Nottingham’s Michael Robinson was a winner in the 2009 Samuel Adams Longshot American Homebrew Contest. Robinson took home top prize when his Old Ben Ale was chosen by a panel of industry judges.
The Longshot variety pack, which includes Old Ben Ale, Ben Miller’s Mile High Barley Wine, and Jeremy White’s Lemon Pepper Saison, is available nationwide in select retail locations and has a suggested retail price per six-pack of $9.99. Robinson was a finalist in the 2008 Longshot contest.
Q: How would you describe Old Ben Ale?
Old Ben Ale is a strong English
Ale. It’s very malty, somewhat complex. It’s stiffer, nine percent alcohol. The bitterness is low. It’s a fairly smooth, well-balanced beer.
How did you come up with this recipe?
Really the same way I do all of them. I do a little bit of research on style guidelines. And I search out other recipes for commercial beers and then blend the two.
What types of characteristics do you like in a beer?
It really depends. My tastes really change with the seasons. I brew all styles of beers depending on the time of year.
Since it’s spring, what do you like for springtime beers?
I like to be drinking a little more in the session beer category, wheat beers and pale ales.
What are session beers?
It really just means a beer that has low to moderate alcohol. Something you can have two of and not be consuming too many calories or alcohol.
When did you start submitting recipes to the Sam Adams contest?
They did a Longshot contest years ago and then there were a few in between. The last three years I’ve entered in the Longshot as well as the Patriot competition. I was a finalist two times in Longshot ... and a finalist in the Patriot competition.
How did you get into home brewing yourself?
It’s a funny story. My mom bought me my first kit. From there, I joined a home brew club, got a little more interested and it just started to grow. I’ve been brewing for 14 years now and actively for eight.
What are some of your favorites that you’ve brewed?
Some favorites, Belgian witbier, American pale ale. I like lambics a lot.
With Old Ben Ale, what time of year is that best?
It’s sort of a cool-weather sort of beer. It’s malty, high in alcohol. It’s a nice after-dinner type of beer or for a cold night in front of a fireplace. It’s certainly not a hot-summer-day type of beer.
You got to go down and brew with the brewers at Samuel Adams. What was that like?
It was really great. They had us in to take part in a brew session for a base beer for a lambic that they make. We sit in and get to see the whole thing on a commercial scale. [The brewery is in Jamaica Plain, Boston, and it’s a test brewery for the company. The larger-scale brewing happens in another facility.]
For someone looking to get into homebrewing, do you have any tips for getting started?
I would say anybody who is creative or even likes to cook, give it a shot. Start with a beginner’s kit, see if you like it. If you do, you can get as technical or as scientific as you want and still make good beer. I would say to enter competitions for feedback to help improve your beers. Winning builds confidence. ...There was a guy with me in the finals and he had the second or third beer he had ever made. And he made it to the finals. Even as a beginner brewer, you can make really good beer by accident.
Are you looking to take your brewing to the next level?
It’s definitely a hobby out of control. I’d love to take it to a professional level. I just need to figure out a way to make money out of it.
What’s your brewing system?
It’s a three-tier rack system, built out of steel with ring burners. It’s a 15-gallon system. I brew down in my garage actually, the edge of the garage on the driveway. It can tend to create a smell and a mess.
The wife appreciates it. When you start making bigger batches, you need more power for the burners, so then you’re using propane. So you need a very well ventilated area.