip-tops, etc.). Each bottle must have the registration form rubber-banded around the final submission (specifically not taped, most likely due to condensation issues). Interested parties can pick up an entry form from FSB.

Kozak doesn’t actually participate in the judging, seeing as he gets to see all the entries and doesn’t want any bias in the matter. Instead, FSB gets experienced beer drinkers, like beer store owners and professional brewers, from across North Carolina to judge. The competition gives all home brewers of Wilmington the chance to show off their proud recipes.

Home-brewing has always been an American pastime but has picked up popularity over the past couple years. “I think people are getting into home brewing because it’s cool to say you made it yourself,” Kozak says. “It’s not overly difficult if you don’t want it to be, but then again I’ve seen some expensive homebrew setups in my day.”

And he’s right. Home-brewing kits can cost from as little as $50 all the way up to $1,000 or more, meaning even the tightest or most exorbitant of budgets can try their hands at it. “The creativity of creating a beer from scratch is a wonderful feeling,” Kozak notes. “My advice to anyone home-brewing is: ‘Water and patience.’ Take care of your water, and it will take care of you.”

This is due to the fact that beer is almost 9/10ths water and consists of valuable nutrients, which help the yeast carry out fermentation properly. “Without them, the yeast would have a rough time fermenting and creating alcohol,” Kozak notes.

Clean water comes of the utmost important in order to let the yeast work its magic. “Have patience to let that beer round out during the conditioning phase,” he continues. “I know it’s hard, but give it another week or so and the beer will be that much better.”

Take it from an expert: Kozak has been brewing beer for 10 years now and he isn’t looking back, despite having graduated with a degree in political science. “I somehow fell into a job cleaning kegs at a brewpub in DC,” he explains. “I immediately fell in love and started working my way up the ladder, learning as much as I could while on the job.”
The process can be rather grueling. Not all beers come out tasteful the first go round.

“My first beer brewed commercially was a Scottish Export Style Ale,” Kozak says. “It was, um, less than stellar.”

He honed his skills at Front Street Brewery, working with hops worldwide. FSB purchases all of them from a countrywide wholesaler called Hopunion, though Kozak has had NC hop farmers contact him about using regional crops.

“Yields haven’t been that great yet,” he confirms.“Lately, I’ve enjoyed drinking our Single Hop Project beers. We use one hop variety throughout the entire boil and usually dry hop the beer with that hop variety. It’s a way to focus completely on certain hops and showcase how they differ. I have been learning a lot about some hop varieties that we haven’t used before.”

Growing hops is a delicate and long process, with at least three years worth of seasons required for a yield worth brewing. “I’m hoping we’ll get there eventually and I can start buying some local NC hops down the road,” Kozak adds.

Folks who wish to enter the Home-brewers contest should Google “BJCP” to see Front Street Brewery’s style guidelines and to determine which one of the six categories to enter. “We only have six categories for award purposes,” Kozak says. “It would be tough to have medals for all the BJCP categories, [which help] properly judge the beer based on standard guidelines. Also if you set out to make an IPA and you think it’s more of a hoppy Amber then enter it in the American Amber BJCP category. The judges don’t know what you set out to make so give them the best chance of judging your beer in an appropriate manner.”

Front Street Brewery will be accepting entries through February 7th. Go to the FSB bar to turn them in, and return on the 9th from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. for the judging party, held in the upstairs Beam Room. It’s free and open to the public.

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