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At a recent SDSU Alumni Association panel discussion on the business of craft brewing, AleSmith owner and brewmaster Peter Zien professed how important San Diego’s homebrewing community is to the success of craft beer in our county, praising the amateur sect's thirst for adventure and ability to take chances with innovative small batch brews. Since becoming a pro brewer, Zien (who was a well decorated homebrewer and the head of local homebrew club QUAFF during its most successful days) has maintained strong ties in San Diego’s homebrew circles and says that has been invaluable.

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Zien is not alone. Most of our county’s professional brewers feel the same way and go out of their way to chat with homebrewers, answer their questions, lend helpful advice, and support their recreational efforts. Nearly every one of them started out as homebrewers, so communicating and conspiring with amateurs is a way to stay true to their roots and remember the passion for the craft that led them to, in most cases, make the move from more lucrative careers to do something they love.

Few, if any industries offer as many opportunities for amateurs and professionals to collaborate. Some seriously high quality beers have come out of such team-ups, including Ballast Point’s Indra Kunindra India-Style Export Stout and Ken Schmidt/Maui/Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter. Last month, I attended an American Homebrewers Association (AHA) rally and homebrewing competition at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, where 30 homebrewed beers vied for first place with the reward being the opportunity for the winning homebrewers to brew their blue ribbon beer on Stone’s system and have it distributed throughout the country. The winners, Robert Masterson and Ryan Reschan, will debut their coconut IPA, which will be brewed in collaboration with Stone and San Marcos’ Rip Current Brewing Company, this summer.

I think these types of collaborations are awesome and am psyched that another competition is currently underway. Karl Strauss Brewing Company is accepting entries for its annual Pro-Am Competition. Like the Stone competition, it is being held in association with the AHA and the winning beer will be brewed on Karl Strauss’ professional system and released this summer (August). Additionally, that beer will be entered in the pro-am competition at the country’s biggest brewing melee, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado.

Last year's winner, Jim Roberts, enjoying clean-up detail more than any of Karl Strauss' full-time employees likely ever have.

Last year's winner, Jim Roberts, enjoying clean-up detail more than any of Karl Strauss' full-time employees likely ever have.

All entrants must be AHA members and Southern California residents 21 years of age or older. There is no cost to enter and brewers can submit any style of beer for consideration. Entries are being accepted until 5 p.m. on May 31, and winners will be announced on June 14. Complete rules, style guidelines, and an entry form are available online.

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