DENVER -- He didn’t win gold, but one Cincinnati brewer is taking home a major victory from Denver's Great American Beer Festival.
Colin Foy is a brewer at the Sam Adams facility in the West End -- and soon, the company will be bottling a brew he concocted on his own.
He was one of three winners for this year’s Sam Adams LongShot homebrew competition. Each year, the company picks three lucky homebrewers and their special brews to be featured in its LongShot Variety pack.
Sam Adams owner and founder Jim Koch unveiled the winners during an event Friday at the Great American Beer Festival.
This year's winners are: Foy, for his Flanders Red Ale; Tim Thomssen, for his Raspberry Berliner Weisse; and Kevin Nanzer, for his Belgian Golden Strong Ale.
The beers will be released nationwide in the spring 2016 variety pack.
According to Foy, his ale was brewed the traditional way as he blended “younger” beer with beer that was aging in wood. The more “mature” beer was aged for several months in wood with Brettanomyces yeast and Lactobacillus bacteria. Those extra steps help give the beer fruity, musty, tart and acidic flavors.
It’s a complicated process but one that proved worth the wait for the veteran brewer.
“I’ve been at the Cincinnati plant for two years, and I’ve been a professional brewer for almost 10 years now,” Foy said.
Foy previously worked at Yazoo Brewing in Nashville, Tennessee, before moving to Cincinnati. He said he moved to the Queen City after his wife got a job at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“I figured it was time to find a new brewery to work at,” he said with a chuckle.
Working at a professional brewery hasn’t stopped Foy from indulging in his own passion for homebrew. He has been into homebrewing since 2005 and keeps experimenting even while working at a production brewery.
Foy said he came up with the recipe for the winning beer in one day. It was a passion project for him because the Flanders Red style is one of his favorite beers.
“I love it, but I can’t afford to just drink Rodenbach every day. So really, I started making my own to save money,” Foy said.
It helped that, through his job at Sam Adams, Foy gets to work with their renowned sour beer “Kosmic Mother Funk” on occasion.
“We get tasting panels together and make sure we’re getting the right blends for our (barrels),” Foy said.
The win makes Foy excited not just because one of his beers will be sold commercially, but also because all the LongShot beers will be made in Cincinnati.
“I’ll be on that sensory panel and ready to approve or not approve it depending on how the guys did,” Foy said with a wink.
Foy plans to snag one of the bottles when they get labeled to put it on his mantle as a keepsake.
While he isn’t a member of any Cincinnati homebrew clubs, Foy said he’s happy to talk beer anytime. He especially enjoys talking with brewers who are just starting out in the business.
“I tell them, ‘There’s a lot of jargon and it may seem complicated, but you’re basically just boiling water for two hours and forgetting about it for two weeks,’” Foy said.
Foy and his family have already been enjoying the fruits of his victory. As part of their winner’s package, Sam Adams flew Foy and his wife out to Oktoberfest in Munich.
“The whole time she was just, like, ‘You’ll just have to win again next year,’” Foy said.
To that end, he’s already priming some beers for next year. Currently, he’s working on a saison fermented with Brettanomyces yeast. It will be about nine months old at submission time.
“That’s a pretty good age for a brett saison,” Foy said.
While some LongShot winners -- such as Rivertown Brewing’s Jason Roeper -- go on to open their own brewery, Foy said he has no such plans.
According to the American Homebrewers Association, there are about 1.2 million homebrewers in the country, and almost 800,000 of those started within the past decade.
The group estimates homebrewers produce more than 2 million barrels of beer each year.
“There’s no better time than now to be an American craft brewer or homebrewer. This year’s LongShot American Homebrew Contest winners serve as shining examples of that passion and American homebrewing ingenuity,” Koch said. “The first batch of Boston Lager I ever brewed was at home in my kitchen in 1984. Since then, I’ve seen the community grow exponentially."
Sam Adams doesn’t just encourage that ingenuity among homebrewers and its fans. Employees are also encouraged to take part.
Koch said each year there are hundreds of entries from workers at all levels of the company.
Of the three LongShot winners, at least one every year comes from inside the company’s ranks.
Here are the details on the other two winners straight from Sam Adams:
- Tim Thomssen’s Raspberry Berliner Weisse, Lincoln, NE: At first look, you notice the pink frothy head of this Raspberry Berliner Weisse. The bright notes of raspberries are balanced by refreshing tartness, and the beer finishes with a wonderful sweetness and a lingering sour character that draws you back for another sip.
- Kevin Nanzer’s Belgian Golden Strong Ale, Mountain View, CA: This Belgian Strong Ale has a wonderful aroma of pepper, clove and fruits that are balanced by the subtle malt flavors and the citrus and bitterness from the hops. At 9% ABV, this beer should be sipped slowly to savor the delicious flavors.
For more on the competition and how you can get involved, go to the Sam Adams website: samueladams.com/longshot