Annual Capitol Hill Homebrew Competition Brings Democrats and Republicans Together

By John Moorhead, American Homebrewers Association

December 17, 2018

It was a warm scene Tuesday night at the annual Capitol Hill Staff Homebrew Competition award ceremony. Hosted by the Brewers Association (BA) and American Homebrewers Association (AHA), a sea of suits and name tags filled the Longworth Cafeteria in Washington, D.C., in anticipation of the third annual competition results and in recognition of the night’s celebrities: Capitol Hill staffers and employees.

Despite deep divides between and within the political parties, here was a vast crowd of lawmakers and political staffers from both sides of the aisle harmoniously clinking glasses in the name of beer.

“This competition is a great example of how beer is bipartisan and brings people together,” said AHA director Gary Glass.

This year, Capitol Hill staffers and employees entered 22 homebrewed beers into three competition categories (UK/Belgian Ale; Bitter American/European Ale; Spiced/Wood Beer). Nationally certified beer judges and professional brewers then judged the first-place entries in each category in a best-of-show panel.

The champion of this year’s Annual Capitol Hill Staff Homebrew Competition was Pierce Wiegard and David Pigue of Senator Dan Sullivan’s (R-AK) office, who entered a black IPA. Full results are available at the end of this article.

AHA founder Charlie Papazian and director Gary Glass were on hand to issue the coveted award just a few days before celebrating the 40th anniversary of the association. “This is the type of brewing battle we like to see on Capitol Hill,” said Glass to the crowd.

Fighting for Homebrewers’ Rights

The AHA and BA launched the Capitol Hill Staff Homebrew Competition in 2016 to help promote the American pastime of homebrewing and to highlight the symbiotic relationship between small and independent craft brewers and the hobby-brewing culture. Since then, the competition has raised awareness of antiquated legal issues homebrewers face in states across the country.

While homebrewing is legal in all 50 states and has been federally legal in the US since 1979, draconian state alcohol codes dating back to Prohibition still restrict homebrewers. For example, it is not legal in some states for homebrewers to transport their homemade beer out of the home. In other states, licensed facilities like breweries are not allowed to possess and/or store homebrew. Such restrictions can make it difficult for homebrewing communities and homebrew clubs to thrive.

By showcasing the welcoming, responsible, innovative community of homebrewers, we hope to keep homebrewing and the AHA top of mind for our nation’s decision makers and encourage them to lead the way to positive legislative changes in the future.

2019 Capitol Hill Homebrew Competition

Hill Staff Competition winners Pierce Wiegard and David Pigue of Sen. Dan Sullivan’s (R-AK) office along with AHA director Gary Glass (left) and founder Charlie Papazian (right).

The 2018 Capitol Hill Homebrew Competition Winners

Capitol Hill Staff Homebrew Champion (Best-of-Show):

  • Black IPA – Pierce Wiegard, Office of Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK)*

*See the best-of-show Black IPA recipe on HomebrewersAssociation.org

Category 1: UK and Belgian Ales (5 entries)

  1. Scottish Export Ale – Gray Maxwell, Office of Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)
  2. Belgian Golden Strong Ale – Michael Pinkerton, Office of the Senate Finance Committee
  3. Saison – Claudia Urrabazo and Yuri Beckelman, Americus Homebrewers Association, Office of Democratic Whip, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD, 5th District)

Category 2: Bitter American and European Ales (10 entries)

  1. Black IPA Pierce Wiegard, Office of Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK)
  2. New England IPA – Deborah and Dean Haynie, Office of Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
  3. American Pale Ale – James Johnson, Office of Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ, 6th District)

Category 3: Spiced and Wood Beer (7 entries)

  1. Sweet Stout – Josh Caplan, Office of the Senate Budget Committee
  2. Rauchbier – Eric Lausten, DC Homebrewers, Office of Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL, 3rd District)
  3. Sweet Stout with peanut butter and cocoa nibs – Ann Tumolo, Office of Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH, 2nd District)

Notable competition entrants included the offices of U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and the offices of U.S. Representatives Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Bruce Poliquin (R-ME), and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH).

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