RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lili Hess, international sales manager of Hawaii and Pacific Rim for The Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams, samples her winning beer, LongShot Grape Pale Ale. The label has her image on it.
Hint of grape wins for home brew
There is much to be said for perseverance. Stick to it, hone your craft and you could end up with your face on a beer bottle.
Witness the recent celebrity of Lili Hess, who's been a home beer brewer for 15 years. For the last decade or so, she's been entering a nationwide contest for employees of her company, Samuel Adams.
"I always tried to win and always thought I had the greatest beer, but it never happened," says Hess.
Until the 2007 competition, when Hess' Grape Pale Ale bested more than 2,000 entries to be one of two winners in the American Homebrew Contest. Her beer and the Weizenbock Brew created by Rodney Kibzey of Illinois, who won the category for non-employees, are now available in a Samuel Adams LongShot variety six-pack nationwide.
Hess' previous efforts involved Hawaiian-style beers made with local fruits such as lilikoi and guava, but this time she combined her love of beer and wine to make a grape brew.
"My goal was to be very subtle with the grapes. I wanted it to be very, very in the background."
Still, when her beer made the Top 25, she found the judges to be suspicious. "They all thought it was going to taste like grape soda. They're all hard-core beer snobs -- they're not going to try a fruit beer."
Not by choice, anyway, but they had to try hers -- and everything else is history.
Hess' beer is available at Murphy's Bar and Grill and Big City Diner. Duke's at the Outrigger Waikiki pours it on Sundays, she says. For those who'd like to pour it themselves, the six-pack will be in Foodland stores by next month -- or ask that it be ordered at any liquor store from distributor Paradise Beverages.