This past Sunday, 4 Hands Brewing Company, along with the Nine Network and Feast TV, held their second annual “Beer Creation Event.” Tickets to participate in this event were acquired by making a pledge to the Nine Network. To create a beer, teams of contestants were given their choice of a base beer along with a variety of ingredients to blend with it until they’re satisfied with a final product. A person from each team then presents their beer to a panel of 4 judges and those judges then collaborate to pick a winner. If your team wins, you’re invited back to 4 Hands to brew your winning beer that will eventually be packaged and released.
The overall concept is simple although crafting the “perfect recipe” is far from it.
Last year’s winning recipe came from a team calling themselves the “Missouri Monks.” They chose to take City Wide Pale ale and add lime zest, raspberry purée and vanilla. After a social media campaign soliciting suggestions for a name, that beer was sold in gift sets as “Cloud 9.”
For this year’s event, I was lucky enough to be invited out as a judge along with Cat Neville from Feast TV, 4 Hands Head Brewer Andy Burgio, and Craft Beer Cellar – Clayton owner Brandon Nickelson. We were quite surprised at what was accomplished with a good beer, a french press and a zester.
The three base beers teams could choose from were all 4 Hands favorites: City Wide Pale Ale, City Wide Pils and Chocolate Milk Stout. As far as the ingredients to mix with those beers, available options were fresh fruits, dried spices, hot peppers, and everything in between. Some teams chose the simple route and others used what seemed like half of the choices to create their concoction.
As I walked around the tables during the 45 minute blending session, it was easy to see that the participants were taking this seriously. Beers were being tasted, rejected, reblended and tasted again. Of all the ingredients to choose from, I saw quite a bit of cucumber, orange and grapefruit on everyone’s table. Another interesting tidbit is that of the 8 teams participating, only one chose the Milk Stout as their base while the rest chose the Pils or Pale Ale.
When it came time for tasting, it was clear that the beers all had a similar theme: light and fruity. Aside from the chocolate milk stout (which was doctored into a spicy Mexican Stout) only a beer that used star anise and the beer that would eventually win had something dominate other than fruit.
The Final Three
The judges definitely took a while to come to a conclusion. There was a clear top three but there was a lot of back and forth before deciding which beer would come out on top.
Third Place: That went to Table 8 with that Chocolate Milk Stout mix. We all liked the heat behind the pepper in that beer but if you take that piece away, it was very reminiscent of the Horchata variant of the chococlate milk stout that 4 Hands has already released. We were looking for something new. It was very fun to drink, though.
Second Place: Table 2 brought us a beer that was damn near like a cocktail in flavor. It had grapefruit, orange, black pepper, salt, lemon and lime. It was really well balanced considering all that was in there and for me, it was like a lime-a-rita that tasted like a beer if that makes sense and that’s not meant in a bad way. Very easy to drink and I would have too many if I was served those by the pool.
The Winner: There was a lot of back and forth sampling between this beer and the one that came in second to determine a favorite. Table 4 named themselves “Brewers Like Us” in a nod to The Nine Network and they took top prize. Their beer had hibiscus, cucumber, black pepper, grapefruit and orange. The cucumber stood out the most and since they used that City Wide Pils base it was light, crisp, and refreshing.
Fellow judge Andy Burgio will be the man to scale this recipe and his plans include a slight pivot to make it a Cucumber Gose. I’ll be damned if that doesn’t sound delicious. Just like last year, there will be a naming contest done through social media so look for that soon. The release party will be at 4 Hands and is already planned for Sunday, August 6th so stay tuned for when tickets to that go on sale, and watch for it on shelves shortly after. This is such a fun event and I’m so glad that I was able to be a part of it. I can’t wait to see how the big version of this beer ends up and I hope to see you all at the party.