The first annual Max Lager’s Challenge is in the books! What a great event it was too! My thanks go out to all the home brewers, judges, stewards and employees who helped make this a really great day. Special thanks goes out to Bob Carlton of Brew Depot and Les Wright for their immense help in organizing the event. Also, thanks to Jim Gizlebach of Brewer’s Supply Group for providing prizes for the raffle.

I must say the day went off without a hitch! Judging started promptly at 9:30 am. The first four flights were judged before lunch. There’s nothing like good home brew for breakfast! The afternoon session was more involved as we had six flights to judge. The Holiday Beers and Light Hybrid categories had to be split into two judgings due to the numbers of entries. Once they were judged, we then had to have mini-best of show judgings in those categories to determine the winners.

We had some great palates at the Best of Show judging and there were so many superb entries that the choice was difficult. In the end, one beer stood above the rest to the BOS judges both stylistically and empirically…”A Very Monkey Christmas” Holiday Beer from the Monkey Wrench brewing group. A deep amber ale brewed with honey and a variety of spices blended together perfectly. Second and third place were almost a dead heat, but ultimately Josh Rachel’s Koelsch took second and Marc Powell’s German Pilsner took third. Both are very difficult and delicate styles to brew and my hat goes off to these brewers for nailing them.

I personally judged Brewer’s Choice Award. I was looking for a beer that was not only well crafted, but exhibited some unique characteristics. Something I had never done before…something I could learn from. The choice was very clear to me. Chris and Tina Collier’s Gruit was simply fantastic. Gruit is a medieval style which uses no hops at all, but instead makes use of herbs such as lavender and chamomile and roots such as mugwort and yarrow to flavor the beer. The Collier’s use of lager yeast and a wheat base created a most wonderfully unique and refreshing beer. The plan is to brew a batch this summer and enter it into the Great American Beer Festival’s Pro/Am competition.

Finally, the judging was done and we could all get on to the fun part….actually drinking some beer! The beer reception and awards ceremony started with the tapping of five great casks. I called on some of my brewing buddies to send me some special beers and boy did they deliver! Spike (Terrapin) sent a cask of Hopsicutioner dry hopped with a ton of Centennial hops. Glenn Golden (Jailhouse) sent Break Out Stout aged on oak and vanilla beans.  Bob Sandage (Wrecking Bar) sent his Oatmeal Cookie Porter made with brown sugar, raisins and cinnamon and I put up a cask of Hopsplosion!!! IPA dry hopped with a new hop variety, El Dorado and also a cask of Max Abbey Belgian Style Dubble. Needless to say we all drank well. Once we all had some cask beer in us, it was time for the winners! Guy Beck was a big winner taking a total of 4 medals! That guy can really brew! Check out the complete list of winners Max Lager’s Challenge Results 2012

The beer dinner that followed was completely sold out! Chef J put out a four course meal that had people licking their plates. While everyone was busy drinking and eating I raffled off some great prizes. A wide variety of grains from Brewer’s Supply Group including bags of Crisp Pale Male, Weyermann Pilsner Malt, Rahr Two Row, and Irish Malting Company’s Stout Malt had everyone asking “What’s this malt about?” Jim Gizlebach was glad to inform us that it is a two row pale malt similar to  Maris Otter malt (for you beer geeks). A variety of 10# bags of specialty malts were also raffled as well as a great stainless steel brew kettle complete with a false bottom and spigot provided by Brew Depot. I’m not sure how many Max Lager’s tee shirts, hats and glasses were raffled, but let’s just say there are some stylin’ people out there now.

Whew! What a day! Again, I congratulate all the winners and all the contestants. There were a lot of great beers and it was really a tough competition. I look forward to seeing what you come up with for next year’s Max Lager’s Challenge!