International brewing contest provides scope for creativity and professional feedback
Amateur brewers often have to pursue their hobby under difficult conditions – they end up brewing their beer in the kitchen, the basement or the bathroom, and usually in their leisure time. But that doesn’t mean they are not successful, as the #BestBrewChallenge repeatedly shows: more often than not, home brewers walk away with the top prizes. Which is what has happened again this year: The first prize went to “Vic Secret Single Hop Amber Ale” by Brauwerkstatt Eichendorff from Mannheim. The creation by Dr. Benedikt Weigand and Nicolas Loevenich was rated the best of the 75 submitted beers with 49.7 out of 50 possible points. “Himbock” by Jörn Buchbinder (Hobbybrauerei Buchbier) from Magdeburg came second and “Wiener Export” by Günther Hilger from the Seven Mountains Brewery in Königswinter took third place.
Scope for creativity
This year’s BestBrewChallenge attracted 168 participants from North and Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe, who brewed their beers simultaneously on 17 May 2018. As well as hobby brewers, they included microbreweries, large breweries and brewpubs. Every year, the organizer Palatia Malz GmbH, a malting group that sells malt and grain products under the BESTMALZ® brand, puts the focus on a different type of malt. This time round, participants had to use at least 18% BEST Vienna and ensure an original gravity of between 11 and 16° P. Other than that, they could do what they liked and were not required to comply with the German Purity Law. “Our goal is to give brewers as much creative scope as possible. Every year, we are astonished at the variety of tastes that participants from all over the world manage to entice out of one and the same malt,” says Dr. Axel Goehler, managing director of the malting group from Heidelberg and a member of the third generation of the family-owned business.
Invaluable feedback and a surprise
Above all the professional feedback given to the participants encourages hobby brewers to submit their innovative beers. In a blind tasting session, the jury assesses the quality of the beer based on various parameters, such as color, aroma, taste and foam quality. The top prize took Dr. Benedikt Weigand and Niklas Loevenich from Brauwerkstatt Eichendorff in Mannheim by surprise: “We are delighted to have won. We really didn’t expect it, especially considering the strong competition from renowned breweries. Although we were confident that we could brew a good beer, our main motivation for taking part was really the chance to get a professional opinion. But of course, it is great that the countless experiments and the hours we put into research and preparation have paid off.”
Brewing at home
Loevenich, a law student, and Weigand, a doctor, are neighbors and friends who got into brewing by chance. They produce between 20 and 25 liters per batch and concocted the winning beer after a long night shift. Runner-up Jörg Buchbinder from Magdeburg occasionally takes over the whole kitchen, or at least the kitchen table, with his home brewing kit, which makes 20 liters of beer. “Himbock is a wheat bock with a low sugar content. For my BBC brew, I experimented with raspberries (German: Himbeeren) for the first time, adding them to the beer after the main fermentation,” he says, explaining his brewing method. “The idea of getting people from around the world to start brewing simultaneously for the BestBrewChallenge is really cool.” Günther Hilger, who came third, brews on a larger scale: Seven Mountains Brewery near Bonn is run by four friends who regularly brew more than a hundred hectoliters. Seven Mountains Brewery has once again won a prize at this year’s BBC for the umpteenth time. “I’m delighted about our third place. We brewed 150 liters of our Wiener Export – that is the maximum our brewing plant can manage. It will be available to buy locally in the near future,” says Günther Hilger.
Rising to the challenge
The award ceremony was held at the BrauBevialetrade exhibition in Nurembergon 13 November 2018. Visitors to Palatia Malz’s booth were able to sample the winning beer. According to CEO Dr. Axel Goehler, “The idea of collaborative brewing is as old as craft beer itself. Brewers today like to share their experience and are open to new ideas. Our international dealers, who sell BESTMALZ all over the world, persuaded so many of their customers to participate in the BBC this year that they broke the attendance record. As a long-established family-owned business, we held the competition for the fourth time, bringing together brewers of craft beer from all over the world.”