Monday, April 26, 2010

Interested in Taking a "Longshot" to Get Your Beer Distributed Nationally?

The Boston Beer Company, makers of the popular Sam Adams line of beer, has long been running an annual homebrewing competition called Longshot.  Sam Adams runs the contest to pay homage to the company’s roots, which started in founder Jim Koch’s kitchen homebrewing an old family beer recipe.  The contest also provides Boston Beer with an influx of new beer recipes and a good deal of marketing and exposure. 

Winners of the Longshot competition receive a great deal of recognition and prizes, which attracts a large pool of entries every year (averaging over 1,550 entries per year over the last four years).  Prizes for winning the competition include:

  • All expense paid trip to the 2010 Great American Beer Festival, where the finalists pour their beers and the winners are announced.
  • National distribution of the winning beers in the 2011 Longshot Variety six-pack, which includes each winner’s likeness on the beer caps.
  • One-time royalty payment of $5,000 for winning recipes.
  • Invitations to events to promote the winning beers.

Participants send four bottles of homebrew per entry and every beer will receive detailed feedback via judging score sheets.  However, unlike most other homebrew competition, entry into the Longshot competition is free – Sam Adams covers all the expenses for running the contest.  Thus, every contestant gets feedback on their beer, as well as the chance to win big, all for the cost to ship four bottles of beer to a drop-off location.  Information on past winners, finalists, and category winners can be found on the Longshot website.

The contest has been around since at least 1996, as a quick Google search turned up this article from the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale.  However, the 2010 contest is different from all of those previous to it.  This year, the Longshot competition will focus solely on Category 23.  Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Category 23, Specialty Beer, is the catch-all category.  Sam Adams notes that they are looking for a beer “that is a harmonious marriage of ingredients, processes and beer.  The key attributes of the underlying style will be atypical due to the addition of special ingredients or techniques.  The overall uniqueness of the process, ingredients used, and creativity should be considered.”

This twist on the traditional homebrewing contests, where brewers can enter all 23 beer categories and awards are given for each category, is a fairly dramatic one.  While all of the entries must indicate a “base beer” that the brewer is seeking to innovate upon with different ingredients and techniques, this contest is truly about looking for what is new and different.  Beer brewed to traditional styles, even if they are World Class examples, will not do well in this contest.

Sam Adams is likely changing the Longshot contest for several reasons.  First, it tracks with the current American craft brewing craze of making extreme, different, and crazy beer.  Second, Boston Beer is a commercial brewery that offers more than 30 different beers that cover the style gamut.  As such, any new ideas it could get out of the Longshot competition need to push the brewing envelope.  Third, the change in the rules is a big one and it can be marketed as such – something new and different.

Personally, I think the change in the Longshot competition is unfortunate.  This mostly comes from a deep-seated appreciation of traditional beer styles.  I enjoy trying experimental beers periodically, but I dislike the current American beer trend towards all things extreme and different.  If we brewers spend all our time looking for the next best thing, we miss the incredible variety of beer we already have.  The results of this process are often unbalanced and unpleasant to drink, but are awarded accolades simply because they are different.  As such, a contest that promotes this idea as its key concept, even if it has good intentions, is not as good as one that provides opportunity for all the styles.

For more information on entering the Longshot, look here.  The deadline for entries is May 28, 2010.



No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...