That’s right ladies and gents, it’s time for another installment in my not-yet-award-winning Five Questions With… series. Today I bring you homebrewer extraordinaire Jeff Swearengin, winner of the Brew at Choc’s Home 2010 homebrew contest. Jeff’s excellent Signature Smoked Porter took the title last year. After winning the crown, Signature Smoked Porter was brewed and bottled at the Choc brewery, sold in liquor stores throughout the state and entered in the prestigious Great American Beer Festival. With the deadline for entries in Brew at Choc’s Home 2011 recently passing, I thought it would be good to catch up with Jeff and find out how his year as champion treated him.
1. The Thirsty Beagle: Looking back, how much of a thrill was it to win the first Brew at Choc’s Home contest?
Jeff Swearengin: It was exhilarating! I was almost dumbfounded when I was told that I had not only won, but that all three of my entries had made it to the final 10, and that two of the three had made the final three. Wowsa! At the time, I couldn’t hardly believe that the smoked porter stood out amongst all those other great homebrews. Smoked beer is really a style that most either like or hate, as there’s little room for fence sitters.
2. TTB: The contest was wide open in terms of beer style last year; why did you pick a smoked porter?
JS: I’ve been actively competing in homebrew competitions (including the Samuel Adams LongShot) for some time and quickly realized that Choc was looking for something special and unique to potentially market in their ever-growing Signature Series lineup. My three entries were a Belgian IPA, Imperial Hefeweizen and the Smoked Porter. None of these are your typical “Joe Six-pack” kind of beer. The Smoked Porter seemed to be a natural because Choc/Pete’s Place has a long tradition of quality beverages and cuisine. In my opinion, nothing goes better at the dinner table than a smoked beer.
3. TTB: Did you go to the Great American Beer Festival last year? What was it like to have your beer entered in that contest?
JS: I did get the opportunity to attend last year’s festival and it was amazing! Although I’ve attended GABF before, this trip was made special because I went as a Brewery Representative for Choc. I not only got to pour my beer to the hordes of thirsty festival-goers at the Choc Beer booth, but also at the AHA/BA Pro-Am booth alongside my peers from all over the nation. It’s a dream of just about any amateur brewer to one day go pro and I got to do it for a day. It makes you feel like a rock star! Lol!
4. TTB: How has it felt to have your name and beer on liquor store shelves across Oklahoma?
JS: It has been truly an honor to represent the homebrewing nation on those bottles of Choc’s Brewmaster’s Signature Smoked Porter. It’s something I’ll not soon forget!
5. TTB: Did you enter Choc’s contest again this year? If so, what did you brew this year?
JS: Unfortunately per the rules, I wasn’t able to enter anything this year. However, I brewed up a German-style Rauchbier with some of last year’s leftover grain just for the occasion. Maybe I can bribe the good folks at Pete’s Place into making some of those delicious Bamberger onions again? The good news is that I get to be a guest judge this year. Good luck to all of my fellow Okie homebrewers in this year’s contest!
Yes, good luck indeed to all who entered Brew at Choc’s Home 2011. I plan to keep readers updated once Choc names its next winner, so stay tuned. And thanks again to Jeff for sharing his experience as a homebrew champion!
I mentioned last night on the blog that alcohol reform appears shelved in Oklahoma for at least a year. Here’s the story from today’s Oklahoman. As you’ll see from reading, the complexity of changing Oklahoma’s alcohol laws perhaps even surprised legislators.
I asked for feedback from readers last night and got a pretty good feel for how divisive this issue is in Oklahoma. Feel free to post your comments on this blog post — I’ll collect some messages and re-post later this week.