Chris Kelley, member of local homebrewing club Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts (LIBME) had an idea: organize and host a “Chopped” style brew day. Ten teams participated, each having a head brewer and 1-2 assistants, and they were randomly assigned a style of beer and two ingredients. Additions ranged from wood to peaches to habanero peppers, with Kelley and team drawing a Rye IPA base with orange peel and basil.
He was “super psyched” by the prospect of citrus and hops because “they go together wonderfully”. The basil however had Kelley thinking, “What the heck am I going to do with that?”. Discovering orange and basil paired together in an Italian dish, he and his team wrote a recipe and brewed their beer. Kelley said, “It’s quite amazing the depth of flavor basil gives to hops”, finding the ingredients married well. He was pleasantly surprised with the result and the fresh IPA found its way into LIBME’s monthly homebrew competition, a collaborative effort with Great South Bay Brewery.
The idea for an LIBME and GSB partnership came about during the Great American Beer Festival last year. The highlight for owner Rick Sobotka and COO Phil Ebel was the Pro-Am competition, which recognizes the best joint effort between a homebrewer and professional brewery. After taking a bronze medal for their Splashing Pumpkin, the Pro-Am winner was announced. Ebel recalled, “the guy that was sitting behind us won and he jumped up and screamed. It was one of those things that you’re just like, man, that’s a great feeling.” Both long time members of LIBME, they approached president Todd Long and education committee head Andrew Luberto, who previously ran a SMASH Brew Day at GSB, with the prospect.
Long was immediately receptive to the idea of working together, saying of GSB, “They’ve always supported the club and we’ve always supported them”. After meeting and seeing the benefit for all participants, the program began to take shape. Some stipulations were put in place, like no sour beers, barley wines or Russian imperial stouts, simply because they take too long to ferment. LIBME uses BJCP guidelines to judge all their competitions and to maintain quality control, the beers will only be brewed at GSB if they score higher than a 35. Provided it meets that standard, the winner of each month’s LIBME competition is now produced at Great South Bay Brewery and served in their tasting room. Sobotka is pleased with the results so far saying,
“Honestly I still feel like a homebrewer. I miss the days of casual brewing with friends and have regained a lot of enjoyment by offering this program.”
Luberto added, “I love the experimental nature of it” and appreciates the freedom homebrewers bring to a professional setting.
Fittingly enough, last month’s winner was Kelley. He was invited to GSB for the brew day and assisted head brewer Greg Maisch with recreating the recipe on their small batch system. The one barrel pilot system was built in late 2009 at their other location in Bay Shore and resurrected it for this collaboration. Greg also started as a homebrewer with the philosophy, “If I could buy it I could make it”. He has been having a lot of fun working with the homebrewers and seeing the different techniques they bring to the brewing process. “This gives local homebrewers a goal to work towards”, Kelley said after the long day of brewing. His basil and orange Rye IPA is being released at Great South Bay Brewery Father’s Day weekend and will be available while supplies last. If it is anything like the homebrew batch we tried, it won’t be around for long.
Chopped brew day photos courtesy of Chris Kelley.