I’m normally not one to turn down a challenge…especially when it comes to my favorite hobby.

So when Peter over at Simply Beer recently contacted a handful of homebrew bloggers across the country to take part in what he dubbed a Beer Blogger Brew-Off, well, there wasn’t much debate on whether I was going to throw my hat into the ring.

The format is pretty straightforward…everyone will brew the same base stout recipe this coming Sunday the 13th, but the variable is we all get to change ONE thing about the recipe…whether that’s tweaking the grains, hops, yeast, or introducing a secret ingredient.  The secret ingredient can be anything, as long as the 5 gallon batch is completed on time.  Everyone will bottle their beer January 10th, ship each participant a couple bottles on February 1st, and do a virtual tasting on February 12th that Peter will record and post as a podcast.

I think this event is a pretty cool idea, for a couple reasons…aside from the beer itself, the camaraderie and friendships developed being part of the homebrewing community, whether local or national, are some of the greatest things about the hobby, in my opinion. I’ve also learned alot from connecting with other brewers, and I’m certain this experience will be no different once I sample their beers and get a chance to learn about their vision and process.   

Here’s the list of participants, including a couple local guys. If you’re not familiar with some of these accomplished homebrewers, check out their sites:

DerekLuther Public House (@LutherHaus)
ErikTop Fermented (@topfermented)
JosephHopfentreader (@hopfentreader)
MichaelThank Heaven For Beer (@heavenlybrew)
NateThank Heaven For Beer (@THFBeer_nate)
PeterSimply Beer (@simplybeer)
ThomasBeer Genome Project (@TomBGP)

Here’s the base recipe we’re all going with:

9 lbs. domestic 2-row barley
1 lb. chocolate malt
1 lb. roasted barley
4 oz. flaked barley
4 oz. caramel 60°L
1 oz. Willamette (60 min)
1 oz. Tettnang (2 min)
Wyeast 1056

60 min mash @ 152
75 min sparge @170
60 min boil
Estimated gravity of 1.046 and finish around 1.014

So what’s my secret ingredient going to be? I’ve put a fair amount of thought into it, and it’s been surprisingly challenging coming up with that ONE ingredient to go with. After some pretty funky suggestions, including one from my buddy Aaron at The Vice Blog to brew an egg nog stout (not sure I’d be able to pull that off with just one ingredient), I’ve decided to keep it relatively simple and add about a half pound of lactose during the boil to make this a nice milk stout. My focus will be on making this the most well-executed stout I can, as opposed to blowing people away with barrel-aged, fruit-infused craziness.

I’m curious to see what the other guys decide to do with their batches. I’ll keep everyone updated as the competition progresses.