On Friday, September 13, Platform Beer Co.
held its fourth annual Bragging Rights homebrew competition in partnership with Heinen's
. Judges (this writer included) were tasked with evaluating a number of entries in order to crown a winner, who would go on to have his or her recipe scaled up, brewed at Platform, canned, and sold at area Heinen's grocery stores.
The winning entry was a Red IPA from Doug Wiedemann, a homebrewer from Lyndhurst. Just moments after the panel of judges reached a consensus, Platform owner Paul Benner called Wiedemann to deliver the good news.
“I was shocked,” the winner said later on a call. “I had just dropped my beer off three hours earlier. It was kind of a last-minute decision; I had to use my lunch break to run the beer over there.”
Wiedemann says that he’s been homebrewing for about three years, and recently made the personal commitment to enter his creations in more brewing competitions. He selected that particular recipe because he believed it would stand out in the crowd.
“I’m a hop-head,” he adds. “I love IPAs, but I also like amber ales, red ales and red IPAs, and I figured it would be good for fall. I’m pretty proud of that beer.”
He calls the beer Red Giant Finality, a fruity but dry red ale that clocks in with an ABV of 7-percent and 75 IBUs. Last week, Wiedemann spent the day at Platform’s production facility, where together they brewed a 30-barrel (900-gallon) batch of his beer.
“It was a long day, but I enjoyed it,” he says of his day at the brewhouse. “It’s definitely a lot different from the homebrew scale. I really hope it turns out, or else my name is going to be on a lot of bad beer.”
His beer will make its public debut at Heinen’s on Saturday, October 19, during an unofficial kick-off to Cleveland Beer Week
, the popular 10-year-old celebration of the local craft beer industry.
“To win a brewing competition in Cleveland, I think there’s a certain cache to that,” says Ed Thompkins, wine and beer buyer for Heinen's. “If you were a home winemaker, you would probably be intimidated to go to Napa and have people there evaluate your baby.”
The level of creativity and penchant for pushing boundaries that homebrewers typically possess often propels change among commercial breweries, explains Benner of Platform.
“The first hazy New England IPA that Platform ever brewed was the winning recipe from the first Bragging Rights competition,” he says. “People who are homebrewing for a hobby are getting really good at it, so much more technical than 10 years ago. I think for most of the people who enter the competition, brewing is their hobby, they enjoy doing it but have no intention of doing it professionally.”
Only time will tell if that proves to be the case with this year’s winner.
“Right now it’s just a hobby, but like most homebrewers, I have a dream of one day having a small brewery,” Wiedemann says. “But I have a lot to learn yet.”
For now, he can simply savor his well-earned bragging rights.
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