Mar 13, 2007

Sam Adams LongShot Homebrew Contest Pack

Beer Label: Sam Adams Long Shot

I think the Boston Beer Co. is doing a great thing with this contest. I don’t know the specifics of the contest’s rules or history, but giving the average homebrewer an opportunity to showcase their craft on a national level is impressive. So upon picking up the contest pack a short while ago, I readied myself for some tasty brews. Had I put my excitement aside and actually read the description of the beers on the packaging my initial euphoria would have been tempered to a dull roar.

I was going to initially write these up as separate reviews, but since they came as a pack, they’ll be reviewed as a pack. Let’s work from my least favorite to the best of the lot.

LongShot Boysenberry Wheat

Now Jim Koch and I have had our differences over his fruit beers. And if you’ve read this blog for any period of time, you’d be quick to point out that my bias comes from not really enjoying this genre of brews. You’d be correct in that statement, but I have enjoyed a few of the more fruit infused beers I’ve sampled — Dogfish Head Fort and Unibroue Éphémère come to mind. With this beer not actually having been created by Jim and his brewers, perhaps I would take to it in a more positive favor.

Wow. You can almost smell the berrylicious fruitiness without even opening up the bottle. Okay, so that was a lie, but the beer does have a very strong and vibrant berry aroma that I can only assume is boysenberry. Had I not known better I would have smelled some blueberry, and other fruit juice ingredients.

This is actually one nice looking beer. It’s a golden brown with an unfiltered haziness to it. The head was full, but short lived.

Honestly, I only drank enough of this one to get just a few decent samples in the mouth. It’s just way too fruity for my own liking. Only after concentrating on the second, and last, sip from the glass can you get a small hint of the wheat in the beer’s finish. The berry is almost too overwelming.

As you can see, I didn’t particularly enjoy this one. It’s actually a nicely constructed brew with a nice bubbly mouthfeel, but it’s just too damned fruity for me.

Rating: 1.5/5

LongShot Dortmunder Style Export

After shipping the second bottle of the Boysenberry Wheat off to the neighbor, I was excited and ready to get a different beer in the glass. Let’s just say that this one is much more in the way of beers that I enjoy.

While there was nothing that strongly stood out in terms of the aroma, there was a decent hoppiness and grain smell to it. I also got a few hints of citrus as well. This one smells like it could turn into a great session beer if produced in greater quantities.

The beer poured a light, golden yellow with a decent sized head that faded to not-so-thin lacing. The beer is fairly clear and has lightly active carbonation. Looks tasty.

And it is — once the beer warmed in my hand for a few minutes. This brew is crisp and refreshing. There is a slight bitterness in the finish, but it is balanced nicely with the citrus undertones. I could go through a few of these on a warm spring afternoon.

While this beer is nothing that I would write home about, it is a decent brew. I can see why this one was selected as well and wouldn’t think twice if this were a staple in the Sam Adams stable. It seems like something they would produce on a larger scale as it’s very unassuming, yet refreshing.

Rating: 3.25/5

LongShot Old Ale

We finally get to my favorite of the group — and it’s not the 10.6% ABV talking. Though, now that I’ve brought it up, I was a bit surprised to see a beer with such a high level of alcohol present in the pack. I would have assumed that Jim Koch and crew would have kept it more on the tamer side of things. It really adds to the variety of the contest winners. This beer is a prime example of an “extreme” beer that is far from the extreme. It’s very tasty, hides the alcohol well and is a beer that I could enjoy any time of the year.

Dogfish’s Raison D’etre came to mind with the first smell. Even though there is no raisin in the beer, there are some decent dark fruit aromas that contribute to the comparison. The beer smells rich and sweet, with thick caramel or molasses.

The Old Ale poured a rich brown, with dark red highlights. The head was relatively small and off-white in color. It faded to a thin lacing that was present to the last sip.

This one tasted sweet, but not quite as sweet as it smells. The dark fruits and caramel are present as is a bit of heat from the alcohol. It’s a little sticky on the lips and has a thin syrupy mouthfeel that would go with the molasses aromas.

I found this one to be quite enjoyable. After finishing the first of the two samples in the pack, I made sure to save the second for the right evening. It’s definitely not a beer you can sit down and have 3 or 4 of, but it would make for a great seasonal warmer. I can see myself enjoying one of these after an afternoon of raking leaves in mid autumn. It’s the best of the bunch in terms of the variety pack of winners.

Rating: 4/5

The LongShot Verdict

Even though I didn’t enjoy all of the winners, I am far from bad mouthing their work. I do think the Boysenberry Wheat is a well crafted, complex brew, but it’s just too much for my taste buds to handle. It’s interesting to see such variety in the winning entries. It just goes to show that even though the Boston Beer Company has grown tremendously and is more of a macro micro-brewery, they are still homebrewers at heart and are just as enthusiastic as ever when it comes to craft beers. Honestly, I was expecting all of the winners to have been of a more commercial variety and easier to sell to the mass public. I was pleased to see such variety in styles, flavors, and ABV. Kudos to Jim Koch and team for selecting some real winners.