With a variety of home brews on tap Saturday night, an estimated 1,500 people attended the Second-Annual Oktoberfest, hosted by Northwest firefighters.

Brian Strugeon, a firefighter and event organizer, called the event a big success.

“Everyone had a good time, we were able to raise money for charities, and the brew challenge went well,” he said.

Proceeds from the event are donated to local charities. While they donated $7,000 last year, Strugeon said this year’s total has not been tallied.

After months of planning, firefighters from Pima County, Oro Valley, Marana, Tucson and other departments in the state went head-to-head in the brewing competition.

Some traditional flavors were on tap, while others got creative with a sour lemon brew, a banana orange flavoring and others in line with the holiday spirit with pumpkin spice and nutmeg flavoring.

Andy Skaggs, a Tucson firefight, said he chose the sour lemon and banana orange blends to be different.

Last year’s third-place winner, Matt Yager, a Northwest firefighter, said he was aiming for first place this year with a blackberry nutmeg and oatmeal cream blend.

“I came up with this brew because the flavors blend well together,” he said.

Using a similar blend last year, Yager said the difference in the 2011 blend was fresh nutmeg.

The winner ended up being home-brewer Mike Rollman, a Northwest firefighter, with an IPA brew.

While Rollman won the taste-test challenge, other beers being served didn’t do so well in the court of public opinion.

After dumping one brew into a nearby tree, Tucson residents Karl and Connie Appell said that’s part of the fun in a home-brew challenge.

While the couple wouldn’t say which beer was their least favorite, they were quick to applaud Thunder Canyon Brewery for hosting the event at the Foothills Mall for the second year in a row.

“This is all about volunteering,” Connie Appell said. “It’s a beautiful night, and we know the money we are spending will go to charity instead of some corporation.”

Karl Appell said he liked the professional brew offered by Thunder Canyon Brewery, while Connie Appell said she was impressed by the home brew offered by firefighters from the Northwest fire’s C-shift.

With an 8-percent alcohol content, the C-shift offered guests a orange flavored Belgian Ale.

“This was our first year competing, and we didn’t want something that was too specialized,” said firefighter Larry Weaver. “We wanted a mass-friendly brew.”

While the event drew visitors from all over Tucson, Peoria, Sedona and Herford, it also had one firefighter on hand from Florida.

Jim Thompson said he found out about the event through the International Association of Firefighters. Thompson attended Saturday’s event as research, noting that he and a team would probably take a road trip to compete in next year’s contest.

After trying several brews, Tucson resident Hilary Van Alsburg said she was impressed with the event.

“It’s a good cause, it’s affordable, it has a great band and it’s accessible,” she said. “This is a great idea.”

Michael Van Alsburg said when he started tasting the varieties he had no idea what to expect.

“There was some really good beers here that surprised me,” he said. “There was also a few that need a little work.”

The Alsburg’s said it was their first time attending the event, but noted they will definitely being coming back next year.

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