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Chocolate Chipotle Stout from DuClaw to benefit local charity

Vincent and Suzanne Powers of Nottingham originated home-brewed flavor

By Karen Nitkin, Special to The Baltimore Sun

4:45 PM EDT, June 2, 2012

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A local charity will benefit from the beer-making skills of Vincent and Suzanne Powers, winners of the second annual H.E.R.O Homebrew contest run by the DuClaw Brewing Company.

The Nottingham residents won the contest with their Chocolate Chipotle Stout, beating 54 other home-brewed offerings. The beer will be made by DuClaw and sold in the chain's brewpubs and at retail locations. Proceeds will go to a charity that will be chosen at the end of June or the beginning of July.

"We're open to suggestions," said Dave Benfield, CEO of the Maryland craft brewing company, founded in 1996. "We're looking for somebody local."

Benfield said the idea for the contest was sparked because most of his brewers started out as home-brewers. "We do a good bit of charity work," he said. "We were toying around with ideas and we liked the idea of doing a homebrew contest."

H.E.R.O. stands for Honest. Excellent. Robust. Original. The main rules of the contest are that participants must submit three 12-ounce bottles of beer for judging, and the beers can't be made with sour mashes, since that flavor is hard to remove from the brewing system, Benfield said.

In the first year, the contest attracted about 40 entries, mostly from Maryland, with a few from Pennsylvania, he said. DuClaw made and sold the winning brew, a Peanut Butter Porter, and gave the proceeds to the Cool Kids Campaign, a nonprofit organization for children with cancer and their families.

Sharon Perfetti, executive director of the Cool Kids Campaign, said the $15,113 donated by DuClaw "had a huge impact on us."

The money was used to move the 7-year-old organization from a small Cockeysville office to a larger Towson facility, and to launch programs there, she said. The center now offers a tutoring program for children who are undergoing cancer treatments and hosts a teen club for cancer survivors and young people undergoing treatment, she said.

The tutoring is valuable, she said, because in many cases, the students miss school for treatments or because they can't be exposed to the germs in school. The tutoring program, run by volunteers in consultation with the families, assures, "When they're done with cancer treatments, they're going to be right where they need to be," she said. The tutoring is given free of charge.

Benfield said the contest, in addition to helping local charities, introduces new craft beer to the public and provides inspiration to DuClaw brewers. The judging process involves three rounds and a seven-person panel that includes DuClaw's four brewers, two other employees, and Benfield. In the first round, beers are simply accepted or rejected, he said. The second round involves more discussion and a narrowing-down of possible winners. In the third round, the winner is chosen. "Every year we're seeing better and better quality," he said.

The Chocolate Chipotle Stout stood out, he said, for its smooth and complex balance of heat and sweetness. The beer will be released in September or October, he said, and will be sold through taps at the company's brewpubs in Bel Air, Bowie and Arundel Mills, and in 22-ounce bottles in retail locations that sell DuClaw beer. All money from sales to distributors will be given to the chosen charity, said Benfield.

Vincent Powers said he has been home-brewing for about five years. He and his wife, Suzanne, like brewing so much that they have named their pets for beers, first a black Lab named Guinness then a Rottweiler named Hackerpshor (after Hacker-Pschorr).

He got the idea for the winning stout from Suzanne, who likes to bake. "She said what's big right now is chocolate and spices," he recalled. He brewed a single five-gallon batch in December, which was ready for drinking in February. "I didn't find out about the competition until it was halfway gone," he said. "I had to stop drinking it so I would have enough to submit."

Powers said he entered the contest to see "how the beer would stack up against other people's." Winning, he said, "was just really cool and exciting."