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Each year, Samuel Adams holds their annual Longshot American Homebrew Contest where they solicit homebrewers from the around the country to submit their personal recipes for the chance at having them brewed on a commercial level and distributed throughout the country. While I was in Denver covering the Great American Beer Festival, I was on-hand to see Sam Adams founder Jim Koch announce the winners. Each year, three total winners are selected, with two coming from the general populous and one from Sam Adams’ employee base the (majority of whom are homebrewers).

The trio of employee finalists this year included a light-bodied ale brewed with ginger, lemon and clover honey; an elderberry-infused pale ale and a malty, super-powered Sticke Alt (a lager indigenous to Dusseldorf, Germany). In the end, the alt was the mainstream choice. The beer was brewed by Fred Hessler, a homebrewer of 14 years who inherited most of his gear from his father, a suds enthusiast who made his own beer for decades. A homebrewer in my spare time, I enjoyed hearing Hessler's stories about getting together with friends and beer-loving non-brewing stragglers (he states a 1-to-2 ratio on that) and strapping a carboy (glass container in which beer is stored during fermentation) into the front seat of his car to get it home, as well as tales of his four-day all-expenses-paid trip to Munich awarded to he and his fellow Sam Adams finalists. Pretty cool perk.

Two bottles of Hessler’s Derf’s Secret Alt will join identical quantities of a Russian Imperial Stout from Joe Formanek of Bolingbrook, Illinois and a Munich-style Dunkel from Corey Martin of Round Rock, Texas in Longshot six-packs, which will hit grocery and liquor stores later this year, once the recipes are tweaked for mass production.

Those looking for local homebrewer-turned-pseudo-pro tales need look no further than companies like Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Ballast Point Brewing Company and Stone Brewing Co., who hold similar contests and put out winning beers for sale to the general public. A prime example is a cherry chocolate stout brewed collaboratively by Stone, Tröegs Brewing Company and local homebrewers-done-good Jason Fields and Kevin Sheppard. The latter duo won Stone’s march Madness Homebrew Competition. In addition to being a solid seller, that beer went on to win a gold medal last week at the World Beer Championships. Such accomplishments back the opinion of Jim Koch that “some of the best brewers in the world aren’t professional brewers…they’re homebrewers.”

Pictured: Professional and homebrewers pose shortly after collaborating to create an award-winning beer (left to right): homebrewer Jason Fields, Tröegs brewer John Trogner, Stone brewer Mitch Steele and homebrewer Kevin Sheppard.

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