After winning a second-place award for a Belgium golden strong ale in the regional competition held in Philadelphia, Jack Price decided he should hold on to that same batch to see if it became better over time. His hunch was right.
He won a gold medal just weeks later for a beer from the same batch at the American Homebrewers Association’s 40th National Homebrew Competition in Portland, Ore. out of 351 final entries in his category. With 33 categories of beer judging, there were more than 8,400 entries from 3,517 homebrewers located in 50 states and at least 18 other countries during this year’s convention.
“It was so surreal when it happened. I was sitting in the whole conference room with 3,000 other homebrewers waiting to hear who won. When they finally got to my category and they mentioned the bronze, and then the silver, and I didn’t hear my name… And then he said the gold and it took forever. He paused before making the announcement,” Mr. Price said.
“That’s the pinnacle of homebrewing. These were the best judges in the country and to be able to get that recognition?”
He said the award is “mostly bragging rights” as he received no monetary rewards but could share his recipe in the association magazine for others to attempt.
“And I got to meet my hero for homebrewing,” he added proudly.
To learn the art of homebrewing, Mr. Price started out years ago by reading up on the craft. The first book he purchased was the “Joy of Homebrewing” by Charlie Papazian.
“Charlie Papazian, who wrote the ‘The Joy of Homebrewing’ was there. And I brought my original copy. It opened right up to this recipe called Toad Spit Stout which was the first beer I won a competition with,” Mr. Price said.
He started brewing at home around 1995 or 1996, close to when Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats opened as the first brewpub in Delaware.
“Going down to Dogfish Head and checking out the brewpub just got me excited and I thought, ‘Oh, I could do that,’” he said.
From there, he started reading about brewing and acquiring equipment.
“Between getting equipment and every book I could find on homebrewing, I had a good start. But I got my hands on that really good book called ‘The Joy of Homebrewing’ and that was like the Bible of what I could find out. Meeting [Charlie] was an amazing part of the conference,” Mr. Price added.
His education and career background helped him along the way, as well.
He was raised in Denton, Md., but visited family in Milford often. He later attended Salisbury State University and, after working in marine studies and meeting his wife Carolyn in Minneapolis, was relocated to Milford by the Milford Memorial Hospital where he worked as the director of information systems for 13 years before retirement.
“I was a biology major and my career has always been in IT [information technology] in the health care systems. But, at the same time, this is giving me a way to use my biology degree and have fun along those lines,” he said.
The couple has now called Milford their home for 34 years.
“I try to refer to him as Bill Nye the Science Guy,” Ms. Price joked. “I really don’t like to get in his way or ask any questions because everything is so detailed. He goes to the computer and types in what he’s doing. He keeps complete record of every step. I just let him be. I do it gladly because he enjoys it. He’s not out with the guys drinking beer; he’s home making it.”
She says her husband has even made several batches of beer for friends’ weddings or other events.
“It gives him a reason to brew. And sometimes, it’s gone within like thirty minutes. Five or ten gallons just gone,” she laughed. “I’m very excited for him. I literally cried when I sat at that computer and heard his name. It was so surreal. It was quite lovely.”
Mr. Price says he will continue brewing beer at home for fun and enjoying the comradery of the local homebrewing community through the Delmarva United Homebrewers Club, or DUH for short.
“For homebrewers, winning a medal in the AHA National Homebrew Competition is the ultimate achievement,” National Homebrew Competition Director John Moorhead said. “With nearly 9,000 entries, the National Homebrew Competition is by far the toughest and most prestigious homebrew competition — the medal winners can truly take pride in knowing that they brew among the best beers in the world.”