As an aspiring homebrewer, I like the idea of having big and nationally-known breweries give the little guys a chance to have their homemade brews get noticed on a much larger scale. I know that some of the best beer and biggest breweries started with some guy tinkering in his kitchen or garage for a day, and while my stuff isn’t quite up to par with a lot of homebrewers I know, it’s encouraging to see that such great stuff can come out of someone’s home.
Samuel Adams’ Longshot series is one of those opportunities. Each year, the brewery holds a competition for homebrewers, with the winners having their recipes cooked up by the brewery and distributed nationally. Each year features three different styles from three separate winners. I spent this past Saturday sampling each of the 2012 winners – the first time I’ve picked up the series six-pack – to see what each was like.
A Dark Night in Munich – 5.9% ABV Munich Dunkel
Chances are you’ve had a Munich Dunkel before, but you may not have known it. Negra Modelo, while a Mexican beer, is one of the more common beers of the style. But Corey Martin’s take on it is nothing like Modelo.
The beer lives up to its name: It pours a dark but clear murky brown color. It may have been because of the glass, but there was a huge three-finger off-white head on top, although it disappeared pretty quickly. There was some really nice lacing but not much alcohol legs.
There’s a very doughy malt smell on the nose. A big sweet bread not to it with a little hint of spice. I also picked up some wisps of sweet and dark fruits, caramel, molasses and nuts.
That sweet maltiness comes through in the taste. It’s very smooth throughout the mouth with a nice amount of carbonation to it. That bread character blends well with the plum, fig and nutty characteristics. Not too rich, which makes it very drinkable.
Derf’s Secret Alt – 9.3% ABV Altbier
Altbier, another form of German lager, is a style I’m not too familiar with, so I can’t really compare Sam Adams employee Fred Hessler’s entry with others in the style, except to say that it’s pretty good.
There’s a really nice deep mahogany color to it that looks more ruby colored when held up to the light. There’s maybe a finger worth of head on top that disappears quickly. Not much lacing or alcohol legs to it either.
There’s a strong smell of dark fruits and caramel on the nose. A slight astringency comes through as well, but the sweeter notes are what really shine through.
The first thing on the tongue is a nice hop bite. Mid palate, those rich dark fruit flavors – plums, figs, etc. – really come through. I got a hint of oak to it as well on the back that kind of stings the cheeks. Well balanced, but more sweet than hoppy.
Five Crown Imperial Stout – 8.9% ABV American Imperial Stout
When I’m not going for something hoppy and crisp, I’m generally drinking a rich, dark imperial stout. To me, IPAs and imperial stouts, whether American or Russian, are two styles that are the most versatile and different. You can have dry or rich stouts, coffee, chocolate, oatmeal, etc., really opening the possibilities. While Joe Formanek’s take on the style isn’t one of the best I’ve had, it was still pretty solid and easily my favorite of this year’s LongShot winners.
As with any good stout, it’s as black as night without even a hint of light getting through the glass. There was a huge head on top of about three fingers with that gorgeous brownish color. Great lacing and alcohol legs as well.
On the nose is a strong punch of dark chocolate with an equally strong note of burnt coffee. A slight nuttiness comes through as well, giving it a nice toasty quality.
That dark chocolate is what comes through first on the mouth. There’s a pinch of bitterness on the tip of the tongue from the wealth of hops in it, but the burnt coffee notes come though on the back. It’s got a medium body mouthfeel to it with a tint of caramel sweetness. The finish is surprisingly dry for an imperial stout, but adds a nice touch to the roasted notes.