A much-needed respite from my world of burritos, salsa and Mexican chocolate cake, I spent yesterday judging at the IBU Open, in Des Moines.
A couple of mediocre beers served as ballast to the fun and games of sampling greatness. A good crew of friendly beer folk served as consolation, as I was fully aware that my old CARBOY comrades were hosting their annual Shamrock Open on this very same day. If I were in Raleigh, I’d also have been at a homebrew competition on March 14, 2009.
I entered a couple of beers, knowing they were pretty good: Cherry Bomb and Stronghold Old Ale. Cherry Bomb is an oatmeal stout as black as Joan Jett’s eye-liner with a runaway sour cherry flavor compliments of hand- picked cherries from my mother-in-law’s cherry tree about three miles from my house. It took first in the fruit beer category. Stronghold is a rich, dark fruit-laden alco-warming old ale that I’m very happy with, and it took second in the strong ale category.
The satisfying element for both of these beers is that they are not recipes I’ve massaged over time. Somehow I’ve never brewed an oatmeal stout before, and I’ve certainly never cherried one. I’ve also never brewed an old ale, either. I love the style, but have never done one. Both of these were successful one-off attempts. It’s always amazed me how a brewery can put out a new seasonal or one-off, and have it be smashing right out of the gates.
With flavors in mind and a knowledge of ingredients and procedures, I captured just what I wanted on both of these beers with only the most minor ideas for tweaking in future batches. I thought these beers were good, and so did someone else. That feels mighty good.