Sep 142016

My friends, I have strayed…

Over the last few years, my brewing became more and more sporadic, evidenced by the lack of posts on this site. Increased work responsibilities and other interests were competing for my time and energy and brewing became… a chore. I made a handful of batches to try and stay current, but the brewery gradually fell into disarray. My brewday documentation became non-existent. I stopped reading (and writing) beer articles. The beer, while still drinkable, suffered greatly. I had fallen from grace.

But O! I am nothing if not resilient! The fire was rekindled this weekend when I was convinced by The Hammer to enter my first homebrew competition. The only beer I had available was a Heady Topper clone I brewed a few weeks ago. Everything that could’ve gone wrong with this beer did. First I unknowingly bought an extract kit instead of all grain — oh well, roll with it, it’ll cut a couple hours off the brewday, right? Boil and hops additions went well, until I realized I forgot to use my hop spider — a huge mistake when using a plate chiller. When it came time to chill the beer, my chiller got clogged and I was dead in the water (worter?).

Five gallon Torpedo kegI wound up throwing the wort in the fermentor and leaving it in my basement overnight to cool. Pitched the yeast the following day, then ignored the beer for a month. Did not dry hop it, did not take gravity readings, I couldn’t care less about this brew. Until this competition deadline was looming.

Somewhere on Sunday, as I cleaned my kegs and racked the beer and fought a CO2 leak… as I gazed over the dust-covered, neglected collection of my brewing equipment, I got mad. I was pissed that I had let things go like this. Pissed that I let the world take the fun out of brewing. Pissed as I watched the beer world explode around me, breweries opening every day, homebrewing equipment and ingredients and techniques reaching never before seen heights…pissed at myself that I wasn’t a part of it all.

The next day I went online and ordered the ingredients needed to brew one of my favorite old recipes, Engine 57 Steam Beer. They arrived today, along with a gleaming new keg (pictured above). I’ll be brewing that beer this weekend. Next up is my IPA recipe. Then on to some other styles. I’m not stopping until I have all five of my kegs full of beer. I’m entering these beers into competitions, and I’m going to win medals. I’m getting my brewing mojo back, dammit!!

That Heady clone? Not ready to be competitive yet, and it might never be. It has a harsh hop bitterness in the finish that might mellow with time in cold storage, or might be a result of staying on the trub too long and never fade. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tasty, but I don’t expect a high score from it. It doesn’t matter, though — I entered it anyway. It was more of a symbolic act — atoning for my sins, getting back in the scene, and making some amazing beer.

May 022009

Sam Adams LongShot Competition

Sam Adams LongShot Competition

I was cruising the aisles of the ol’ neighborhood purveyor of fine spirits when I came across the Sam Adams 2008 LongShot sixer. If any of you are unfamiliar with the LongShot Contest, it is Sam Adam’s annual homebrew competition. The main prize, of course, is that some beer blogger cruising his local liquor store is going to be able to buy your beer and write about it – that’s right, national distribution by the Boston Beer Co.

Each year, three winners are selected – two homebrewers, and one Sam Adams employee brewing on their own. The top four non-employee finalists in the competition get a “most expenses paid” trip to the GABF for them and a guest, and the two Grand Champions are announced at the festival. The Grand Champions get a $5,000 one-time royalty for their recipe, which is then mass-produced and sold in the LongShot six-pack (which contains two of each of the three winning recipes).

I’ve been planning to enter this competition since 2006, and guess what – I missed the deadline again! The cutoff for 2009 entries was yesterday, and that doesn’t give me much time to get a beer brewed up, bottled, and shipped out. That means it will be at least two years before you see my mug plastered on a Sam Adams label. However, it doesn’t mean I can’t enter some other competitions, which has been a homebrewing goal of mine since I started the craft.

Are any of you guys big competition brewers? I hear the first step is to actually brew a beer, so I’m going to get working on that. I’ll let you know if I wind up entering any comps this year. And if any of you sent some bottles to LongShot, good luck to you! Shoot me a comment and let me know you’re in the mix.