Monday, March 15, 2010

Choosing a successor!

February 12th,  I was fortunate to be invited to the Samuel Adams brewery to help judge the final 5 in the 2010 Patriot Homebrew Competition.  There were five finalist beers to judge, an Alt, a Marzen/Oktoberfest, a Wheat, an IPA and a Rauchbier, and I was one of several on the panel who included most of the folks that judged this round last year, a couple new ones, and of course Jim Koch, founder of the brewery.

For me, this was a real honor, as I got to meet some folks who are beer and media celebrities--not to mention the group responsible for my win in 2009.  Wally Brine (Loren and Wally show), Carolyn Faye Fox (Improper Bostonian) and Gail Ciampa (Providence Journal) whom I had met previously.  Dan Hausle of WHDH came armed with some of his own homebrew to share, and Norman Miller, the Beer Nut (, Todd and Jason Ahlstrom of Beer Advocate, Mike Adams (WEEI) were the remainder of the panel.  Let me tell you, this was a FUN group! Lots of jokes and personal stories during the tasting.

We tasted each of the beers in the final round and it was interesting to me that the panel members were checking the BJCP guidelines to learn about the characteristics of the beers and whether they were correctly represented.  It occurred to me that this step really wasn't necessary, as the original competition had determined that these were good exemplars of their categories, and since they were all in different categories, judging them against style really didn't mean a heck of a lot!  When you get 5 different style beers out, the only way to judge them is to say which beers you like best--which brings in a lot of personal taste elements.

After we tasted the fifth beer, the debate started, and we had to pick the top two .  We asked Jim questions about what he was looking for in terms of selection criteria.  For example, as the brewer, did he want the beer that seemed like it would be the most salable, and would be appealing to most drinkers?  Since the previous two beers had been a Black IPA and an Oatmeal Stout, would he really want an IPA again so soon?  How daring did he want to be? Lots of great questions--the answers will have to wait until the winner is announced, I think.

At the end of the day (when we got to taste some Mother Funk and some Noble Pils--a really nice beer), we chose a great beer as the 2010 Patriot Homebrew winner.  I will be happy to make my way back to the Sam Adams Brewhouse on game day, and say "I'll have one of those!"  All of the brewers that made it into the top five should be proud of their beer, as it was all very good--as it should be.  This is a great competition, and I applaud Jim Koch and the Patriots organization for this pairing of football and beer, and for supporting the home brewing community!  Thanks guys!


  1. Congratulations to the winner, I am sure the Rauchbier is excellent. Now that the winner has been announced can you share any other info on how the other beers were received and how the tasting panel arrived at its decision?

  2. As was released by Sam Adams today, Rob North, of Manchester, NH won the competition with a Rauchbier, as you noted.

    The panel really took the process seriously, and was challenged by Jim to pick the best beer, not necessarily the one that might be most accessible. While it wasn't unanimous, the majority clearly liked the Rauchbier the best, and Jim went with that decision.

    All of the beers were good, but obviously some were liked better than others. When all was said and done, I pretty much spelled out the selection process above. I think when you try the Rauchbier at Gillette this year (if you are able to get there), you will really enjoy it! It is a fantastic beer, and very well made.

    If you made one of the beers in the final five, congratulations are due to you also! That is no small accomplishment in such a big field. Nice job--and make sure you enter again next year!

  3. Thanks for the response and yes, I did make one of the beers that you tasted. When I recieve the scoring sheets from Sam Adams, they will show how the earlier round judges rated the beer. I do plan on entering again next year and was just curious on any more insight, not to disclose any inside info of course, on how the others were received by the tasting panel. Thanks again and I enjoy the blog.