Talk about a long shot.
Dave Anderson had only brewed one batch of beer in his life. But that didn’t stop the ambitious Mason man from entering — and winning — the Samuel Adams’ annual Longshot American Homebrew contest.
Anderson’s Strawberry Lager brew hit shelves nationwide in late April as part of a special Samuel Adams’ six-pack that includes two other winning brews. What’s more, the bottles’ label features an artist’s rendering of Anderson’s mug.
“I’m still shocked. I can’t believe it,” said Anderson. “I consider myself a rookie. I didn’t expect it to go this far at all.”
Each year the Boston-based brewery selects beers made by two homebrewers and one employee homebrewer. Anderson’s entry beat out more than 300 other submissions in the contest’s employee category.
His beer will be packaged along with two other winning brews, Magnificent Seven, an imperial India pale ale by Zack Adams of Connecticut, and Beerflower Wheat, a brew made with hibiscus by James Schirmer of California.
Anderson says he had no experience brewing beer until he began working at Samuel Adams’ downtown-packaging operations plant five years ago. Although Samuel Adams encourages employees to enter the contest, Anderson is the first person from the 120-employee plant to win, he said.
“My coworkers asked me if I had any left,” he said with a laugh.
Anderson brewed up his first batch two years ago in his home kitchen, a chocolate bock.
“It didn’t come out very chocolatey at all,” he said. “It was a good beer, it just didn’t taste the way I wanted it.”
In his second batch, Anderson used three pounds of strawberries in his five gallon concoction.
The entire process took more than a month during which the carboy (a fermentation container) took up half of the refrigerator. Anderson says wife Sarah wasn’t a big fan of his new hobby — at first.
“She hated it. She wanted to throw it out,” he said with a laugh. “After I started winning different rounds in the competition, she was okay with it.”
Anderson said he was shocked by his second attempt. The light and fresh wheat beer has a strong strawberry aroma, but not too overpowering berry flavor, he said.
A panel of industry judges and Samuel Adams’ founder Jim Koch selected three finalists in each contest division for a final showdown at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colo. last fall, where crowds crowned the craft champion.
Anderson says he and his wife received a “once in a lifetime” trip to Oktoberfest in Germany as his prize.
Entries for this year’s contest are accepted May 10-24 at www.samueladams.com/longshot. Anderson hopes to retain his title with a new brew, a Belgian chocolate quad with bananas.
His advice to aspiring homebrewers? “Try to make whatever you think will taste good and make it. You’ll be surprised,” he said.
You can find the 2013 Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest six-pack at local stores, including Party Source in Bellevue.