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April 30, 2010 | The next LongShot is beyond definition
Category 23. It is the netherland of beer, a cryptic destination for brewer-artistes whose imagination pries them from the realm of conventionality.
Category 23 is the final classification in the Beer Judge Certification Program's biblical taxonomy of styles. The first 22 define traditional styles of ales and lagers: porter, wheat beer, Belgian ale, bock, pale ale and so on. Category 23 is for "specialty beer" — those brews that defy standard definition, in which brewers employ unusual techniques or ingredients.
There are no real rules in Category 23, just pure artistic invention.
That's what Boston Beer is looking for this year in its annual Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest. The winning recipes will be brewed by Boston Beer and packaged next year in its LongShot variety sixpack.
The homebrewing contest is always a fun event, attracting hundreds of entrants nationwide. Last year's winners included an old ale from a New Hampshire homebrewer, a barleywine from New Mexico and a lemon pepper saison from a Sam Adams IT employee.
All three, available on beer shelves now, push the boundaries of conventional styles. But this year the company — known for launching the so-called "extreme beer" movement — is looking for something more.
To make its point, Sam Adams sent me a sample bottle of something it calls Chocolate Chili Bock. Yeah, I know, that's three words you don't often see in a row.
I took a whiff and sneezed at the pepper; my first swallow was roasty with a bitter (not sweet) chocolate chew. Then the spice kicked in, lacing my tongue like a jalapeno. It went perfectly with grilled chicken.
Unfortunately, the bock is not available for purchase. But if it's inspiration you're after, well, head for your local supplier. Believe it or not, each of these is a real beer: Shenandoah Chocolate Donut Stout, Miyamori Wasabi Dry, Brooklyn Bacon Beer, Mama Mia! Pizza Beer, Wells Banana Bread Beer.
Can't find them? Make your own — that's the whole point of this contest.
Remember, it's not just about creating the most bizarre beer. After all, you could make a Raspberry Basil Salami Porter — but would you really want to drink it?
The BJCP advises that "overall harmony and drinkability are the keys to presenting a well-made specialty beer ... The brewer should recognize that some combinations of base beer styles and ingredients or techniques work well together while others do not make palatable combinations."
Get to work. More info on the contest is available at www.samueladams.com. Meanwhile, here's a sixpack of a beers I've tasted in recent years that could only fit into Category 23: