Brewfest on Tap

Even though you may not live in the New England area, this article also has the interesting story of of a brewer who brewed a Pilgrim beer and his venture into professional brewing.-PGA

Written by Beth I. Gandelman for

AMESBURY— A competition for best home brew and the soft launch of Riverwalk Brewing will highlight today’s annual Amesbrewery Days Invitational Craft Brewfest.

Participants will have the opportunity to sample the craft beer creations of more than 20 artisan brewers and vote from two finalists for their favorite IPA beer during the event, which goes from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Amesbury Town Hall parking lot on Friend Street.

Sponsored by Heat Event Management of Amesbury, the festival is geared toward the smaller, lesser-known brewers who put quality above quantity and have passion, a unique message and a stake in the art of beer-making.

Among them will be Amesbury’s Steve Sanderson, winner of the History Channel’s “History on Tap” brewer competition last year.

Sanderson, who is in the process of obtaining federal and state licensing for his business, will give the public its first taste of Riverwalk Brewing’s beers at the event.

If all goes according to plan, Sanderson, who is leasing space at Cody Brewing Co. at 36 Main St. to get his business up and running, will be distributing his beers to area restaurants, bars and liquor stores by September.

Sanderson started home brewing about 10 years ago after being introduced to unique, rustic beers on a trip to Europe. Unable to find similar beers back home, he began brewing his own.

“I started doing a lot of different batches, through trial and error, and refining those skills and learning more,” he said.

His dream of launching his own brewery took hold last year when he got the nod to participate in a beer-themed reality show called “History on Tap,” which was shot at Harpoon Brewery and aired on the History Channel.

Armed with the task of brewing a Pilgrim-style beer, he and his partner, Chris Dornbach, created a brown ale with sage and smoked malt that was aged on oak. The beer won the competition, and a version of it was brewed by Harpoon last fall. Sanderson said the show gave him the confidence and motivation to work on a new plan for his brewery.

Riverwalk’s pilgrim-style ale will be one of three the brewery has available for sample tonight. A Belgian-type beer that one might expect to find in Europe and a fairly American-style IPA that’s very floral and bitter will also be available for tasting, Sanderson said.

In addition to sampling beers, participants will learn how brewers work, what inspires them and what sets their beers apart. Sean K. Preston of Baltimore will supply some foot-stomping rockabilly music to add to the fun from 5 to 6 p.m.

Admission is $25, which includes tickets for 12, 3-ounce tastings and a commemorative glass. The first 500 people will receive a pint glass. Event T-shirts will be for sale, and raffles for gift certificates to local restaurants and more will be held. The event is 21-plus, and valid identification will be required to receive a wristband needed to sample beer.

A portion of the proceeds will be donated to support Amesbury Days events, including the July Fourth fireworks display.

Julian and Heidi Thompson, owner of Heat Event Management, serve as coordinators of the event.

“Heidi Thompson is also a member of the Amesbury Days Committee and donated a great deal of her time and expertise in event planning to Amesbury Days,” Amesbury Days Chairwoman Kate Broughton said.

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