ANDOVER — Stouts are usually associated with cold weather, sitting by a fire and drinking something that comforts you. It’s a turkey sandwich in a bottle, essentially — it’s got some weight to it. Andover resident, David Rosenbaum, won Samuel Adams’ second annual Patriot Homebrew Contest this year with his recipe.
Rosenbaum’s winning stout is being brewed by The Boston Beer Company and served at Gillette Stadium for Patriots season this year. The next contest is going on now, and the deadline is December 18. The winner also gets a little chunk of change: $2,000.
"The first two pre-season games were hot summer nights, and they sold out the first night. And the first home game, which was also a warm day, it sold out as well. So that’s very gratifying," said Rosenbaum, who holds Patriots season tickets. His stout is lighter than other stouts, but still holds all the depth of flavor that’s looked for. Sometimes when you drink a a beer, you’re tasting it for the next hour or so. Not the case with Rosenbaum’s, which adds to its popularity at the stadium.
Rosenbaum first became interested not so much in brewing, but in beers, when he studied in the UK during his time in college. He found he liked beers quite unlike the ones he could find in the United States, which were usually light and thin. He enjoyed a beer with a lot of flavor — multiple components coming together to form a more harmonious brew. "This was some time ago, but when I came back to the States, there weren’t a lot of imports so I just drank what I could find and was always looking for other interesting beers," he said.
A few years ago Rosenbaum received a homebrewing kit as a gift, and brewed his first batch. "My first batch wasn’t horrible," he says, "but it certainly wasn’t great either."
Looking for guidance, he joined Brew Free or Die, New Hampshire’s oldest homebrew club, and slowly learned what he had been doing wrong with his first attempts at brewing. A few parts of the process had been left out in the brewing kit directions he’d received. There’s a whole list of things of what to do, or not do, so that off-flavors aren’t introduced to a batch of beer. "For example, you have to boil a batch and then cool it. And if you stir your beer really vigorously to cool it down and break the surface tension then you introduce cardboard flavors into your beer," Rosenbaum explained. There are many rules like this in homebrewing, and each recipe has its own quirks.
It took him a few years of practice and four tries to get the batch right. Rosenbaum entered the third batch of his Oatmeal Stout into last year’s Patriot Homebrew Contest (which didn’t place), though he knew going into it that it wasn’t the beer he wanted it to be. "It tasted good but it was a little thin in the mouth," he said. "I had decided to add a kind of bourbon flavor to it by adding whiskey that had been soaked in oak chips. So the flavor was good but it was a little… " he makes a hand gesture to show â€˜lacking,’ his palms turned upward to the ceiling.
It was his fourth batch that won. Rosenbaum’s winning brew is full-flavored and full-bodied. It’s rich without being indulgent, flavorful without being bitter. It’s malty and sugary at the same time, the deep black color of the brew paired nicely with a creamy head.
Currently, Rosenbaum is back in his kitchen, settling back into his brewing. His kitchen is more of a mad scientist’s laboratory. Cabinets open to expose large metal bins with grates in the bottom for percolation. Tubes are hooked up to faucets to let fermented brews flow out. He has two refrigerators, one for food, and one that holds three kegs of whatever brew he’s working on at the current moment. To challenge himself, he’s taking award-winning recipes as a base and tweaking them a bit here and there to create something totally new. "Even the smallest change can make quite a bit of difference," he says.
A few weeks ago, Rosenbaum had an English Best Bitter in a plastic bin cooling on his front steps, the keg sitting in a vat of ice water. Since it’s still the fall season and temperatures still vary daily, a mechanized thermometer maintains the temperature by activating a fan if the vat gets too warm. The Bitter is intended to be a beer to drink several glasses of over the course of an evening, while not having to worry about getting drunk.
Winning the Patriot Homebrew Contest added quite a lot of excitement to his life, but Rosenbaum’s ready to try out new recipes. "I think it’s a great thing (Samuel Adams) does for others. They show a lot of support for the homebrewing community," he said. "Their president, Jim Koch, started off as a homebrewer and created a whole company out of it. I don’t think he’s forgotten his roots, and it’s a great thing to see."