In honor of the Fourth of July, this is a column about a barbecue.
This particular barbecue — Lucky Bucket's annual Beer-B-Que — is still a ways off, on July 26.
But since last year, the annual event has also become a homebrew competition, so a bit of notice is necessary.
Last year, about 25 homebrewers from various clubs in both Omaha and Lincoln brought their concoctions. There were fruit beers (a particularly memorable one was flavored with watermelon), wheat beers and a beer that tasted a bit like a mojito, said Lucky Bucket President Jason Payne.
The weirder the flavor, the better the beers went over, Payne said.
“The crazier they get, the more fun it is to try them,” he said.
The home brews were a nice addition to the annual barbecue, which Payne said he looks forward to all year long. In preparation for the event, Lucky Bucket employees rope off their parking lot, round up some lawn games and invite both their friends and Lucky Bucket fans. A few food trucks normally show up, and, of course, there is lots of Lucky Bucket beer.
“It's just a good old Midwestern backyard party,” Payne said. “Sometimes people just need a reason to get out of the house and hang out with other craft beer fans.”
Increasingly, though, craft beer fans are making their own brews, and competitions like this one have cropped up to give them a chance to compare notes — and to vie for bragging rights (and in this case, a $50 bar tab).
Payne also likes to pay attention to what homebrewers are up to.
“Homebrewers are the trailblazers of creativity in the whole industry,” he said.
Many homebrewed beers are so weird and complicated that commercial production probably would not work, he said. But sometimes a good homebrew can spark an idea or a craft beer movement.
“We definitely kind of see what homebrewers are doing and what the next trend or the next flavor fad is going to be,” Payne said.
Plus, everyone who attends the party can sample the home brews until they're gone. Last year, it took two or three hours for partygoers to drink them all.