When Matt Lohman’s wife told him to find a new hobby, he made the most of it.
The Prairie Du Sac resident converted his basement into a home brewery, joined the Bluff Hoppers brew club out of Sauk Prairie and began making his own beers. He now travels with the club to several home brewing competitions across the state each year, where his unique beers are featured with other home brews.
Beers made by Lohman and other members of the Bluff Hoppers were showcased at the Brew at the Barn home brew competition on Saturday. During the event, brewers and visitors filled a tent outside of the Barn Restaurant in Baraboo, sampled dozens of one-of-a-kind beers and voted on their favorites.
Lohman said several Bluff Hoppers beverages were made by combining candy, spices and beer. One featured beer was a porter made with a combination of chocolate-covered cherries and vanilla. Lohman showcased a pale ale brewed with lemon peppers, which made for a spicy aftertaste that’s uncommon in most beers.
“I didn’t want it to be too much,” Lohman said. “That’s a problem I have because I do a lot of spicy foods, so my wife is always telling me when it’s too much.”
In addition to Lohman and the Bluff Hoppers, more than a dozen other home brewers representing four brewing organizations entered drinks in the friendly competition, which benefited the Wisconsin Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Organizer Christin Harding said the event — now in its eighth year — continues to grow. Harding said this year’s festival raised more than $2,500 to help people living with MS.
“I don’t know if we’ll make $5,000, but I’m OK with that,” Harding said of her original fundraising goal.
Harding said she anticipates the home brewing festival will continue to grow, especially because this year’s crowd favorite — a watermelon wheat made by Clown Town Brewing in Baraboo — will be brewed professionally by Working Draft Beer Company out of Madison. Harding said Bluff Hopper founder and President Ross Harms was responsible for setting up the deal with Working Draft.
Harms said he knew the founders of Working Draft because they own and operate the Wine and Hop Shop in Madison, where many local brewers buy their ingredients. He said he called the owner to ask if they’d be interested in brewing a local favorite.
“We do a lot of business with them, so they said ‘absolutely,’” he said. “That’s really all it took — we’ve been shopping with them forever.”
Harms said the best part of brewing is how the process brings people of different backgrounds together around their common love of beer.
“We all come from different walks of life,” he said. “Walking down the street, we wouldn’t have anything to say to each other, but as soon as you put a beer in the mix, we all get along just fine.”