If Russ Brunner isn't a name on your radar yet, he should be.
The Tamarac resident is currently running a hot streak of award winning beers: securing a gold medal for his Scotch ale at the 35th annual National Homebrewers Conference this past June, taking gold for a Foreign Export Stout at the 2014 Miami Coconut Cup, and most recently was selected as one of two amateur brewers to have their recipes created for the 2014 Samuel Adams LongShot contest, which sees winning brews developed into a commercially available product.
The contest, in which home brewers are able to submit beers in any of the 13 recognized BJCP styles for consideration, has been going on since 1996 when owner Jim Koch opened what was simply an employee-oriented event to the general public. Since then, three brews are chosen: two national submissions and one from a Sam Adams employee.
This year, Brunner came out on top, amongst a plethora of applicants. It felt only fitting that we sit down with him over some some pints beers (and a few growlers of homebrew) for him to share his experiences.
Clean Plate Charlie: We first learned about your win from a press release out of the Great American Beer Festival. How was that experience?
Russ Brunner: Sam Adams flew me and my wife out to GABF [in Colorado], put us up there and gave us all access. The festival was amazing. When the time came for the reveal, Jim Koch was there, and when he announced my name first, I kind of freaked out in a good way.
How is Jim Koch?
He's the kindest and most genuine person I've met in craft beer. You can see it in his staff too, they way they share his passion.
After the reveal, what happened?
I was told to enjoy myself and was scheduled to pour my beer the next day. They said to basically stay sober for it, but at the last minute it was cancelled, so I got to enjoy the third day of GABF. There were beers there that I had to go back in line for, even though they were long... they were worth it.
So how was the brewing experience at Sam Adams?
We didn't actually brew the commercial batch. It was brewed out of Cincinnati in one of their 600 barrel systems, so they took our recipes and sort of tweaked them for the bigger system. We did, however, do a ceremonial brew on the old system at their brewery in Boston.
The one in Jamaica Plain?
Yeah. And it's in an odd location, in a kind of sketchy neighborhood.
Speaking of sketchy, how weird is it seeing a sketch of yourself on banners and the bottle labels?
It's surreal seeing it everywhere. I was at the Plantation Total Wine today and there is a five foot tall banner hanging in one of the aisles.
What's next for you? Any plans to transition to a professional brewing career?
I want to go out into the commercial world, but I'm currently planning on staying in my current job for another three years or so. In the future, I'd love to open a brewpub with about seven barrels. Something nice and local, a neighborhood place.
What's your craft beer of choice?
I try not to brew the same beer twice, so to answer that I'd have to say any of the new releases.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers, and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.