Addison Township resident John Powers is not an Olympic athlete, but he did bring home the gold – twice – for his brewing skills.
Two of the beers he produces and sells at HomeGrown Brewing Company in downtown Oxford took top honors at international competitions.
“It’s really nice to be recognized for things that you make,” said Powers, who owns HomeGrown and serves as master brewer. “I think it says we’re doing what we should be doing, that we belong in the industry.”
Located at 28 N. Washington St. in the former Oxford Veterans Memorial Civic Center, HomeGrown has been open since April 2017.
At the World Expo of Beer Competition, held April 20 in Frankenmuth, HomeGrown’s Oxford Ale beat out 20 other entries in the International Lager category to win a gold medal.
HomeGrown’s website describes the ale as “light-bodied” and “easy-drinking” with “malt sweetness” that’s “perfectly balanced with just a touch of hop bitterness.”
“It’s clean . . . It’s not real bitter. It’s refreshing,” Powers said.
Oxford Ale is one of HomeGrown’s six flagship beers, meaning it’s always on tap.
Powers called it a “gateway beer” that allows folks who typically “only drink Budweiser and Miller” to begin exploring the diverse world of craft beers.
“It’s our lightest alcohol beer that we make. It’s 4.7 percent,” he said. “Many of our customers will say when they taste it for the first time, ‘This is like a Bud Light or a Budweiser or a Miller, except with flavor.’ It’s amazing the number of people who have said that exact thing. There’s more of a malt flavor to (the Oxford Ale).”’
Oxford Ale isn’t the only award-winning beer at HomeGrown. At the New York International Beer Competition (NYIBC), held back in February, the microbrewery’s Zephyros Hazy India Pale Ale (IPA) won a gold medal.
Breweries from more than 14 countries submitted over 600 entries in more than 30 categories at the NYIBC.
The Zephyros is a seasonal beer, which HomeGrown describes as having a “floral aroma” and “grapefruit notes.” It has a purposely hazy or cloudy appearance.
“It’s a New England-style IPA. It’s not as bitter. It’s brewed differently,” Powers said.
Due to its high level of popularity among customers, Powers said HomeGrown plans on “keeping (Zephyros) on tap and probably adding it to our flagships.”
“That one, when we have it on tap, is our biggest seller, hands down,” he said. “It’s just a good beer.”
Working Zephyros into HomeGrown’s permanent menu is going to be a bit of a challenge because, according to Powers, it’s a “more labor-intensive and material-intensive beer” to produce.
“You use a lot more hops in it and it’s a longer mash process making it,” he said.
HomeGrown’s Ruck-a-chuck IPA won a bronze medal at the NYIBC. The brewery describes it as a “hop-lover’s beer” that blends American malt with Galaxy hops from Australia, which have a “unique tropical fruitiness” that creates “a party on your tongue.”
At the NYIBC, HomeGrown also walked away with the Michigan IPA Brewery of the Year Award.
When asked what’s the secret to brewing award-winning beers, Powers said it comes down to two things – using only “quality ingredients” and having the right water.
HomeGrown utilizes a reverse osmosis filtration system to remove any contaminants from its water that might influence taste, odor and appearance. Once the water is basically a blank slate, the microbrewery adds in different types of minerals to help produce various flavors for different styles of beer.
“We’re building our water for each beer,” Powers said.
Just because HomeGrown now has three international medals under its belt, don’t expect Powers to rest on his laurels.
“We’re just going to continue brewing good beers and there’s other competitions to enter,” he said.