I'm not sure how I missed the first however-many-of-these there have been, but a few months ago I heard about Sam Adams annual Longshot competition. In a nutshell, it's their contest for home brewers to see who can submit the best beers with the winners being produced and sold in six packs. The most recent winners were an old ale and a barleywine with saison brewed by an employee of Sam Adams being the third beer.
I recently came across a six-pack containing two of each of these beers and since I absolutely loved the concept and spirit of the competition I had to pick one up and check them out. I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts about them and post this entry to help spread the word about the competition in case you've been in the dark about its existence like I was.
The first one I tried was the lemon pepper saison created by Samuel Adams employee Jeremy White. It was a very effervescent beer with a pretty clean, crisp flavor. The spices (especially the coriander) in the beer made it come off as more of a witbier to me than a saison but it was still a pretty good beer.
The next beer was an old ale created by Michael Robinson. This style isn't one I'm too familiar with (Hibernation from Great Divide and Old Curmudgeon from Founders are about the extent of my experience) but I really enjoyed this beer. It was slightly boozy (to be expected from the 9% ABV) but it the main aroma and flavor that came across to me were the dark fruit notes. It was surprisingly easy to drink for such a big beer.
The last beer I tried was a barley wine from Ben Miller. Before I tried it, I thought that it was curious that they would have chosen a bit more variety for the winners because the old ale I had just finished really reminded me of a barley wine as well. But the barley wine really came off as completely different to me than the old ale before it. The aroma didn't do much for me, it was pretty weak but once I took a sip I got quite a bit of flavor. It also had some dark fruit elements to it but the big thing I noticed was the hops profile. As I swallowed I noticed these flavors were accentuated in the finish. It was like a three part process with each part growing and showcasing what the beer was all about.
I enjoyed all three beers but if I had to pick a winner I'd go with Michael's old ale by just a nose over Ben's barley wine. I think I'm going to cellar the remaining bottle of each and see how they develop with some time and I'm going to pick a nice hot summer day to crack the other bottle of Jeremy's saison.
So, this is just one more thing to inspire me to brew my own beer one of these days. Well, that and Josh, Matt and Brett doing their best to recruit me. I told them that maybe next year's sixers will look like this:
Once I do take the plunge into making my own beer I'll do my best to get on there. If I'm as good at brewing as I am at buying beer and drinking it, I'll be a shoe-in to be on this package in the future!