In 1984, Jim Koch, the founder of the Boston Beer Co., brewed the first batch of Samuel Adams Boston Lager in his kitchen. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.
Sam Adams is among the most successful craft breweries in the world and Koch is recognized as the man on the TV commercials.
But Koch never forgot his homebrew roots.
For the past 10 years, Boston Beer Co. has sponsored the LongShot Homebrew Contest, giving homebrewers from around the country the chance to have their recipes brewed and bottled as a limited edition Samuel Adams LongShot beer.
This year, Atlanta’s Richard Roper was one of the two winners. His Friar Hop Ale is a hybrid of familiar styles, combining the hoppy essence of an American IPA with the spicy, fruity flavor of a Belgian ale.
Roper received the LongShot award from Koch earlier this month during the annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver, where he served samples of Friar Hop at the Boston Beer Co. booth during two of the tasting sessions.
“I was amazed by the whole thing and it’s been like a whirlwind ever since,” Roper said. “I was just thrilled to meet Jim Koch and having conversations with him about my beer was unreal. He told me several times that he enjoyed my beer. Sam Adams made an unforgettable time for us.”
Roper lives on Atlanta’s Westside and works for Kronos as a software analyst. He’s been homebrewing for five years and described his equipment as “very homemade.” He uses a turkey fryer and a stainless steel pot for a brew kettle and glass carboys for fermentation vessels.
“I thought the best way to learn to brew was the very basic way,” Roper said. “I’ve added some equipment as I’ve gone along. I use the ProMash brewing software tool and I think that really helps.”
Roper said he likes to brew IPAs and other big hoppy styles. He entered a double IPA in the 2009 LongShot competition. Friar Hop Ale was his first attempt at a Belgian-style beer and the first time he’d used a Belgian Wit yeast strain. He also used a couple of very interesting hop varieties, Sorachi Ace and Citra.
Roper will be going to Boston in December to witness his beer being brewed for the LongShot variety six-packs, which will be in stores in March 2011, with his photo on the labels and packaging.
Previous LongShot winners have gone on to become professional brewers, which is something Roper said he’s been considering.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot, lately,” he said. “Maybe I can seize this opportunity to help with that.”