Mike Malinowski of Massillon is living a homebrewer's dream. His German-style smoke marzen won a top award in the Society of Akron Area Zymurgists' annual ''Wizard of SAAZ'' homebrewing contest earlier this year. And now, it's on tap at The Brew Kettle in Strongsville and will be entered into this year's Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am Competition.
Not bad for a guy who's been homebrewing for only five years. As part of the Wizard of SAAZ event, The Brew Kettle brewer Jack Kephart (shown on the right with Malinowski in the photo) had pledged to make one of the beers on a professional scale and enter it at the respected national beer festival. He chose Malinowski's smoke beer, now called The Brew Kettle Rauchtoberfest.
"I like German lagers and it had a really nice malt profile," Kephart said about why he selected the beer. Some smoke beers can be off-putting for the average drinker because of a heavy, heavy smoke flavor. But not this one. "It's mild enough after the first two or three sips that that smoke flavor goes almost to a tertiary flavor," Kephart said. "It's there but it's not clinging."
That was by design. In the 1980s, Malinowski was in the military stationed in Bamberg, Germany -- the home of rauchbier or smoke beer. When he got into homebrewing, he wanted to replicate the smoke flavor but also tone it down a bit for the average beer drinker. "I wanted to make it more of a blend between smoke and Octoberfest to give people more of an introduction to that style," said Malinowski, vice president of SAAZ group.
He added that it was a thrill to brew alongside Kephart, a well-respected brewer who has won national awards, and adapt his recipe created for a five-gallon batch to a professional system. As for how it feels to have his beer entered in the renown Great American Beer Festival, Malinowski replied: "Words can't describe it. It's really an honor." He and his wife -- whom he credits for supporting his brewing hobby -- plan to travel to Denver for the festival at the end of next month.
The Brew Kettle made about 400 gallons and Rauchtoberfest will be on tap until it runs out. "It's going over really well," Kephart said.