It doesn’t take a village to brew a beer, but it’s nice to have some help if you’re trying to drink over 100 unique homebrews — so it’s a good thing Just Brew It’s attendance is always robust. In its eighth year, Western North Carolina’s most prominent homebrew festival, which took place June 3 at Wedge Brewing Co., continues to be one of the most interesting and entertaining AVL Beer Week events, and local nonprofit Just Economics put on another great show this year.
More than 40 dedicated homebrewers participated in this year’s JBI, and the variety of styles on display was a resounding testament to the creativity and ingenuity that drives the craft beer community. Murky New England IPAs were the most popular style this year, but saisons are becoming increasingly prevalent.
As has been the case in past years, the styles favored by participating brewers mirrored the trends that have taken hold of the national craft beer drinker’s imagination, but also displayed the proclivity for experimentation inherent to homebrewing, with beers ranging from a black kolsch to a German rauchbier on offer. This year’s Just Brew It showcased a spectrum of beers with something to please every palate.
Multiyear JBI participant David Maida’s decision to get political with his beer names paid off, with his aptly titled Bernie Sanders Is the Original Gangster of Just Economics IPA taking home the People’s Choice Award. While his juicy IPA was a fantastic beer, Maida humbly chalked his win up to sociology as much as zymology. In Maida’s words, “I touched a nerve with people that they just couldn’t ignore.”
Winner of the Mountain Xpress-sponsored King of the Mountain Award Tim LaBruyere stood out by keeping it simple with Tim’s Tripel, a traditional Belgian-style tripel brewed with the Bastogne yeast strain used by Trappist brewery Orval. Originally brewed for a Mountain Ale and Lager Tasters tripel competition, LaBruyere’s beer was distinguished by the subtlety of its banana and bubblegum esters, which are typically overblown in Belgian-style homebrews.
“I like reserved flavors,” explained LaBruyere. “Realistically, good Belgians are not over the top, but American brewers can get crazy with it. I usually brew specifically for Just Brew It, but I’ve been so busy the last two years that I haven’t had time. So this beer has been maturing, and I brought it out today because it was on hand. I think the extra time helped it; it’s solid.”
Just Brew It has always been a great way for Just Economics to promote awareness of sustainable economic practices, including its Living Wage Certification program for local businesses. In its efforts to foster community engagement and social awareness, Just Economics has found a natural partner in Asheville’s tightknit homebrewing contingent.
Maida grows emotional when discussing the significance of the event to local homebrewers. “It’s great to see beer bring people together, and that’s really what Just Brew It is about — supporting the community,” he says. “The way people put their heart into this is a beautiful thing that you can’t duplicate, and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”