Not Such a Long Shot
Earlier this month, I was fortunate to be invited back to Boston to judge the final round of this year’s LongShot contest. Starting in 1996, Boston Beer has sponsored this competition to select three homebrewed beers—two from the general public and one from Boston Beer employees. The winning brewers are announced at the Great American Beer Festival, and their beers are scaled up for production by the brewery and released as a special variety pack in the spring.
The number of public entries easily tops 1,000 each year. Earlier this year, several regional heats narrowed the 2010 candidates to nine beers. At 10 a.m. on the appointed day, seven beer scribes and Boston Beer founder Jim Koch met to determine the four finalists and, from those, the two winners.
This year, the competition organizers had encouraged entrants to submit beers that would fall into the BJCP Category 23, “explicitly a catch-all category for any beer that does not fit into an existing style category. No beer is ever ‘out of style’ in this category, unless it fits elsewhere.”
The homebrewing community rose to the challenge, as usual, submitting beers that were both novel and drinkable—and it’s hard to be both. Exotic fruits, strange infusions, twisted techniques, all in the service of producing enjoyable and exciting beer. The entries were so good that the judging took several hours.
The winners will be revealed in September. All I can report now is that we need our homebrewers as much as ever. Somehow, I thought that the growing availability of well-made, inventive commercial beers would thin the ranks of hobbyists, whereas just the opposite seems to be true. Their numbers grow, and they continue to push the brewing envelope. American beer wouldn’t be what it is today without them.