West Point Market owner Rick Vernon made an interesting observation about his beer customers after the upscale Akron grocery started offering draft beer last year. Many, it turns out, are passionate home-brewers. Knowing that they are the foundation of the craft beer movement, Vernon wanted to reward them. So he’s holding the first West Point Market Home Brewers Competition. The winner will receive not only a “significantly cool trophy” but also will have his or her beer brewed commercially by Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. in Akron. The winning beer will be sold on draft and in six-pack bottles at West Point Market in Akron, and on draft at Winking Lizard Tavern locations. There also will be prizes for the second- and third-place beers.


“When you think about it, a lot of these microbrewers were all home-brewers and started brewing in their garage or basement,” Vernon said. He praised their entrepreneurial spirit. “Talking to them, I can see the passion in their eyes,” he said. “It’s just awesome.”


The competition is open to any amateur home-brewer in Ohio. (Samuel Adams runs a similar, nationwide competition.) Each contestant must provide two labeled, bottled beers to the West Point Market by July 11. The fee is $5 per entry. Entry forms are available at the grocery. The beers will be put through a couple rounds of judging, and the winner will be announced at a West Point Market beer tasting in October.


John Najeway, co-owner of Thirsty Dog, said the plan is to brew the beer in December or January so it’s available next year. “As a brewer, your dream is to put your beer in a bottle,” he said. “This is a way to make the dreams come true for a home-brewer.” Vernon said that he’d like to make the competition an annual event. The West Point Market and Thirsty Dog collaborated last year to produce a special beer to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the grocery.