Ian Stines

Cliff Reeder/Daily
Mike Elchinger, graduate student in the School of Natural Resources

Best of show winner: Obama Victory Porter
Dark winner: Obama Victory Porter
Light/Amber winner: Hawley’s Hop Farm Fresh Harvest Acceptance Letter Ale

A year after the presidential election, it’s only appropriate that Ian Stines’s Obama Victory Porter would emerge as the winner of The Michigan Daily’s brewing contest Sunday.

The only beer to receive a triple-digit score, the porter earned a total of 100 points out of 150 for what one judge commented was a “good bitterness and hop aroma.”

That wasn’t the only credit to Stines, though. Before his porter won the Dark category, his mouthful of an American IPA — Hawley’s Farm Fresh Harvest Acceptance Letter Ale — took the Light/Amber category with a total of 97 points. Another beer of Stines, an imperial wit, scored 94 points in the Light/Amber category.

According to the Beer Judge Certification Program’s guidelines, Stines’s scores qualify his beer as “very good,” or “generally within style parameters (with) some minor flaws.”

While many other entries seemed to be incorrectly classified, Stines’s brews stood out from the rest for adherence to style.

A member of the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild, Stines has had plenty of practice since he started brewing about a year and a half ago — not that he has necessarily needed it. From his first try at a German hefeweizen, brewing has gone smoothly for Stines.

Mike Elchinger

Strong/Spiced/Specialty winner: Pumpkin Ale

Mike Elchinger, a graduate student in the School of Natural Resources, knew he had a good thing when he altered his pumpkin ale recipe to include real pumpkin instead of flavoring.

“I would call it a more authentic taste, better color in the beer and probably a better mouthfeel,” he said.

The Michigan Daily’s brewing contest judges must have agreed. Elchinger’s pumpkin ale won the Strong/Spiced category with 92 points.

The pumpkin ale was in the running with a diverse array of entries, ranging from Imperial IPA to Chocolate Chili Ale. On advice from contest judge Alex Petit, boldly flavored styles were grouped with specialty beers for being more flavorful than the other entries.

But Elchinger came out ahead for his impeccably balanced spices — although the judges’ comments suggested that the flavors should be toned down a smidge.

“Spices are over the top but good,” wrote one judge.

Elchinger said the judges’ feedback confirmed his prior suspicions about the recipe and convinced him to cut back on spices next time.

After his brother introduced him to the hobby, Elchinger first tried his hand at brewing with a batch of brown ale. He said he found brewing to be a way to satisfy his “pension for self-synthesis.”

“I want to make things,” he said.

Elchinger is open to experimentation in brewing, but he is strictly committed to keeping his creations free of contamination.

“What are the three rules of brewing?” he said. “Sanitation, sanitation, sanitation — right?”

After sampling other brewers’ beers and comparing recipes, Elchinger said he walked away from the contest with a couple ideas for future projects, like basing a batch on butterscotch or trying a coffee stout.

“Actually, my first batch turned out pretty good, which I understand is not the actual norm,” Stines said.

With a firm grasp of style, Stines is looking to challenge himself with twists on his old technique. He has a couple of carboys of homemade cider going right now and hopes to master the method of aging beer with toasted woodchips.

“I’ve only tried it once and I think I let it sit on the wood a little too long,” he said. “It didn’t work out too successfully — it was little bit too much like chewing on a tree branch.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *