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Beer Town: Sam Adams contest features exotic brews

My dad was a  home brewer. He made beer in the basement long before Jimmy Carter signed the 1978 bill to make it legal.

I was too young to taste a sample, though I operated the bottle capper from time to time. By all accounts, his recipe was a British-style mild or brown ale, probably inherited from my grandfather’s family, from Northern England.

I thought about my dad a few weeks ago while I was in Boston to help judge the final round of the annual Samuel Adams Longshot American Homebrew Contest.

samuel-adams-longshot
This year, home brewers from around the country were invited to brew an experimental “specialty beer,” defined in the Beer Judge Certification Program style guidelines under category 23: “One that is a harmonious marriage of ingredients, processes and beer. The key attributes of the underlying style [if declared] will be atypical due to the addition of special ingredients or techniques.”

The winners were exotic beers my dad would scarcely recognize: a Black IPA brewed with dark roasted malts and loads of citrus hops;, a tart fruit beer flavored with goji berries; and a hoppy ale concocted by Atlanta home brewer, Richard Roper, who put together attributes of American IPA and Belgian tripel to produce a very tasty hybrid.

The beer journalist judging panel included Julie Johnson, All About Beer magazine editor, Tom Dalldorf, Celebrator Beer News publisher, Tony Forder, Ale Street News founder, and Beer Advocate brothers, Jason and Todd Alstrom. Jim Koch, Boston Beer Co. founder, led the discussions, which were spirited, often humorous, but very serious about promoting the best beers.

In the end, we chose recipes from four fine home brewers, including Roper, who will travel to Denver in September, when the top two winners will be announced at the Great American Beer Festival. What’s more exciting, the winning beers will be brewed by Boston Beer Co. and included in the 2011 Sam Adams Longshot variety pack.

The Longshot competition is a great reminder of the symbiotic relationship that’s always existed between home brewing and craft brewing. Many of the best craft beers are made at companies founded by former home brewers, including the likes of Bell’s, Dogfish Head and Stone.

For the past eight years, Zymurgy Magazine, a premier home-brewing publication, has asked readers to send in a list of their 20 favorite commercial beers. In 2010, votes were cast for 1,192 different beers from 450 breweries.

After the final tally, the winner was the same as in 2009: Pliny the Elder from California’s Russian River Brewing Co. The heady Imperial IPA has a huge cult following, though, sadly, it isn’t available in Atlanta. Pliny only beat out Bell’s Two Hearted Ale by a mere two votes, and it is widely available here.

russian-river-pliny-the-elder
The final list included several tie votes, but here’s the Zymurgy survey’s top 10 beers:

1. Russian River Pliny the Elder

2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

3. Stone Arrogant Bastard

4. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

5. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

6. Stone IPA

T7. Bear Republic Racer 5

T7. Guinness Stout

T7. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine

T7. Sierra Nevada Celebration

Are you a  home brewer? What are some of your favorite beers?

7 comments Add your comment

Derek

July 22nd, 2010
9:12 am

I’ve been a homebrewer for at least 20 years now…albeit I’ve taken a long breaks here-and-there. Lately I’ve found that Porters offer a lot of creativity. They are more than merely a ‘lesser stout’ and can even be a mix of different brews. Further…you don’t find a lot of porters sold in discount stores.

Covert Hops

July 22nd, 2010
9:56 am

Oldest home brew club in Atlanta. coverthops.com

d

July 22nd, 2010
12:21 pm

Great to see an Atlanta-area homebrewer make it to the finals. There are a lot of great Atlanta homebrewers that are gaining more and more national recognition.

Deanna

July 22nd, 2010
3:18 pm

Way to go, Rick! I’m proud of you!

Conchita Altuve

July 23rd, 2010
9:42 am

Rick, Congratulations! That’s great!

RK

July 28th, 2010
1:04 pm

Best Longshot I had was in 1997, a Hazelnut Brown…yum.

el jefe'

July 29th, 2010
5:32 am

1. Surly Brewing Furious IPA
2.Summit Brewing Summit EPA
3. Lift Bridge Brewing FarmGirl
4.August Schells Brewing Nordeast
5. August Schells Brewing Grain Belt Premium