For this week’s Today post, I explore whether or not Sam Adams kept intact the home brewed essence of the winning LongShot recipes when they ramped them up to an industrial scale. As part of preparing that article, I did email interviews with this year’s winners, but only used a few snippets in the actual piece. The winners shared some pretty cool stuff, so I thought it would be nice to present the full Q&A here. Enjoy!
Corey Martin is a home brewer from Austin, Texas who won for his Dunkel-style black lager called A Dark Night in Munich.
How many times have you entered the LongShot competition? I’ve entered the competition the past three years.
How many times have you brewed this Dunkel in the past? Is it a regular brew you like to make, or did you do something special for the competition? I’ve brewed the Dunkel three or four times now. I generally brew a variety of beers throughout the year, but since the competition, I’ve been brewing the Dunkel pretty consistently – especially because people keep asking for it.
Did you have help with the recipe, or is it a solo effort? The recipe is something I came up with on my own. I’ve been trying to make a good Munich Dunkel for a while, but they always had too much roasted malt flavor or weren’t dark enough. I was listening to The Brewing Network and they had a probrewer on that mentioned how he “stains” his black IPA by pulverizing the dark roasted malts in a coffee grinder and adding them in during the sparge. The “staining” process is what helps give the beer its dark color without the roastiness.
Do you consider this beer as having a signature ingredient, a difference maker? If so, what is it? If not, what sets your beer apart? The dark roasted malts could be considered the special ingredient, but it’s really the “staining” process and dark color without the roastiness that sets this beer apart. That and a good strong pitch of lager yeast are the difference makers.
Where did the idea for the name “A Dark Night in Munich” comes from? I thought it went well with the style of beer and made for a good follow-up to the Oktoberfest season that had passed.
What was it like when you heard your beer had taken the crown? What was it like to see your face on the label for the first time? It’s been an experience of a lifetime and I’ve just been overwhelmed with emotion. It’s an unbelievable feeling when you can go to the store and see your face on the label.
What did your brewing buddies think about your win? Do you now have bragging rights forever? My homebrew club out of Austin, Texas is a real tightknit group and everyone has been very supportive. I keep encouraging more and more of my fellow club members to enter the competition this year.
How do you think Sam Adams did scaling up your recipe? Does it taste the same as it does coming from the kegerator at home? Sam did a spot-on job with the original brew and I’m very pleased. It tastes pretty much like the one I have on tap at home right now.
What are you going to do with the prize money? I put some of it towards my trip to the National Homebrewers Conference in Seattle.
Have you read any consumer reviews of your brew (beeradvocate, ratebeer, etc.)? Does it make you nuts? Is it cool? I check them for fun and actually looked online the other day. So far I’ve actually been really pleased—the reviews have been largely good.
Are you cool with the fact that Sam Adams now owns your recipe? Would you like to see your dunkel become part of the regular rotation? I’m perfectly fine with Sam owning the recipe and brewing it. And I would love to see it become part of the regular rotation – that would be fantastic. I love their seasonal beers and would love to see my beer join their wide selection. Just to be able to say I was a part of something like that would be really cool.
Have you ever thought about going pro? That is the dream. Eventually I hope to be in that field and might consider it more after retirement.
Anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked? I just want to say that it’s been a heck of a ride. I went to Boston recently to brew with the Sam Adams brewers and the trip to GABF was amazing. It’s been an absolute whirlwind with all the interviews and events. I encourage all homebrewers to enter. I’m also really grateful to Sam Adams. They don’t have to do any of this, but it’s speaks to their credit by going back to the origins of the craft brewing industry.
Fred Hessler – Derf’s Secret Alt
Fred Hessler works at the accounting department at Sam Adams and brews beer on the side. His winning submission was Derf’s Secret Alt, a pumped up version of a traditional Northern German brew. I only asked Fred a couple of questions because he wasn’t made available at first due to the fact he’s not a “civilian.” Who cares – he’s a beer nerd! Anyway, I only would up asking Fred a couple of questions.
What inspired your beer? Is this a style you enjoy drinking? I have been carrying around an Alt recipe in my bag for a year or so and wanted to make it. Alt seems to be an underappreciated style. But, I figured that I could not advance in the competition with a regular Alt. Thus the Sticke Alt, a style that I have only seen in one commercial beer (although it’s one of my favorites) and had always intrigued me. So, I found a recipe and beefed it up a bit. I made it on my back porch one night while my wife was out and the kids were in bed.
