The Beer Nut: And the winners of the Beer Nut Homebrewing Contest are ...
Wow. That's all I can say.
When I announced the first ever Beer Nut Homebrewing Contest two months ago, I challenged homebrewers to submit their best beers to the contest so I could see what they could do.
And on Sunday, they showed me they can do a lot. In all, 59 people from Massachusetts and Connecticut entered the contest with all kinds of styles - IPAs, pilsners, stouts and a host of off-the-wall beers.
The winner was Chuck Mryglot, whose Bavarian weiss took the grand prize. His beer will be brewed at the Haverhill Brewing Company at a later date and will then be available on draft at the Horseshoe Pub in Hudson.
Mryglot, who did not attend the judging at the Horseshoe Pub, said he was "blown away" to find out that he won. He has been homebrewing for 20 years, grows his own hops and usually serves his own beers on tap at his home bar, but he has never entered a homebrewing contest.
"I really had no expectations going into this," he said. "I brew for my own enjoyment, but when this contest was first advertised in the paper, and being local ... I figured I'd give it a go."
The judging was held live at the Horseshoe Pub, and everyone who entered was invited to attend. There were six judges: Haverhill Brewing Company head brewer Jon Curtis; Wormtown Brewing Company's head brewer, Ben Roesch; Harpoon Brewery's marketing director, Liz Melby; Brian Powers, owner of Strange Brew, a home brew supply shop in Marlborough; Tom Welton, beer manager at Julio's Liquors in Westborough; and me.
The place was packed with onlookers - both the first and second floors were full. Thankfully, to help pass the time for non-judges, we had tons of door prizes donated to the competition by the British Beer Company, Wachusett Brewing Company, Wormtown Brewing Company, Strange Brew and the Horseshoe Pub.
As for the judging, we split off in two groups of three. Roesch, Welton and I judged the IPAs and specialty beers, while Curtis, Melby and Powers judged three styles: light beers, dark beers, and pale, amber and red ales.
We judged the beers in four areas - aroma, appearance, mouth feel and taste. The maximum points each judge could award were 20.
There were some excellent beers. In the IPA category, Keith Antul's double IPA scored a 51 out of 60 points. All three judges gave it the same point total of 17.
Antul's IPA took second place overall, and he won a $100 gift certificate to Strange Brew.
The category that stood out for me was the specialty beers, beers that really don't fit into any category. We had beers made with spearmint, cacao nibs and cognac wood chips.
The winner of the specialty beer category was 25-year-old Alex Corona. His pale ale brewed with orange peels and ginger was a hit with the judges.
"That orange-ginger pale ale was the surprise of the competition," Roesch said.
Corona won a day of brewing at the Samuel Adams brewery in Jamaica Plain.
"Winning a day to spend at the Boston Beer Company with Sam Adams brewers is a dream come true," he said. "I am very excited about this brew day and, for me, this is a step toward pursing craft brewing in the future."
Winning the pale, amber and red ale category was Rick Rossi with his 4.3 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) amber ale.
Some of the tasting notes on Rossi's beer described it as "delicious" and "well balanced. Very drinkable. Very nice!"
Rossi won a gift pack of glasses, shirts and other swag from the Harpoon Brewery.
The winner in the dark beer category was Brian Flach with his 8.8 percent ABV Russian imperial stout. Flach won a $100 gift certificate to Julio's Liquors.
"That imperial stout was very well done," Roesch said.
Mryglot was the winner of the light beer category.
After the five category winners were determined, all of the judges came together for another round of judging to pick the overall winner of the contest.
In the end, our two favorites were Mryglot's Bavarian weiss and Antul's IPA. The weiss got 16 points - beating the IPA, which had 12.
"I don't drink a lot of weiss beers - it's not my style - but it was a beautiful beer," said Melby. "I really liked it. It was really just well-crafted. That IPA was a close second."
Curtis, who will be working with Mryglot to brew the beer, was excited to get a chance to brew the beer.
"It was definitely a beautiful example of the style," he said. "It was a perfect recreation of the style. I'm very excited about doing it. I've never done a straight hef(eweizen)."
I was impressed by the quality of so many of the beers. Melby said she was surprised about the lack of bad beers.
"I was expecting to get a wide spectrum of some good beers, and a lot of not-so-good beers, but I was really impressed by all of them," she said.
As for Mryglot, he is looking forward to getting his beer brewed and on draft at the Horseshoe.
"This is an unbelievable opportunity to experience brewing like a pro," he said. "I can't wait to go to the Horseshoe with my family and friends to have my own brew. Really amazing."
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-626-3823.
Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut/ or follow the Beer Nut at his Twitter page at www.twitter.com/realbeernut.