I feel a very different connection to reviewing these particular beers. Everyone who spends hours pouring thoughts into a recipe, boiling water, producing wort, and attempting to cool that wort excessively fast dreams of getting people to drink their beer on a big level. When I brew my different beers, I end up handing out over half of it. It’s something about wanting to get a little recognition for brewing a good beer. We only partly brew for our own consumption; we mostly brew to get that pat on the back from your friends. Well these guys got a huge pat on the back by Sam Adams this past year. Who knows if these guys are any closer to opening their own brewery, but maybe this is one big step in that directions, and I’m extremely jealous.
Evidently Sam Adams has been running the Longshot contest since 1995. Jim Koch is perhaps the best example of a man with a dream to make good beer making it really big in the end. We’ve probably all heard about how he personally went around selling his beer to different bars. Clearly he managed to make it big in the end; however, people who love craft beer seem to always wonder if we call it craft or big beer. Regardless of whether you think they are craft or not, it doesn’t really matter. We who brew beer all want to be him, and we’re extremely happy when he uses his status to bring some light to the little guys. Plus, you know you’re always fine to have a Sam when you’re stuck in a situation that is slim pickins!
The Longshot contest brought to light three different fellas with three different styles of beer this year. Corey Martin produced a beer called A Dark Night in Munich which is a Munich Dunkel. Fred Hessler produced Derf’s Secret Alt. I’m not sure if it’s fair to give this award to Fred as he is an employee of Sam Adams, but that may just be the jealousy talking. Finally, Joe Formanek produced the Five Crown Imperial Stout. Joe has been brewing this beer for the past 15 years, so I guess this was a long time coming. I should probably brew beer a few more years before I get completely unjustifiably jealous over their success. There have been a few different winners of this contest that have managed to parlay their success into an actual brewery, so you may want to keep an eye on these guys. Big things may be in their future.
Derf’s Secret Alt – This beer had me thinking a lot of the different old stock ales I’ve had of late. The little write up on the side of the bottle states that this one is a Sticke Alt style of beer. Evidently this can also be known an altbier. This style of beer is a top fermenting beer. I’m not entirely sure of how it works, but it sounds like this was how Germans managed to create lagers before they realized they needed to ferment at lower temperatures. Perhaps someone can confirm or deny that? Anyway, it has a lot of sweet molasses and burnt sugar quality to it. There are some ample fig and raisin sweet malts in here as well. The hops are certainly there; however, they are basically buried in malts. There is a very big bready feel overall, and you get a big booze finish to this on as well.
A Dark Night in Munich – This beer is known as a Munich-style Dunkel. Dunkels are a dark german style lager that isn’t too strong on the alcohol, but it has an ample amount of smooth malty flavor to it. This beer certainly lived up to the big bold malt flavoring. There were once again a lot of ample big brown sugar and molasses flavors to it. It has a little bit of that fig and raisin flavor mixed in there, but it really isn’t prominent as it was in the last one. There is a lot of light roasted flavors to this one; although, it isn’t anything like the roasted notes you get out of a stout or porter. The roasted flavors are more just slight hints as accents to this one. There are some very mild hops which aren’t too noticeable at all. Finally, you get a little boozy flavor to it, but it is really only slight. I thought a beer this dark would wallop me with booze, but it is actually quite drinkable.
Five Crown Imperial Stout – This beer had me the most excited. I think it could be because it’s the style I’m most familiar with. Also, it’s the one I’m most looking forward to brewing this coming fall. I only started brewing in February, so I kind of felt like I missed optimal time to put together a good stout. This one poured out a super dark black oily color. There was a big brown head that developed on top as well. The beer had a lot of creamy dark chocolate flavors with a lot of coffee as well. I kind of thought it was a little light on the roasted notes for me, especially for an imperial; however, I still really liked it. There was a really nice and noticeable amount of hops included in this on as well. Overall I found it really crisp and clean for a stout.
I know I’m certainly inclined to pick this six-pack up because I want to see what other homebrews are putting together. These three got a huge amount of recognition from Sam Adams, so I thought it would be a really good way to measure some of the stuff I’m putting out. I’m sure I’m nowhere near where these fellas are; however, I hope to enter contests like these relatively soon and be this successful. I have a tough time putting a teacher grade on these. I honestly think they are all A’s in my book. However, I think A Dark Night in Munich was my favorite!