Tag Archives: Alaska Beer Nerds

How I Won My First Beer Brewing Contest – by Maria Benner

This is a guest post by Maria Benner, the Business Manager of Real Art Is Better.  Scott asked me to write this post today about my experience winning my first beer brewing contest.  He had a lot to do with that!

During Alaska Beer Week, one of the events is Turnagain Brewing‘s Tart Side Challenge.  Members of the Great Northern Brewers Club who choose to participate pick up 1 gallon of unfermented wort from Turnagain Brewing, which is the brewery’s base for its sour beers.  Then contest participants flavor the wort at home with ingredients of their choice, bottle the beer, and submit it for judging.  The brewery then brews a big batch of the winning recipe.  Well, Alaska Beer Week was re-scheduled at the last minute this year in January, so I missed it, because I was in India.  So, Scott showed up to the brewery to pick up his 1 gallon, and Ted, the owner, let him take another gallon on my behalf, and the two of them entered me into the contest by proxy.  Scott called me, and asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him to put blueberries in it.  He flavored my gallon with frozen whole organic blueberries from Costco, and added a little DME for extra carbonation.  When I returned from my trip, I bottled the beer, and then we submitted our entries to the brewery a couple months later.  Scott flavored his batch with honey and ginger, which was delicious!

The judging took place at the GNBC annual campout in June, and my blueberry beer was declared the winner!  So Ted called me to congratulate me, and to ask me how I made the beer, so I told him that I was in India, and Scott flavored it.  So Ted called Scott to get the recipe.  Turnagain Brewing was short on fermentation capacity, so Ted fermented my blueberry beer in a red wine barrel.  So the beer turned out very different from my/Scott’s version, but it was really tasty!  The red wine barrel added depth, and a bit more sour flavor.  Ted also boosted the amount of blueberries by 25% to 1.25 lbs per gallon, and pulverized them, instead of adding them whole.  The result was a deep purple beer!  We named it Blueberry Avalanche.

Well, the big release date was set for August 12th, but no one checked with us, and we had already planned to be at our cabin in McCarthy during that time.  So Ted was kind enough to arrange a wholesale of one pony keg to the owner of The Potato restaurant in McCarthy, just so I could also drink my beer along with everyone else on the 12th.  Scott and I personally delivered the keg to McCarthy.  The night before the big day I texted the owner of The Potato to ask when my keg would be on draft.  She told me we had to finish some keg of kristallweizen first.  So the next day I texted her again, and stressed the importance of debuting my blueberry beer on August 12th, the same day as in Anchorage.  She was kind enough to switch out the kegs, and I was super happy to drink two pints of my beer in McCarthy on the release date!  Some of my friends in Anchorage were drinking it at Turnagain Brewing, and sending me messages about how much they liked the beer!  I heard it was very popular.  There were only six pony kegs in existence, and they were all gone in less than five days.

Thanks to Turnagain Brewing, my hubby, the GNBC, and The Potato for making this experience so fun for me!  I’m looking forward to participating in more brewing contests!

“Brewed by local Maria Benner”

Cheers!