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Spirits high for home brewers

Wine from acorn acres will be part of the home brewers event Friday in Perham.

Amy Jacobson traces her fingers along the dusty bottles that sit patiently in her basement, collecting taste.

The Detroit Lakes woman is fairly new to the art of homemade wine making, as her oldest bottle was made only a couple of years ago.

"This one was from my very first batch" she says, proudly pointing to a 2009 white merlot.

Jacobson says she fell in love with making homemade wine at the ripe old age of 25.

"About two and a half years ago I got going on a whim; thought it'd be a fun thing to do, and now I have something brewing all the time. I love it."

Jacobson plans on sharing her labor of love with the public for the first time next weekend.

She is packing up 16 of her "Acorn Acres" bottles (a name she decided upon based on the number of oak trees and acorns in her yard) and driving to Perham for the town's first ever Home Brewers Festival.

The event is spearheaded by local store "Make Me Wine."

Store owner and fellow wine lover, Mary Roberts, says she got the idea for the event after attending a similar one in Fergus Falls.

That one, held every fall, raises money for the Otter Tail Historical Society.

Popularity soared as wine and beer brewers from around the region flocked to event, carrying with them their homemade masterpieces.

Now, Roberts and the East Ottertail Historical Society are popping some corks and giving it a try in Perham.

"I think people just have a lot of fun with it," said Otter Tail County Historical Society Executive Director Chris Schulke.

They're getting away from the commercial wines, adding their own touches, adding their locally grown fruits and ingredients, and really making the beer or wine to their own tastes."

The festival is a way for the community to literally get a taste of their community in a way they probably couldn't otherwise.

"These brewers can't just sell their stuff out of the trunk of their car - that's illegal. But if they donate their products to be sampled in little two-ounce cups for a fundraiser, everybody wins." Schulke said.

Word of mouth has spread about the pallet-pleasing event, so there are already 25 regional home brewers scheduled to attend.

"People are just curious about totally different types of wine and beer that they cannot find in their local liquor store," said Schulke.

One of those types is jalapeño wine, carefully brewed to perfection in the home of Amy Jacobson.

"That was my dad's idea," laughs Jacobson, adding, "I'm not sure how it's going to taste."

Jacobson's stamp of approval is given by her husband, Acorn Acre's taste tester extraordinaire, Paul Jacobson.

"When he tells me it's good, I know it is, because he isn't afraid to tell me it's bad."

Jacobson says she likes to use fresh fruits for her wines, picking them in the summer and freezing them for winter brewing.

"I do choke cherries, strawberries, grapes, rhubarb, peach..."

Jacobson says the wine-making itself doesn't take very long to do, but once it's bottled, it should sit fermenting for at least six months, ideally a year.

"It started off as something that's kind of fun, but once you make your first batch that turns out good, it gets kind of addictive."

This is one "addiction" that isn't very costly, though, as Jacobson says she has only $2 to $3 dollars into each bottle.

With that little invested into it, she now has 140 bottles stocked up in her little cellar.

"My stash took quite a hit after Christmas," Jacobson said, adding, "I give them as gifts or I'll bring some when we go over to people's houses for dinner."

Now, that stash will take one more hit, as Jacobson prepares to let the world taste her creations.

"I'm so excited, I hope everybody like it," she said with a slightly nervous smile.

The Home Brewer's Festival takes place at the Cactus in Perham Friday, March 25 from 7 to 10 p.m.

Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door.

They can be purchased by calling Make Me Wine at 218-346-9463, the Perham Chamber of Commerce at 218-346-7710, or the Otter Tail County Historical Society in Fergus Falls at 218-736-6038.

Nobody under 21 will be admitted.