By Jay Brooks
Saturday, June 13th, 2009 at 11:11 am in On Beer.
For the third year in a row, the Boston Beer Company, who brew the Samuel Adams line of beers, has hosted a homebrewing competition. It’s called the Longshot American Homebrew Contest. Two winners have their homebrew brewed commercially by the Boston Beer Co. with their picture (well, a drawing) and sold throughout the country.
So far, the contest has been good to California, with a Golden State winner from each of the first two years. The first year, Mike McDole, from Clayton, won for his Double IPA (though due to the hop shortage it wasn’t made until the following year). Last year, Livermore resident Alex Drobshoff won for his Traditional Bock.
This year about 1300 entries were submitted from around the country which were judged in three regions; New England, Chicago and San Francisco. Four winners advanced to the finals (two from New England, because they got the most entries by a wide margin). I flew to Boston Wednesday to judge the four finalists and help choose this year’s winners.
The judging was held in a back conference room at Boston Beer’s pilot brewery and tour center in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, Mass.
There were seven us, to break any ties. From left: Jason Alstrom (from Beer Advocate), Tony Forder (from Ale Street News), Bob Townsend (a food & drinks columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), Jim Koch (founder of the Boston Beer Co.), yours truly (on assignment for Celebrator Beer News), Julie Johnson (from All About Beer magazine), and Todd Alstrom (also from Beer Advocate).
Naturally, each of the four finalists had gone through quite a lot just to get to the table, so it was no surprise that all four were excellent beers. This only made our job tougher. So we each evaluated the four beers on our own and then discussed each one in turn. First, there was a Maibock (or Helles Bock), a delicate beer using noble Hallertau and Tettnang hops. Then a big 9% a.b.v. Old Ale using four different hops and mostly pale 2-row malt. Our third beer was an American-style Barley Wine at over 100 IBUs, employing Magnum, Chinook, Northern Brewer, Amarillo and Centennial hops. It was nearly 10% a.b.v. The last beer was a sour Straight, unblended Lambic that in addition to the traditional ingredients, used dried elderberries and Irish moss. They all had their merits, and we discussed them at length for over an hour until finally a decision was made and the two winners were agreed upon. Unfortunately, the story here turns enigmatic because we’re all sworn to secrecy about the outcome. The winners will be announced at the end of September at a special reception during the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colo. I’ll be there again this year, and will reveal the results once they’ve been officially announced on September 26.