The Boys and Girls Club of Rochester wasn’t sure what to expect when it held a homebrewing contest for the first time this year at its Chili Challenge fundraiser, but expectations were blown away when about 1,800 craft beer fans indulged their taste buds at the September event.
Judged by the four head brewers in town (one from each of Rochester’s four breweries), the homebrew contest not only earned a two-member team of homebrewers a feather in their cap, but also the opportunity to brew their smoked chipotle porter on Grand Rounds Brewpub’s professional brewing system in December.
It was quite the step up from five gallons to about 200 — and a pleasant surprise to even win.
“It was the first time we ever entered a competition and had no expectations going into it,” said Jesse Hoekstra, one half of the homebrewing team that won. “It was shocking. (I was) totally surprised.”
“You should have seen us … I was giddy like a little schoolboy,” said Todd Summerson, the other half of the brewing team. “I was very excited.”
The duo had never brewed the beer before the event. Instead, they thought their recipe would fit the theme of the chili event, so they went for it. What they came up with is a sweet treat with a little bit of heat that used peppers that Hoekstra grew in his garden.
“(It) has a little bit of heat to it,” Summerson said. “Not enough to run for the water fountain, but enough to tickle the back of your throat a little bit.”
Those who order a pint of the beer can also expect it to be smoky, with some chocolate and nutty maltiness balancing out the heat.
Aside from creating a beer that was recognized as the best of the homebrewed bunch, both homebrewers are excited to help a local charity. A dollar from each pint of the beer (slated for release on Jan. 8) sold in the Grand Rounds taproom goes to the Boys and Girls Club.
“It’s great to be associated with a charity and have something we participated in benefit people who need help,” said Hoekstra.
That kind of community partnership is what Grand Rounds head brewer and co-founder Steve Finnie hoped to cultivate when he suggested the winner brew on his system.
“It’s part of our mission to be a part of the community,” Finnie explained of supporting his homebrewing roots and the Boys and Girls Club.
“The fact that he’s going to sell it and a dollar of every pint goes back to Boys and Girls Club just shows how giving he is,” Summerson said of Finnie. “I’m just really excited for the Boys and Girls club to get some benefit out of this.”
So is Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Jodi Millerbernd. She’s hopeful that the community’s taste for craft beer will result in a successful fundraiser for the club, and she plans on making the homebrewing contest a staple of the 7-year-old annual Chili Challenge fundraising event.
“We’re just excited about the publicity, and really that the funds come back to Boys and Girls club, and raises awareness for our programs,” Millerbernd said.
As for the homebrewing team, the tastiness of the beer and euphoria felt from brewing on Finnie’s brewing system (“This is kind of my dream come true,” Summerson said), means this beer will be brewed again, and many more.
“It only encourages me to brew more beer,” Hoekstra said with a smile.