Local home brewers’ talents find them in spotlight

Huntington home brewers (from left) Rob Myers, Erik Garrison and Adam Larkey competed at the GnawBrew Beer, Art and Music Festival on July 22. Myers won third place and Garrison was awarded first place.
Huntington home brewers (from left) Rob Myers, Erik Garrison and Adam Larkey competed at the GnawBrew Beer, Art and Music Festival on July 22. Myers won third place and Garrison was awarded first place. Photo by Ehren Wynder.

Originally publilshed Aug. 18, 2016.

A passion for craft beer brewing has pushed a team of Huntington County home brewers into the spotlight.

Rob Myers, Erik Garrison and Adam Larkey were recognized for their craft at the GnawBrew Beer, Art and Music Festival on July 22, near Gnaw Bone.

Garrison took first place for his “Bushwhacker” British Strong Ale, which he developed from his desire to rediscover “defunct” styles of beer.

“You go to a pub, you can find your Pale Ales, your IPAs (India Pale Ales), Reds, Stouts, Porters, but most places you’re not going to find a British Strong,” Garrison says. “When I designed Bushwhacker, I wanted to go for the premise of brewing an ale that, when you got off the boat, you would have found in the British Colonies.”

Garrison says that British Strong Ales are generally not very popular because of recent taste trends. “Bushwhacker” distinguishes itself as a dark ale with a relatively high alcohol-by-volume percentage (ABV). It’s brewed with specialty English grains along with what Garrison describes as more traditional ingredients like corn, molasses and spices, leaving a “sweet and smooth” finish.

Myers took home third place for his “Liquid Sunshine” IPA, a recipe that he won with three years ago and has gradually been refining, changing the grain content, hop additions and other ingredients.

“I’ve changed the yeast that I use in it, which has a huge impact on what the beer tastes like,” Myers says. “Recipes tend to change over time, like you’re always trying to hone in on the right combination of ingredients.”

Larkey competed with his “Bean Holder” Coffee Brown Ale. The brew didn’t win him any awards, but gained public approval.

“It seemed to go over well. My keg got drained very quickly,” he says.

Myers, Garrison and Larkey each entered the competition with five gallons of their beer and left the festival with empty kegs.

“It’s the bummer of saying, ‘sorry dudes. We got nothing left,’” Garrison says laughing.

The three brewers are part of the Huntington Beer Collective, which is a society dedicated to craft beer and home brewing. As of now, the collective stands with about 310 members.

The HBC keeps regular info on beers on draft in local businesses like the Berg Alehaus and the Rusty Dog. They also post news on breweries in Fort Wayne.

“It’s kind of free marketing for brewers or people who are interested in getting the word out about something,” Myers says.

The HBC also has a long-term goal of starting a brewery in Huntington. Myers says that the recognition their recipes have gained and the awards that they’ve won will help give them the momentum to get closer to their vision.

It may be a long time though before Huntington County sees its own brewery, because beer brewing is a craft that takes serious patience. Larkey says that some beers they brew will stay in fermentation for a year, which explains the higher cost of craft beers compared to commercial beers.

Although brewing one’s own beer is a serious time investment, it can save beer lovers a lot of money in the long run.

“Once you pay your equipment off, you’re coming in significantly cheaper on the consumer end of things,” Larkey says.

More information on the Huntington Beer Collective can be found online at huntingtonbeercollective.com.