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Amateur home brewers going for gold at statewide competition

Fort Wayne, Ind. (WPTA21) – At the Indiana State Fairgrounds, judging is underway for the Indiana Brewers’ Cup. It’s an annual competition that showcases the best amateur and professional beers across the state. COVID-19 canceled the competition in 2020, and held it only virtually in 2021. For many this year, it will be a welcomed return to ‘normal’. And entering submissions in 32 of its 35 categories (beer, mead and cider), are members of the Fort Wayne MASH club.

Going for Gold

Jed Lengerich, Fort Wayne MASH Club competition coordinator
Jed Lengerich, Fort Wayne MASH Club competition coordinator(Daniel Beals)

By trade, Jed Lengerich is an engineer — but step into his basement, and you’re walking into a small-scale brewery. But like everyone else, he began brewing in 2012 with family and friends, using a home brew kit. “For me, it was something I enjoyed doing,” Lengerich told us. “I enjoyed the process, the science, and chemistry behind it.” In the last few years, he stepped up production and focused on learning the craft. Now he produces 10 to 20 batches a year — much easier in his newly built home. “I wanted to dedicate a space, so I had space to store everything and made it easier to brew more often,” he explained. “The more often you do something, the better you get at it.”

He currently serves as the club’s competition coordinator. Last year was a motivator, to how seriously Fort Wayne MASH plans to take the Indiana Brewers’ Cup in 2022. Lengerich entered eight beers and one cider in 2021. He was awarded five silver medals and a bronze. “This year, I have 20 total entries: one mead, three ciders and 17 beers. And all the beers are different styles,” he added. “There’s light beers, dark beers, lagers, ales and one sour.” Lengerich is going for one of the top titles Saturday — Indiana home brewer of the year!

“Beer itself kind of brings people together,” he said of the hobby. “Home brewing gets like-minded people together, doing the same thing and everybody typically has a great time.”

Forecasting a Successful Future

Nick Marusiak, Fort Wayne MASH Club Vice President
Nick Marusiak, Fort Wayne MASH Club Vice President(Daniel Beals)

Walking our cameras through the brewing process, is none other than our own meteorologist, Nick Maruisak. With less than two years experience home brewing, he already serves as the club’s Vice President, and his quickly developed skills that practice does make perfect. “The first brew kit I got was in November — just after Black Friday of 2020,” he shared. “I’ve been basically brewing every three weeks, give or take.”

But it wasn’t until the monthly club meetings with MASH, that more experienced brewers gave Maruisak the feedback he needed, to home brew the best Pale American Beer in the state (in 2021). On-air, you may have seen his frequent “In the Garden” segments. It seems fitting his gold medal entree is called “Green Thumb Lawnmower Cream Ale”. During COVID, the group was forced to participate in the competition remotely. Maruisak told us how watching the live-stream unfolded.

“It’s the first award that pops up — the first, exact one — and my name’s up in big letters! I go ballistic,” he said. After texting other members, and of course, his parents, MASH’s success continued. “I finally get settled down after two or three minutes, and then Cody wins the next award!” he continued. “We’re watching the rest of the awards. Cody’s racking them up. Jed’s racking them up. Dan had a few. We had all these guys start winning. We started doing the math and realizing that we got a shot of winning home brew club of the year.”

Thought that didn’t happen, they remain hopeful that 2022 is their year. “Our club has a lot of great brewers,” he told us. “But the difference between a great brewer, and one that wins awards could be a point or two.” His timing for brewing and bottling was slightly off in the spring, and like all good beer, it ran out. So this year, Maruisak’s one entry is in the cider category. “Are we expecting to win? No. Are we hopeful? Yes. And I think that’s where we lie this year, especially after the success of last year.”

No longer an amateur

Cody Moon, Fort Wayne MASH Club President
Cody Moon, Fort Wayne MASH Club President(Daniel Beals)

Despite the optimism, a reality of the 2022 Indiana Brewers’ Cup is that Fort Wayne MASH will be competing without one of their most valuable brewers: club president Cody Moon. “I actually am not going to have any beers this year, because of the brewery getting started,” he explained. Moon, who began brewing with a home kit in 2014, took over leadership of the club in 2020. Last year, he took home two gold, one silver, and a bronze medal. His philosophy in approaching home brewing, is education. “Anyone can drink or brew a good beer, but I think if you understand why it is — you can brew multiple good beers,” Moon said. “And that’s what it takes to become… maybe a better home brewer, but even an opportunity to do what these guys have done, and leave the home brew society and go into the pro category.”

He’s referring to the growing list of MASH club ‘graduates’. Popular beer destinations like 2Toms, Fortlandia, and Dot & Line Brewing Co. evolved from hobbies. “Almost every brewery in town has a connection to the MASH club, in some aspect,” he continued. “I like to think, once a MASH member, always a MASH member. I learned a lot from this club. I would not be that brewer from Science Project Brewing if it were not for this club.”

And Moon will have the best of both worlds: continuing in his current career, while being part-owner and head brewer at a new venture in Logansport. Feedback on his entries in last year’s competition, helped build a resume — or rather a menu, for Science Project Brewing, which opens later this summer. “My plan is to do a lot of traditional things but also do a lot of weird unique things,” Moon told us. “Probably half of the beers I brewed last year — so half of the 14 I entered last year — are already on the docket to be brewed at the brewery… It kind of was a test batch.”

Moon is excited for what’s to come this year — but particularly looking forward to stepping up his game, and competing professional in 2023. As for the club’s future, he hopes to continue to grow respect on the award circuit, as the underdogs to Indianapolis’ two amateur brewing clubs. “I don’t want to put a target on Jed’s head, but I’d love to see Jed win home brewer of the year,” he said. “We kind of come down out of Fort Wayne and wreck havoc. I would love to say Saturday we come home with home brew club of the year and home brewer of the year, even — but any ribbons we bring home back to Fort Wayne is a bonus for me.”

Is this hobby for you?

Currently, there are around 55 active, paying members within the Fort Wayne MASH club. It costs $25 a year to join. Benefits include access to grain and hop buys through local breweries, which helps reduce the costs of brewing supplies. Monthly meetings offer opportunities to taste other members’ drinks and receive feedback on your own. You can learn more by following, or reaching out to one of their Facebook pages here.

The Fort Wayne MASH Club has 72 entrees between fourteen members. Amateur and professional results for the 2022 Indiana Brewers’ Cup will be announced Saturday evening. You can track their progress here, or learn more about the competition and categories on their website.

Monthly meetings offer opportunities to taste other members’ drinks and receive feedback on...
Monthly meetings offer opportunities to taste other members’ drinks and receive feedback on your own.(Daniel Beals)

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