COEUR d'ALENE - Steve Anderson's face may soon appear on Samuel Adams beer bottles across the nation, bottles containing his very own "70% Wheat" home-brewed creation.
Anderson, of Coeur d'Alene, found out the evening of July 4 that he is one of the top nine contenders in the Samuel Adams 2014 Longshot American Homebrew Contest, which challenges homebrewers to send samples of their best beer to Boston and put their brewing skills to the taste test.
"It's like the appeal for any hobby that you do when you're making things," he said. "It's just knowing that you can do at home what they're doing on a factory level."
Anderson's 70% Wheat traditional German-style beer, created through the all-grain homebrew process, has beat thousands of entries and may win him an all-expense-paid trip to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver this October if he places in the top three.
If he wins first place, he will be awarded the trip and a $5,000 prize, and Sam Adams will buy his recipe, bottle his beer, place his name and picture on the bottle and he will have ultimate bragging rights.
"I thought it would be a good way to have my beer judged by actual judges," Anderson said. "It's not so much that they just tell you it's good beer, bad beer, it's that they rate it, they tell you what's wrong with it, they tell you what's right with it, and for the most part they'll tell you how to fix it."
Anderson has been entering the contest for about seven years to receive the professional feedback from judges who evaluate entries according to the standards of the Beer Judge Certification Program. He said he looks forward to the critiques so he can continue to improve his brew.
"I'm really wondering how well it did," he said. "I'm happy it's in the top nine; I've never gotten that far in this contest before. I won one where it was best of style, but this is beyond that."
Anderson has been experimenting with home-brewed beers since the mid-1980s, but didn't become too involved with it until about nine years ago. He had equipment sitting idle and unused, but talking to longtime friend Larry Lepinski about homebrewing sparked a newfound interest.
"We inspired each other to pull the equipment out, clean it up, see what we had, and (brewed) the first one," he said. "And it turned out well. It wasn't great beer, but it was drinkable, and we haven't quit since."
Anderson is an employee of Make Wine, Make Beer, which is owned by Aaron and Diane Knight of Blanchard. Diane said it was a "no-brainer" to hire Anderson because of his home-brewing knowledge and experience, and that he's also a pretty great guy.
"He's so excited about this, he's so hyped," she said. "He wants to win. He's so careful and so strategic and everything has to be boiled and cleaned."
Diane said they are excited and proud of Anderson, but she admitted she doesn't really drink beer. However, she has tried the "70% Wheat."
"I did try that, because that's the only one that I liked," she said. "And yes, it was really good. It was probably one of the better wheat beers that I've ever had, and I am not a beer-drinker."
Anderson is an active member of the local beer appreciation club, Idahops, and he said he and Lepinski regularly enter the home-brewed beer competition at the North Idaho Fair and Rodeo. He said he and Lepinski usually enter about two styles each and generally do well.
"I get disappointed if I don't get Grand Champion," he said with a laugh. "But that's kind of like the big fish in the little pond."
Anderson has created more than 100 different flavors of homebrew in about 10 years and annually attends the Oktoberfest in Harrison with brews for the public to sample.
For now, he is waiting to hear back from the Sam Adams public relations personnel to hear if there is good news for his brews.
"I'm nervous to find out how it goes," he said. "I'm always excited to see what my results are."