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Oxford brewers taste success at fest



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Oxford Elementary students Isabelle and Adelle Freschette’s home-brewed root beer took first place at the Michigan Home Brew Festival over the weekend. Photo by L.J. Farrell (click for larger version)
August 22, 2012 - You better have a seat if you ask Oxford Elementary students Isabelle and Adelle Freschette what they did this summer. Hearing them explain how they took home the gold from the Michigan Home Brew Festival may strain your imagination.

Held annually at the Groveland Oaks Campground just outside of Holly, this year's Home Brew festival featured over 800 delicious beer, mead, and cider entries. Organized by Dan Freschette and co-sponsored by Rick Hopman, both of Oxford, this is the third year for the state-wide competition.

Launched by Shiawassee County brewers back in 2009, it has since far outstripped its hog-roast inception to include brewers from every corner of Michigan. When you attend the brew festival, you'll still find a pig roasting, but now you'll have more beers than you can shake a pig foot at.

The fun began on Friday, August 17 with a french toast contest. Children were selected to judge the campfire culinary skills of the assembled parents. Michigan Beer cup winners were announced on Saturday, as were brew club of the year and the people's choice award.

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Hopman's Beer and Wine Making Supply sponsored a special category on Friday designed to engage the whole family. Hopman's brain child was "soda-palooza," a brewing event for the young. Isabella and Adelle, the grand prize winners, offered a "carbonated kool-aid," which wowed the judges.

Larry Banachowski, an Oxford resident, took home silver in the soda-pop category for his tasty root beer. Banachowski didn't comment on how it felt to be bested by the youngsters. A self-described SNOB (that stands for Society of North Oakland Brewers), Banachowski's comments revealed that he knows more than a thing or two about brewing.

First introduced to home brewing about six years ago when a friend took him to a "teach a friend how to homebrew" event, Banachowski was immediately hooked on the complexity and infinite experimentation offered to a patient and inventive mind.

Banachowski's silver medal was garnered for his outstanding rootbeer, a concoction he ferments with the addition of California star anise, South American vanilla bean, Texas sassafras root (and a few other secrets he wouldn't divulge). If you've been to the Oxford Farmer's Market, you've likely had a sip of Banachowski's root beer.

Banachowski has also been noticed for his specialty mead, which is a honey-based wine. He'll bring some of his mead along with him to the Renaissance Festival, at which you can find many more of the brew masters who participated in the Michigan Brew Cup and Home Brew Festival.

On Aug. 25 and 26, several of the award winning brews will be available for tasting at the Renaissance Festival. On September 22 and 23, the Renaissance Festival will hold the Beer Baron Brewing Brawl which will honor the best beers, ciders, and meads of the festival.

Learn more about homebrewing by visiting www.michiganbeercup.com or www.hopmanssupply.com

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