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It's here: A winner is announced as our homebrewing journey draws to a close

The Smithwick’s Homebrew Challenge is over. But who emerged victorious?

AFTER MONTHS OF drawing up recipes, brewing and bottling away at home – not to mention all the judging and taking two finalists into St James’s Gate to brew – the time has finally come.

Yes, that’s right:  having started way back in September, the Smithwick’s Homebrew Challenge came to a close last Wednesday 9 December in the Open Gate Brewery at St James’s Gate in Dublin when a winner was chosen.

Lots has happened since the first call-out to homebrewers around the country. We took a look back at the history of brewing in Ireland, beer was brewed in TheJournal.ie offices (to varying degrees of success) and we met professional brewers and hobbyists from the National Homebrew Club alike.

We’ve been busy, to put it mildly…

Last but not least, of course – St James’s Gate, steeped in brewing history, played host to the two finalists.

The brewery was opened to Sebastian Kondol, from Poland, and the duo Stephen Ryan and Brian Mooney, from Celbridge, to work on their original Christmas ale recipes with professional brewers in the pilot brewery, centre for innovation at St James’s Gate.

We showed you what happened when Sebastian, Stephen and Brian came to the pilot brewery – the first time ever that amateur homebrewers have ever been invited in to do something like this, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the lads.

What’s happened since then?

Well, the two brews – Sebastian’s Apple Pie Ale and Stephen and Brian’s Old Town Christmas Ale – were put to the test by the public at 10 locations around the country.

And, after extensive sampling, the public have voted.

Who will emerge victorious?

Source: Smithwicks

Before we reveal who was announced as a winner of the Smithwick’s Homebrew Challenge last Wednesday, first we should give you a bit of background on our two finalists.

Stephen Ryan and Brian Mooney – Celbridge

Kieran Harnett Source: Kieran Harnett

Stephen and Brian have been brewing for only a couple of years, starting when Stephen’s wife bought him a homebrewing kit. Once Brian saw the kit he wanted to get on board, and so they’ve done a little experimenting together.

Their Old Town Christmas Ale has flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, orange, licorice and star anise throughout.

On their experiences brewing at St James’s Gate, Brian says, “It was a dream come true”.

Sebastian Kondol – Dublin via Poland

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Sebastian, who has been living in Dublin for ten years, is a member of the North County Brewers and has been brewing for a little more time than that – he’s up to over 100 batches at this stage.

His Apple Pie Ale, inspired by his mum’s apple pie, has apple, cinnamon and spiced ginger flavours.

He says he’s “always brewed a special brew for Christmas”. This year, of course, the brew will be extra special as he got to drink it in the pub with his friends.

So without further ado…

Now that we’ve got to know our finalists a little better, it’s time to announce the winner…

Drumroll please…

And the winners are… Stephen and Brian

Kieran Harnett Stephen and Brian with Rick O'Shea Source: Kieran Harnett

Brian and Stephen were clearly delighted to win with Brian telling us -

This is what we do as a hobby. It was actually the first homebrew competition we’ve ever entered, and only our second attempt at an all-grain beer, so knowing that other people like it too, it’s the best compliment you can get.

And so ends the Smithwick’s Homebrew Challenge. We’ve had a lot of fun over the past few months, and we hope we’ve inspired more Irish people to take up homebrewing – and encourage those that are already brewing to keep at it. To learn more about homebrewing and to pick up some tips visit www.nationalhomebrewclub.ie and check out some of the articles from the series below. Happy brewing.

Now read: Bucket to bottle – here’s how we got on brewing our own beer in TheJournal.ie’s office>

Next: 7 handy tips to get you started with homebrewing>

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