Congrats to the 2011 Sam Adam’s Longshot winners!!

Cheers, home-brewers

Contest puts winners’ beers on store shelves, names on drinkers’ lips.

ContestBest in show: The contest, which Samuel Adams launched in 1995 then reintroduced in 2006, aims to shine a light on the talents of home-brewers. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)

Although it’s been a quarter-century since Joe Formanek tried his hand at home-brewing beer, the memory remains fresh in his mind.
As an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota in the mid-1980s, he visited an old warehouse that housed the then-fledgling St. Paul-based Summit Brewing Co. as part of a biology course focused on fermented beverages. Tasting the brewery’s beer, he found it more complex, more flavorful than the beer he had been drinking.

“It showed me that you could create something that was different,” he says.

When the tour ended, Formanek and a friend decided to try their hand at brewing.

He hasn’t stopped. While in graduate school at the University of Illinois, he helped establish the home-brew club Boneyard Union of Zymurgical Zealots, which provided a forum to trade notes and share beer with others. After graduating, he worked in the Chicago suburbs as a food scientist and, in his off hours he found camaraderie with the home-brew club Urban Knaves of Grain.

As he kept brewing, he got good at it. Really good. So good, in fact, that he racked up awards. He won Midwest Homebrewer of the Year Award in 1999. Then again in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2007. He won best in class in categories ranging from pilsner to English pale ale at American Homebrewers Association’s National Homebrew Competition.

Despite that success, one thing has eluded the 46-year-old father of two, the same thing that eluded all accomplished home-brewers: seeing his beer on the shelves of a store.

Until now. As one of the winners of the 2011 Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest, Formanek will have one of his beers — a viscous, Russian imperial stout dubbed Five Crown Imperial Stout — available nationwide in the Samuel Adams LongShot variety six-pack. The six-pack will also feature beers by fellow winner Corey Martin, of Texas (A Dark Night in Munich, a Munich dunkel lager), and Samuel Adams employee winner Fred Hessler (Derf’s Secret Alt, an altbier). There were more than 1,000 entries.

The contest enables home-brewers to submit their beers to be judged by Jim Koch, chairman and founder of Samuel Adams’ parent company, Boston Beer Co., and others. Boston Beer produces the beers of the two winners (and one Samuel Adams employee winner), who each receive a $5,000 royalty. The contest, which Samuel Adams launched in 1995 then reintroduced in 2006, aims to shine a light on the talents of home-brewers, says Koch.

“As someone who started as a home-brewer myself, one thing you realize is that the line between a professional and a talented home-brewer is fairly arbitrary,” he says. “There are some really great beers being made by home-brewers.”

The contest has helped launch the brewing careers of 1996 Longshot winner Bob Gordash, who went on to found Holy Mackerel Beers, and Don Oliver, now a brewer at Dust Bowl Brewing Co.


This entry was posted in Glenn's Pint of GFY. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *