Kelsey McNair
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Each year, homebrewers across the country kill the flame on their portable burners and journey to the National Homebrewers Conference, where they can confer with fellow domestic fermentation enthusiasts over (many) beers. But there’s more to the American Homebrewers Association’s annual convention than seminars and science. The event also includes the country’s largest homebrewing competition. This past weekend, June 13-15, the winners of the National Homebrew Competition were announced to a packed house of amateur brewers in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The competition included 8,685 entries in 28 style categories. Even with that record number of competitors, our region’s brewers made their mark. Three members of local homebrew club, QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity), won medals, including a gold for Kelsey McNair, who made it to the top of the heap in the most highly contested category — India Pale Ale. A total of 852 IPAs vied for supremacy (the Stout category had the second most entries with 708), but McNair’s Hop Fu! IPA (which was featured back in March when it was brewed professionally at Beachwood Brewing & BBQ) won out. It’s the third time in the past five years that beer has medaled; a feat believed to be unprecedented for a single brewer and a single recipe in a single category. This further justifies the excitement over McNair’s long-time work-in-progress North Park Beer Co.

Other San Diego winners included Peggy and Tom Kelly in the Belgian Strong Ale category (408 entries), and Justin Fleming for English Brown Ale (235 entries), all of whom represented QUAFF and earned bronze medals. Two neighbors from the immediate north also did well. Menifee resident Robert Carter struck gold in the Fruit Beer category (208 entries), while Eric Holden from the Temecula Valley Homebrewers Association took silver for his Traditional Mead (71 entries).

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