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Amateur brewers, vintners to compete at Bottlecaps & Corks fundraiser

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Elkhart County is challenging amateur brewers and vintners to compete for a good cause this spring.

The second annual Bottlecaps & Corks fundraising competition is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. March 22, 2015, at Christiana Creek Country Club (116 W. Bristol St. in Elkhart). Starting now, amateur brewers and vintners can submit their homemade beers and wines in both a judged competition and People’s Choice contest.

Local professionals – including brewers and vintners who do this for a living – will judge entries in the judging competition. Attendees at the event will also get the chance to cast their votes for their favorite best beers and wines – and the People’s Choice picks don’t always match up with the professionals’.

A $25 ticket gets you a sample of the beers and wines, appetizers, live music and a stemless tasting glass. Brewers and vintners get $5 off their entry tickets for every beer or wine they enter into the competition.

Stephanie Patka, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Elkhart County, said the event is fun because people brew to their own preferences, which makes for a wide variety of different flavors.

“People have different tastes in beer, and what they like and don’t like,” Patka said. “They get the kind of feedback from professional judges who do it on a professional level and people who support them on a friendly level.”

Last year’s Bottlecaps & Corks brought out 50 attendees, which included 12 brewers and vintners. Patka said they hope to draw as many as 200 people this coming March. And home brewers and vintners are encouraged to bring as many kinds of beers as they like.

Randy Hesser won the People’s Choice award last year for his Belgian Tripel, a malty beer that’s on the sweet side. Hesser, an attorney with Warrick and Boyn LLP in Elkhart, has been making his own beers since 2002 after he got his own brewing kit as a Christmas gift.

“It’s a different experience,” Hesser said. “You’re exposed to different beers and different tastes. You know, it’s just the satisfaction of making it yourself.”

Hesser is already thinking about what he wants to brew for next year’s competition — possibly a chocolate stout.

“It depends on what people show up with and what people like,” he said. “It’s more a style preference than anything else.”

The event will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Elkhart County, which pairs adult role models with young children — something Patka referred to as matching “bigs” with “littles.” Some of these children come from low-income or single parent households. Sometimes their parents are incarcerated or serving in the military. Those circumstances put children at risk of being delinquent and dropping out of school.

Bringing people together over beer and wine is one way to start a conversation about the program, Patka said.

“It’s a different mix of people who wouldn’t normally go to our other fundraisers, and so we have an audience of people who can talk about Big Brothers Big Sisters,” Patka said.

Tickets can be purchased at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Elkhart County’s website, and brewers and vintners can register for the competition there as well.

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