Three cheers for Three Bears beer

By Greg Copen | May 01, 2014

Last year, Kevin Sandefur from Bearwaters Brewing asked if I would be interested in creating a collaboration beer for the Pro-Am competition at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver.

This Pro-Am competition is an opportunity for homebrewers to team up with professional brewers and compete against others at the largest beer festival in the country. I was definitely interested.

Despite my excitement, our schedules never coincided last year and we missed the submission deadline. Several months ago, we began discussing this year’s Pro-Am at the GABF.

Kevin asked me to pick a brew date and send him a recipe. Kevin has several delicious recipes. However, the rules of this competition require the homebrewer to create the beer.

Several recipes came to mind, but I wanted something special for this event. It was time for an emergency meeting of The Stooges Brew Club to compare our homebrew and select a recipe. When all the sample glasses were empty, we settled on one of Jose Piriz’s award-winning Belgium recipes.

We emailed a copy of the recipe to Kevin and planned a brew date several weeks later. We arrived at the brewery on the scheduled day, but somehow the recipe didn’t survive the digital trip. Kevin and I scrambled to recreate it. I pulled up the email from Jose on my cell phone and started reading off the ingredients.

With each ingredient, Kevin would make a few calculations in his head to adjust for his brewing equipment and mash efficiency. We didn’t have one of the specialty grains, so Kevin quickly found a substitute. It was fun to watch, but at the same time I was getting nervous because I wanted this beer to match the original one crafted by Jose.

Kevin was concerned for a different reason. The recipe we selected was for a high-gravity Belgium Triple. The amount of grain in this recipe was going to push his system to the limit. Exceeding the limit could result in a messy clean-up and a lot of extra hours of work.

We milled the grain, filled the mash tun and prepared the hop additions. The system was stretched but performed flawlessly. Everything was moving along well, so Jose took the opportunity to pull out a bottle of his original brew for us to sample. I always enjoy sampling a beer that I’m trying to replicate.

Several hours later, our work was complete. The wort was in the primary fermenter and the yeast was ready to do their job. Kevin’s initial concerns were put to rest when the brew kettle was filled and the mash came to a boil.

My concerns lasted a little longer, but were eased a couple of days ago when I walked into Bearwaters and Kevin offered me a sample of Three Bears.

I’m not sure if the name was derived because three of us collaborated or because this beer is stronger than three bears. Either way, I hope you get a chance to taste this beer because it’s not too sweet, it’s not to bitter, this one came out just right!

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