CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Homebrewers across the great state of South Carolina, your 2014 Iron Brew secret ingredient has been announced. Hope you know where to find...Unicorn Tears?
Holy City Brewery Co-owner and brewer Chris Brown kicked off Wednesday's 3rd Annual Iron Brew Secret Ingredient Reveal party with a little joke, before ripping off a black sheet that was cloaking the sweet, decadent must-use ingredient that many of us are all too familiar with.
This year's competition will require these beer brewing mad scientists to experiment with chocolate.
Eager homebrewers packed around the bar of Mellow Mushroom Avondale clapped and cheered during the tasty reveal, which included a table full of assorted chocolates, all available for consumption.
"I liked the idea of chocolate because it is universal in brewing," said Brown when asked about the decision to go with the sweet tooth ingredient. "You can get chocolate flavor from actual brewing ingredients, from malts so that you don't have to actually use chocolate. There are a lot of ways to get that flavor in there."
Iron Brew is the brainchild of the folks from Holy City Brewing and Mellow Mushroom Avondale. Flash back to 2012, the two sides were looking for a collaboration when they came to the realization that Charleston was lacking a homebrew competition.
"We wanted to do something different," said Brown. "We thought it would be cool to do a certain ingredient that everyone would have to use, kind of based around an Iron Chef type of thing for brewers."
Teams of up to four people each must submit one beer - brewed and bottled themselves - that features the secret ingredient. In 2012 the mandatory ingredient was honey, while 2013's Iron Brew ingredients were lavender, rosemary, coriander seeds, and basil.
"Last year's was kinda all over the place with four different herbs. I mean, we had beers that were just all over the spectrum, which is great, but it was kind of a difficult ingredient," said the brewmaster. "People had all sorts of questions."
The mix of ingredients didn't faze Joe Niedzwecki, whose Imperial Stormtrooper White IPA made with basil, lavender and coriander shot down the competition to take last year's crown.
Niedzwecki is back this year, already thinking outside the box in order to defend his title.
"First thing that comes to mind is a porter or stout, but that seems too obvious," said the Iron Brew champ moments after the big reveal. "Hopefully I can work something else with the chocolate that is not really typical."
Brown echoes those sentiments.
"I'm a little afraid it might pigeon hole people a little bit and everyone might do a chocolate stout or something like that, but I'm stressing for people to get creative," said Brown.
This is the first year Iron Brew is opening the competition up to the entire state, and with registration numbers more than doubling last year's 50, the amateur brewers will have to do something big to stand out.
The winning team will have their beer brewed in limited production by Holy City Brewing, and sold at Mellow Mushroom's throughout South Carolina.
The Iron Brew champ will be named on October 18 during a huge tasting party at the North Charleston brewery. All participants will be on hand offering up their contest submission, as well as other homebrewed beers.
Brown says he hopes for production of the winning brew to begin in October.