It has been something of a tradition at 3rd Wave brewing to hold a homebrew competition and to brew the winners beer as part of the prize. This year, for the second time in a row, the prize went to Salisbury homebrewer Ryan Psolka. Last year, Psolka won with a Razzle Dazzle raspberry sour ale that was a huge hit when it was put on in the tap room. This year’s entry, Dark Tranquility Imperial Stout will certainly do at least as well.

Shawn Hager and Kathi Bryan talk about the competition before making the announcement.

More than just a contest

Although it is fun to get together and have a contest and try all the beers that are made for it, there’s something more going on with events like this. Most craft breweries, at least those that started small, grew out of a homebrewer’s passion. In the case of 3rd Wave, owners Suellen Vickers and Lori Clough had been homebrewing friends for awhile when the opportunity to get into the business presented itself. It isn’t necessarily the dream of every homebrewer to be a professional brewer, but many probably take a moment to imagine what it would be like to share their beer with thousands of people.
Making beer is, almost by definition, a sharing proposition. As a result, homebrewers are the backbone of the craft beer industry. They support their local breweries and, as often is the case, many of the breweries support them back. Certainly 3rd Wave does.

3rd Wave homebrew
Thomas Ahmann accepts a medal and gift certificate from Shawn Hager and Kathi Bryan at this year’s 3rd Wave Homebrew competition for 2017.

United by a love of craft beer

When the winners were announced, there were probably 20 or so people in the brewery who were there for the event. Unlike a lot of other kinds of contest where there are only winners and losers, when you enter a beer in a homebrew competition, you get feedback on how you can improve your beer.
Certainly there is an aesthetic aspect to judging a beer, but there also is an objective measure set up by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). Although not all contests are judged by certified judges, the standards for what makes one beer technically better than another still play a part among people judging a competition.

3rd Wave homebrew
For the second year in a row Ryan Psolka of Salisbury was the winner of the 3rd Wave Homebrew competition. Here he accepts the first place medal and gift certificate.

Ryan must have their number

Whatever the standards, plus the aesthetic, Ryan Psolka must meet and exceed them regularly. To win in a crowded field two years in a row with two completely different beers says a lot about how he approaches brewing and the standards to which he holds his recipe. With Dark Tranquility, this year’s winner, Psolka was generous with the cocoa nibs that give it its chocolate flavor, but he also was generous with the malt which will give the new beer a great flavor.
After the competition, Psolka spoke with Clough about the brewing schedule. As it stands now, they’re targeting a brew day in the next few weeks in hopes of an early December release.

Tony Russo
Author: Tony Russo

Tony Russo has worked as a print and digital journalist for the better part of the 21st century, writing for and editing regional weeklies and dailies before joining the team that produces OceanCity.com and ShoreCraftBeer.com among other destination websites. In addition to having documented everything from zoning changes to art movements on the Delmarva Peninsula, Tony has written two books on beer for the History Press. Eastern Shore Beer was published in 2014 and Delaware Beer in 2016. He lives in Delmar, Md. with his wife Kelly and the only of his four daughters who hasn't moved out. Together they keep their two dogs comfortable.

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