The first few times my friends opened a bottle of their homebrewed beer, what came out was their valiant attempt to reproduce the lagers they bought at supermarkets or maybe, if I was lucky, a rather boring red ale, a brown ale or a stout. Homebrewing, to me, meant creating a poor imitation of the craft ales I was just learning how to appreciate. Then I stopped by my friend Eric Johnson’s house in Athens, Ga. Eric was a horticulturist by trade and understood the biology behind brewing. Instead of picking up one of those homebrewing starter kits, he was essentially recreating the whole process of a brewery—just on a smaller scale. No matter the style, his beers seemed to hit whatever bullseye he was aiming for. The stouts were flavorful. The IPAs had a kick. Even his lagers were crisper and brighter than anything I was getting from a store.
Of course, Eric would go on to co-found Wild Heaven Craft Beers and will very shortly be opening a brewery two blocks down from the Paste office. Some brewers just aren’t meant to stay at home.
Suffice it to say, my opinion of homebrewers has long since changed. And I’m not alone in that regard.
Last year, Sam Adams held the LongShot American Homebrew Contest, inspiring 1,000 homebrewers to enter their creations. Now the two winners—Russ Brunner of Florida and Cesar Marron of Illinois—can find their faces on Sam Adams bottles and their beers inside. Sam Adams employee Teresa Bury can too; she won the Employee Homebrew contest.
The company’s interest in homebrewing goes all the way back to founder/brewer Jim Koch’s own homebrew, which became Samuel Adams Boston Lager. “I know the challenges that homebrewers face on a daily basis,” Koch said, “and I applaud those who are either just getting started in homebrewing or have been making delicious beer at home for years.”
Bury’s beer is a Pineapple IPA. The 6% ABV citrus-y beverage calls to mind grapefruit as much as pineapple (though pineapple juice is added) without an overpowering bitterness from the four different American hops.
Marron’s winning entry is a Grätzer, a smoked wheat style with Polish origins. Much lighter than most smoked beers, the complex beer has both spicy and banana-sweet notes, along with Saaz hops. At 4.4% ABV, it goes down very easy.
The heftiest of the bunch is Brenner’s American Stout, which at 7.2% is just north of the official BJCP guide for the style, but we’re not complaining. Those extra chocolatey malts pack a wallop, but there’s still a pleasant dryness to the finish. We applaud all three of these homebrewers.
All three beers are available in Sam Adams 2014 LongShot variety six packs, retailing between $7.99 and $9.99. To enter this year’s LongShot homebrewing contest, visit samueladams.com/longshot.