Local brewers are heady with victory: Bringing home medals from beer contest


November 08, 1995|By ROB KASPER

I know this region is, in the words of the old National Bohemian beer ad, the "Land of Pleasant Living." But after the recent showing by Maryland breweries at the 1995 Great American Beer Festival, we might want to change the motto to "Land of Pleasant Beer Drinking."

I say this because Maryland beers won four medals, a first place, two seconds and a third, in the prestigious competition held last month in Denver. At this annual gathering, American breweries, big and small, compete for prizes in 38 categories.

This year a first place, or gold medal went to DeGroen's Doppelbock brewed by Baltimore Brewing Company. It was judged the best bock beer in the country.

Second, the silver medal, in this category went to another Maryland operation, Frederick Brewing Co., for its Blue Ridge Subliminator Doppelbock. Traditionally, bock beer is a potent, high-alcohol lager made with extra helpings, if you will, of ingredients. Doppelbock, or Double Bock, is even stronger. While a normal American lager is between 4 percent and 5 percent alcohol by volume, the DeGroen's prize winner was 8.6 percent alcohol and the Blue Ridge winner weighed in it at 7.8 percent.

Third place in the bock category went to the Garten Brau Doppelbock made by Capital Brewery of Middleton, Wis., and Stoudt's Honey Double Mai-Bock, brewed in Adamstown, Pa., picked up an honorable mention.

Olivers Christmas Ale, made in the Wharf Rat restaurant and brewery near Baltimore's Camden Yards, won a silver medal in the Herb/Spice Beers category. It finished second to Arctic Wheat beer brewed by the Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery in Boulder, Colo.

Colt Ice, made by Baltimore's Carling National Brewing, a division of G. Heileman Co., won a third place, or bronze medal in American Specialty Lager category. First place went to Olympia Dry, made by Pabst Brewing Co in Milwaukee. Second place went to Rainer Ice, brewed by Seattle's Rainer Brewing Co.

While Maryland did well in this beer contest, other states did better. California breweries won 22 medals, more than any other state. Breweries from Wisconsin picked up 12 medals, as did breweries from Colorado.

The other day I called Maryland's winning brewers. I wanted them to describe the sweet taste of victory, and I wanted to find out when we, the beer-drinking public, could get a taste of these prize-winning brews.

Jim Sobczak, head brewer of Baltimore Brewing, said that shortly after he was awarded the gold medal, he draped the medal around his neck. This jewelry made him a very popular guy with the crowd of beer enthusiasts, a crowd that organizers estimated at 24,000 for the three-day event.

"Everybody wanted to know 'What did you win?' and 'Where can I come to drink your beer?' " Sobczak told me. In Denver, a crew from the Baltimore brewery passed out small samples of the doppelbock to the festival crowd. But the supply was quickly drained, he said.

In Maryland, a batch of beer using the prize-winning formula will be ready to drink around the first of December, he said.

It takes about four months to make the doppelbock, said Sobczak, adding that last year's batch disappeared quickly. "Last year we made 2,000 gallons and it was gone the day after Christmas," Sobczak said. "This year we have made 4,000 gallons . . . we hope that will last until New Year's [Eve.]

In Frederick, Steve Nordahl said he, too, had doubled the amount of doppelbock he was brewing. This year he was making enough Blue Ridge Subliminator Doppelbock to fill 1,500 cases.

Last year he made 750 cases of the bottled beer, and supplies of it are long gone, he said. This year's batch, brewed to the prize-winning formulas, won't be ready for sale until early March, he said.

Down on Pratt Street in Baltimore, Bill Oliver said the kegs of the prize-winning Olivers Christmas Ale were just about ready to be tapped.

The ale will be served starting on the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 24, he said. "We use the same formula for our Christmas Ale every year," said Oliver.

At the Carling brewery south of Baltimore, a spokesman said that bottles of the bronze-medal winning Colt Ice are now available in stores throughout the land of pleasant living.

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