Blackened Hops: LONGSHOT Winner Rodney Kibzey

Blackened Hops: LONGSHOT Winner Rodney Kibzey

A couple of years ago I was walking through a liquor store looking for something new to try. I saw something from Samuel Adams that grabbed my attention. It was a homebrewing contest called LONGSHOT featuring beers from homebrewers all over the country. I didn’t realize how good these beers would be. My favorite was the Blackened Hops from Rodney Kibzey. I reached out to him for an interview… and it pretty much fell off the plate. Not sure why… but when we were moving, I found a bottle that I had saved. I won’t drink it, but save it as a memory of this interview. I reached out to him again on Facebook, and he was still interested. I must admit that I am stoked to be sitting down with a guy who makes his own beer. Not only does he make his own beer, but he is an award winning brewer. If you ever see this beer on the shelf, buy it. It’s pretty great. It is my pleasure to raise a glass and introduce you to Rodney Kibzey. Bottoms up!

I first saw your face on the side of a bottle. Tell me a little bit more about the Samuel Adams LONGSHOT homebrewing contest.

It’s a national homebrew competition that Samuel Adams puts on every year. They pick two public winners and one employee winner and brew their beers to be placed in a six pack and sold across the country. They also put the winners faces on the bottles.

Wait a second… you have won that twice? No way!

Yes, way!!! Didn’t want to be considered a one hit wonder. No offense to the other winners.

How long had you been homebrewing before that competition?

I first brewed in 2003, and won in 2007 with the beer coming out in 2008. This year will mark my 10th year of brewing.

Out of all the beers you have made, is that your favorite? Is that your best beer to date?

It has the biggest “wow” factor when people try it. Now for favorites, it’s usually depends on which homebrew is in my glass. They are all unique and different in their own way, that way they are all my favorites.

I want a signed bottle of that beer. Do you ever go around to liquor stores signing bottles?

I’ve had quite a few bottle signings at local beers stores when they released both my beers.

Where did the name Blackened Hops come from?

I like Creole style food… stuff like blackened chicken and shrimp. Thought the word blackened best described this beer, dark and rich in flavor, and the hops… they just speak for themselves.

What is your favorite style?

If we are talking about craft beers, ALL OF THEM!!!

I use Untappd to track my beers. Do you keep track of the different beers you drink?

No, not really. I usually remember the labels, and if I liked them or not.

My girlfriend and I are beer bloggers. We have a list of 1001 different bottles of beer from all around the world. We are drinking them one at a time. Your beer isn’t on that list, but it should be!

Yes, please add it to your list. I just wish it was fresher, since it’s over a year old now.

Sam Adams makes a few good beers… they are very consistent. What is your favorite Sam Adams beer?

Of their staple beers, it would be Black Lager, Irish Red and Utopias. They are coming out with a variety of new beers, which keeps their selection fresh.

You went to Ferris State University. What did you study?

I studied computer information systems, and work as a database developer.

Have you ever been to the Great American Beer Festival?

Yes, I have been to the Great American Beer Festival three times. Each time has gotten better. It’s amazing to see how large it has grown over the years. I love it!

We went to our first beer festival last year. Everyone was wearing pretzel necklaces. What’s the deal with the pretzels?

I don’t know, not much of a pretzel eater. I prefer pizza, but a little hard to put on a string around your neck.

There are a lot of guys out there brewing beer at home. Is that a friendly community or is there a certain level of competition amongst you all?

There are a variety of different people that like to compete. It’s a constructive competitiveness. I’ve also made some great friends at the same time.

I have made two batches of beer. They both turned out OK. My buddy Jake is REALLY into it. What advice would you have for someone just getting into homebrewing?

Find a local homebrew club. You can learn so much from the club. I’m in two, the Chicago Beer Society and the Urban Knaves of Grain. Also, don’t get upset if your first couple batches don’t turn out the way you would expect them. Learn from your mistakes and try, try again. Keep it clean and simple.

Do you save beer caps?

Yes, I save them. I want to make a beer mural out of them, just haven’t found time to do it yet. Too busy brewing and biking, story of my life…

When you bottle, do you use 12 oz. bottles of bombers?

I keg all my beers, but I do fill off of kegs for competitions, 12 oz. bottles.

IPA is my favorite style. An imperial IPA is even better. What is the hoppiest beer you have ever had?

Dogfish Head 120 minute, Russian River Pliny the Elder, Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, but what’s really important to me is a good balance of hops and malt.

Do you drink anything else?

I like a variety of different styles and breweries. Sierra Nevada is one of my top favorites along with all their seasonals. Very consistent in their brands.

I like hitting up new breweries when we travel. What are some popular breweries around you?

There are some older ones, such as Goose Island and Piece, along with some great new ones too, such as Haymarket, Pipeworks, and Solemn Oath.

Do you have a favorite glass at home?

My girlfriend says I have way too much glassware, but I tend to drink out of 8 oz. Nonic glasses, so I can sample many different kinds. It gets tough when you have 15 beers, cider, and mead on tap to choose from.

We recently started cellaring beers. Do you cellar anything?

I do have some cellar stuff, the first five years (2005-2009) of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and Matilda, last six years of North Coast Old Stock, and the last eight years (2005-2012) of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. Plus, some other miscellaneous stuff.

So not only is your face on the side of a bottle, it’s also on a tap. What else has your face been on?

Signs, banners, and other LONGSHOT marketing material. Just as long as it’s not on a milk carton or the post office wall.

On the neck of the bottle, there is a short description of the beer. Did you write that, or did someone at Sam Adams come up with that?

I originally wrote some, and they jazzed it up a little. My key points are still there.

I prefer most beers closer to room temperature. Should I drink the Blackened Hops cold or let it warm up a little bit?

From 55F to cellar temperature is good. Like most craft ales, more flavors come out of the beer when it’s in that temperature range. I really enjoy cask ales… they have so much flavor.

Have you ever messed up when trying to brew a batch of beer?

Messed up, what’s that?  When you have a vision of a beer during the creation of a recipe, and the execution doesn’t turn out to what you expected, then, yes. Of course, you can make adjustments and brew it again. That’s the benefit of homebrewing.

Do you create your own recipes or do you model your brews off other beers?

I write my own recipes, based on styles and specific ingredients that I like. Brewing beers that I enjoy is key to me, because in the end, I’ll have to drink most of it.

Is your beer available on draft anywhere?

They bottled all of the beer.

I asked you about your favorite beer… but what is your least favorite beer?

That’s easy, any macro domestic lager. (Laughs.)

You have won the LONGSHOT twice… what’s next?

Three-peat… OK, only time will tell on that one. Having fun refining my hobby and looking for the right avenue to from which to prosper.

The next time you are in Arizona, let me know. I would love to buy you a beer. Thank you so much for doing this, Rodney. It means a lot. It has been a long time coming! In all of the interviews I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.

I brew what I like and it feels even better when others like it too. I’m glad Samuel Adams allowed me to share my ideas and brews with the rest of the country. Thanks, and cheers!