180208_BOOZE

Hundreds gathered to taste a variety of beers and wines during last year’s Grapes & Hops event hosted by KANDU Industries at the Armory in Janesville.

Submitted Photo

JANESVILLE—Have you ever tried pineapple beer?

How about peach cider?

What about moonshine straight from the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee?

Next week you can, all while supporting a local group that helps disabled people.

KANDU Industries is hosting its annual Grapes & Hops fundraiser Friday, Feb. 16. The event allows residents to sample and drink more than 40 domestic and international wines and beers while being serenaded by live acoustic tunes. There also will be hors d’ oeuvres, live and silent auctions, and raffle prizes to boot.

The event, which has run for more than a decade under different names, typically brings in $20,000 to make it KANDU’s second-biggest annual fundraiser. Money goes toward the company’s mission to provide opportunities for people with disabilities to find greater independence and meet their full potential through employment, said Kristin Larson, development coordinator for KANDU.

Local “celebrities” from notable businesses such as SHINE Medical Technologies, Agrace Hospice & Palliative Care, the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce and many more will host themed booths, where they’ll provide alcohol samples. Past themes include “The Blues Brothers” and a circus freak show. The booths use their themes to compete for prizes, Larson said.

In addition to the loads of samples residents can try (and spit out into buckets should they disapprove), Alice Blue and Mark Miller of Badger Spirits will be on hand to teach proper tasting techniques and share facts about alcohol.

Larson is a wine-drinking novice, but she knows certain things such as red wine should be drunk from a wide-mouthed glass to experience more of its aroma, she said.

“You would learn those things at the event, and they (Blue and Miller) are much more versed in that kind of thing than I am,” Larson said. “It’s pretty interesting, actually. Even if you’re not a wine drinker, it’s interesting to hear.”

In past events, KANDU has bought wine and beer through a distributor. This year, Rock County Brewing Company will attend to offer its own samples, Larson said.

“We thought it would be nice to feature a local vendor for the guests to try,” she said.

Residents also will be able to try Blackberry Moonshine, another new attraction for the event. With that and other unusual alcohol flavors, attendees will have plenty to taste, Larson said.

“It’s fun and exciting because you get to try all these different wines and unique beers,” she said. “It’s unique in that sense that you’re trying something that you wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to otherwise.”

The event also is a good networking opportunity. More than 400 people have attended the fundraiser across the past couple of years, said Lauren Oftedahl, development assistant at KANDU.

“It’s a really fun event,” she said.

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