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First annual Perham Brewers Fest draws hundreds

Matt McCurdy for the FOCUS Alan Thompson's booth serves wine samples to tasters at the March 25 Brewer's Fest held at The Cactus.

The first annual Brewer's Festival at The Cactus on March 25 was a success, according to Chris Schuelke, who organized the event.

The festival consisted of a silent auction and around 25 home brewers who were able to showcase their brews to a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd that was estimated at 300 for the night.

"What makes this event unique is that home brewers cannot sell their products commercially," said Schuelke. "A function like this is one opportunity for them to let people sample what they make, and they're basically donating it to the historical society."

The event was a fundraiser for the Otter Tail County Historical Society. Schuelke, who is the executive director of the nonprofit organization, said the event was brought to Perham because of its previous success in Fergus Falls. The event has been running yearly in Fergus Falls since 1998.

The festival was sponsored by 22 area businesses. Schuelke said that he was very grateful for their support.

"I do it just for kicks, just for a hobby," said Darrel Harstad, a home brewer. Harstad said that he likes the interaction with the crowd and the good reports he receives. Harstad has been brewing for eight years, but this was his first event that he showcased his wine.

"I tried the strawberry kiwi," said Bob Williams, a local man who tasted Harstad's wine. "It was outstanding."

For those who missed the event, there will be another brewer's festival at the VFW in Fergus Falls on Oct. 14. Schuelke also suspects that there will be another festival in Perham next spring.