The first ever Beer Blogger Brew-Off is in the books, and a good time was had by all.

The quality of the beers brewed by the participants was incredible. It was clear these guys have spent many years perfecting their craft, and it was equally impressive how distinctly unique each beer was considering everyone changed only one ingredient from the base recipe we all used. Here’s what everyone went with:

My secret ingredient, which I didn’t really keep a closely guarded secret, was lactose, making my beer a nice milk stout. You can check out the recipe and brewday here. After my beer fermented out, I kegged half the batch for a New Year’s party, and split the rest off into a carboy for bottling at a later date. The beer from the keg was fantastic — chocolatey, roasty, and milky sweet. I would have had more than two glasses of it, but my friends had other ideas and decided to drink it all too quickly.

Here’s where the story gets grim…after bottling and shipping my beers to the brew-off participants, we settled in for the sampling, and it quickly became clear something was a little off when everyone cracked my bottles. A mildly sour aroma crept up on us, not completely off-putting (and in fact some friends have said they enjoy it) but not exactly what I was aiming for, either. The likely culprit? Bacteria from sanitation issues during the bottling process.

I’m a meticulous sanitizer…in most cases I think I probably overdo it (if that’s even possible). And I know this kind of thing can happen occasionally to the best of us. But frankly, it was a little embarrassing.

After sampling everyone’s beers, we informally declared local beer blogger Derek the brew-off winner with his molasses stout, a fantastically rich, full-bodied beer. Very well done. And I’m happy to say he left me with a sixer for my longer term enjoyment.

If you’re interested in hearing the entire brew-off discussion recorded by Peter at Simply Beer,  listen to the podcast here. Already looking forward to the next brew-off!