Have you shared your beer with friends and coworkers? If so, what was their reaction to it? The reaction at work and with my friends has been very positive. My friends who like bigger beers (usually with a ton of hops) really like the different taste of the more malty beer. It was a finalist in a previous Accounting homebrew tasteoff (as was my Cream Ale).
Joe has been brewing beer at home for a long time. Of the three sets of answers I received, I think his show the true heart of someone who is obsessed with brewing. He tells it pretty straight – good on ya, Joe!
How many times have you entered the LongShot competition? I’ve entered the competition every year since 2006.
How many times have you brewed this RIS in the past? Is it a regular brew you like to make, or did you do something special for the competition? I’ve been brewing this beer for more than 15 years, but tweak it each year from feedback I get and my own personal assessment. I’m always checking homebrew shops for new grains – like roasted wheat and caramel wheat – that help add complexity and layers.
Did you have help with the recipe, or is it a solo effort? It’s a solo effort. I’ve been developing this recipe over the years. It’s rare that I’ll tap into someone for a recipe – only if it’s nothing I’ve done before.
Do you consider this beer as having a signature ingredient, a difference maker? If so, what is it? If not, what sets your beer apart? If I had to pick, I would say it’s some of the darker wheat malts, specifically chocolate wheat and caramel wheat malts. I also use oatmeal in all my stouts which adds to the slickness and richness.
Where did the idea for the name “Five Crown” come from? Has this beer won competitions in the past for you? This stout has won some Midwest homebrew contests, but I change it every year. I typically name beers after family members, but this beer’s name has a historical context. Since Imperial stouts were first brewed in the 1600s and credited to Peter the Great of Russia, the name represents the five controlling countries or “Five Crowns” at the time of Peter’s rule. I’m a kind of a history nut.
What was it like when you heard your beer had taken the “crown?” What was it like to see your face on the label for the first time? It was quite amazing. When I was at the restaurant during GABF, and Jim announced my beer had won, I was ecstatic. I mean, wow. It’s a homebrewers dream come true. Now I enjoy meeting people in stores while they’re buying my beer and having a chance to speak with them.
What did your brewing buddies think about your win? Do you now have bragging rights forever? Everyone has been real congratulatory. My friends at the homebrew club here in Chicago sent around the news and I immediately received calls of congratulations. The homebrewing community is real tight-knit group and everyone is always happy for one another.
How do you think Sam Adams did scaling up your recipe? Does it taste the same as it does coming from the kegerator at home? It’s pretty darn close. There are minor differences in the type of ingredients. For instance, I use a more old-fashioned oatmeal that offers a slightly different taste. There was also a slight difference in the fermentation flavor, maybe from the yeast, but I think Sam did a great job of producing this beer.
What are you going to do with the prize money? It’s already gone. Most of the money went towards bills, but I got a couple pieces of brewing equipment, as well. You have to enjoy it a little, you know?
Have you read any consumer reviews of your brew (beeradvocate, ratebeer, etc.)? Does it make you nuts? Is it cool? I’m always checking reviews; I like hearing the feedback. I’m happy to say the ratings are improving which means people are starting to appreciate it more. The beer has already received more than 300 reviews on Untapped.com.
Are you cool with the fact that Sam Adams now owns your recipe? Would you like to see your stout become part of the regular rotation? I’m perfectly fine with Sam owning the beer, and I would love to see this beer become a regular. It’s a nice Imperial Stout and a good solid beer. I’d buy it!
Have you ever thought about going pro? I’ve tossed the idea around over the years. I see brewing as more of a great hobby. I’m a foodie and see it as something which fits my background and completes the package. It’s on the backburner for now and I’ve thought about maybe opening a brewpub after I retire.
Anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked? The competition goes above and beyond what you put into it versus what you get out of it – to have your beer brewed and marketed across the country. I really commend Sam for doing something like this for homebrewers.
I’d like to say congratulations to all the winners and to Sam Adams for staying true to their beer geek roots and making something like the LongShot contest possible. As I said before, big doesn’t necessarily have to equal evil – just look at those kids up in Boston.