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Bottlecaps and Corks competition to showcase homebrews and amateur wines

Michiana is home to many breweries, some that have been open for a few years, and others that have just recently opened.

Goshen Brewing Co. celebrated their first anniversary this past weekend, Wedgewood Brewing of Middlebury opened this past week, Thomas-Stieglitz Brewing opened in Goshen about three weeks ago, and Iechyd Da Brewing in Elkhart will celebrate their fourth anniversary this summer. There are other breweries scattered around Michiana, and they all started out as home-brewers.

This Saturday, May 21, is an opportunity for beer and wine enthusiasts to enjoy the area’s only amateur beer and wine competition, Bottlecaps and Corks, at Elkhart’s Wellfield Botanic Gardens and sample amateur beer and wine from 4 to 7 p.m.

I dabbled in home-brewing in the early 1990s and had some luck with a few recipes, however, home-brewing has become much more sophisticated since my days. My first brews were made on a gas stove top, later moving to a single propane burner (sold as a turkey fryer) in the garage, but today’s home-brew systems can cost several thousands of dollars and can produce beer that is as good as, if not better than, commercially brewed beer. In fact, a few years ago I had a bourbon-barrel-aged beer brewed by Andy Walton (now brewmaster at Crooked Ewe Brewery and Ale House in South Bend) that was every bit as good as the commercially brewed product it was cloned after.

Glenn Stutzman, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Elkhart County, says “Bottlecaps and Corks is about having a great time to support a great cause. People from across Michiana have already bought tickets to taste home-brewed beers and wines, and they will learn a little bit about how our program changes lives at the same time.”

Beers and wines registered so far include a holiday spiced ale, a Seyval Savignon Blanc, an orange citrus wheat beer, a honey mead and many styles of pale ales, stouts and Cabernets.

General admission tickets are being sold for $35 in advance and $45 at the door. Each attendee will get the chance to vote for their favorite beer and wine, and will take home a commemorative tasting glass. VIP and designated driver tickets are also available. Attendees are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance, as quantities are limited. Attendees will be able to enjoy the scenic Wellfield Botanic Gardens, which has over 20 individual gardens across 36 acres in the heart of Elkhart’s Gateway Mile.

All beer and wine will be considered for both the People’s Choice prize as well as the Judging Competition. Home-brew and wine submissions need to be brought to the Wellfield Bontanic Gardens between noon and 2 p.m on the day of the event. Entrants will need to supply a minimum of one case of beer (twenty-four 12 oz. bottles) or the equivalent, such as a corny keg. However, due to the expected attendance of the event, two cases are preferred. Entrants will also be expected to serve their own beer and wine during the entire event, and they may bring one guest to help them serve event attendees. Winners will be announced at the end of the competition, and brewers and vintners will receive feedback from the judges.

The fee is $25 for one or two different beer/wine entries, but the fee will be waived for three or more entries. Some food will be included in the price of the admission ticket, and Nelson’s Catering will be on site with more food options for purchase. Live music will be provided by Drop the Dawg. All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Elkhart County.

For tickets or more information, or to inquire about registering a beer or wine, visit or contact the BBBS office at 574-535-9024.

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