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Homebrewers converge at Bent Paddle

It was Neil Caron who was met with whoops and cheers during the American Homebrewers Association rally on Sunday afternoon at Bent Paddle Brewing Co.

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Jake Rodel (from left) of Duluth and Dan Slick of Superior with the Northern Ale Stars Homebrewers Guild talk to Brett Binns and Celina Bins during the American Homebrewers Association rally at Bent Paddle Sunday afternoon in Duluth. The rally included a VIP Brewery Tour, beer samples, chances to meet Bent Paddle brewers and staff, and door prizes. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

It was Neil Caron who was met with whoops and cheers during the American Homebrewers Association rally on Sunday afternoon at Bent Paddle Brewing Co.

"I make the beer," Caron said simply as an introduction, while standing in front of about 50 homebrewers and beer aficionados who attended the get-together at the brewery in Lincoln Park. The rally - believed to be the first AHA event of this kind in the area - included a few information booths, a tour of the facility, the Bent Paddle origin story and Q&A, door prizes, shop talk and, of course, sips from pints.

The owners of the 2-year-old company were flattered be asked to host the event, according to Laura Mullen, who oversees outreach for Bent Paddle.

"It's a nice way to connect with each other," she said. "We love it. (Craft beer) is such a neat American manufacturing story."

Jeff Kleinert made the trip from Grand Rapids. He has been brewing beer since 1977, when he was a student at what was then called Mankato State University. He took a course in interpretive services, he said, and needed to do a demonstration in front of the class.

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So he picked up a beer kit and later offered up samples during his speech.

"I got an A," he said.

Kleinert recently retired and said he plans to get more into brewing, and maybe pick up some of the more serious specialty equipment. His favorite part of brewing is when he gets the malt on the stove.

"It smells like a giant bakery," he said.

Kleinert was looking to make contacts, he said, and maybe find other brewers who planned to attend the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in October.

On Sunday, while waiting for the tour, Kleinert sampled Bent Paddle's Lollygagger Pale Ale.

"It gets better each sip," he said.

Paul Anderson was in town for a camping trip. The AHA member from Plymouth, Minn., missed last month's event at Surly Brewing Co. He's a Bent Paddle fan who planned to leave with a growler and, like Kleinert, was sampling the Lollygagger.

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"It's a very fine pale ale," he said. "I wish I could get this in cans by my house."

Troy Carlson of Duluth manned the check-in table and said the rally was a good way to get the brewers - which he described as "junior chemists" - and beer fans together.

Dan Slick, president of the Northern Ale Stars Homebrewers Guild, passed out business cards and answered questions about the longtime group, which meets monthly at brew-friendly venues. Each meeting includes an educational component and taste-testing other members' creations.

"Everyone brings beers," added Jake Bodel, one of the club's 40-50 members.

Christa Lawler is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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