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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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Beer Town: Homebrew to pro brew

Every fall, American Homebrew Association members team up with breweries from around the country to create homebrew recipes and enter them in the Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am Competition in Denver.

 Bob Southard won Taco Mac’s Southern Brewer’s Challenge

Bob Southard won Taco Mac’s Southern Brewer’s Challenge

Around the same time, the winners of the Samuel Adams Longshot American Homebrew Contest are announced and soon after, the winning beers are brewed, bottled and made available nationally in the Samuel Adams Longshot variety six-pack.

Here in Atlanta, contests and collaborations between homebrewers and brewpubs are becoming more common, too, including a string of one-off guest brews at Five Seasons, Twain’s Homebrew Challenge and the recent Max Lager’s Challenge.

This month, Taco Mac locations around Atlanta are featuring Red Brick Cherry Chocolate Porter on draft. The beer was brewed by Atlanta’s Red Brick Brewing Co. using a recipe from Woodstock homebrewer Bob Southard, who won Taco Mac’s inaugural 2012 Southern Brewer’s Challenge.

Southard is a real estate broker who’s been homebrewing for more than 20 years. He started out with a kit he received as a Christmas gift from his brother.

“I still have most of the basic pieces from that kit, including the same plastic buckets,” Southard said during a chat at Taco Mac at the Prado, where he was trying Red Brick Chocolate Cherry Porter for the first time.

Southard created the original porter recipe two years ago as a birthday present for his wife.

“My wife loves porters and stouts,” Southard said. “And her favorite candy is chocolate-covered cherry cordials, so that was my inspiration. Red Brick had to change the recipe some to produce it on a larger scale. Still, I think it’s pretty true to the original beer.

“The day they actually made the beer, my daughter and I went down to the brewery and helped out, which was a lot of fun. My biggest concern was that the cherry would be overdone. But they got that right and we wound up with a nice beer I think anybody could drink.”

The Southern Brewer’s Challenge was the brainchild of Taco Mac CEO Bob Campbell and several Red Brick reps, said Taco Mac beverage director Fred Crudder.

“The idea was for Taco Mac and Red Brick to do more volume business and more interesting business together,” Crudder said. “Bob had always wanted to do a pro-am competition, so it was a win-win.”

Another win-win was that Southard turned out to be a longtime Taco Mac customer and a loyal member of the bar’s Brewniversity rewards program.

“When we were done with the judging, I thought to myself, ‘I hope this guy’s not a jerk,’” Crudder said with a laugh. “We got lucky there. But the judging was as blind as could be and we were really happy with the result. Now a local homebrewer has his beer on tap at 20-plus Taco Mac bars and that’s going to make a lot of noise.”

For his part, Southard is more than ready to be an ambassador for Cherry Chocolate Porter for as long as the limited edition beer is available.

“For me as a homebrewer, to brew a beer I can tell my friends and family is going to be sold at Taco Mac is like winning the Super Bowl,” Southard said.

Look for another limited edition batch of Cherry Chocolate Porter on sale in bottles sometime in the spring to coincide with the announcement of the 2013 Southern Brewer’s Challenge.

By Bob Townsend, AJC Drink Blog

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