By the time we opened Boxing Rock, we had been brewing beer at home for several years. I will admit, most of my home brewing was an experiment to determine whether I liked brewing beer enough to invest my life savings and my soul in a brewery. During that period I brewed beer most weeks at home (and so did Henry). Many residents of Shelburne will remember fondly the days in 2012 when Henry and I would offer home tasting parties to anyone that would have us, in part so we could get rid of some of the beer we had brewed at home without drinking it all ourselves. We would also regale people at these parties with tales of the brewery we were going to build one day, and we gathered some pretty useful intelligence about what people liked and didn’t like when it came to craft beer.
By 2016 home brewing was a distant memory. But it was a fond memory and it occurred to Henry and me that we should do something with the home brewing community. At the time there were several home brewing competitions in Nova Scotia and a really enthusiastic group of home brewers that we loved to geek out about beer with. So we decided to have our own home brew competition.
But of course, ours would not be just any home brew competition.
The prize was easy - we would make a full batch of the winning beer at Boxing Rock in collaboration with the winner. Proceeds from the competition were donated to the Shelburne Food Bank.
The format - well that’s where things got interesting. When I lived in the UK I was a huge fan of a program called “Ready, Steady, Cook”. The premise of the show was that chefs would get a random box of ingredients and have 30 minutes to dream up and cook a meal using ONLY what was in the box. Three celebrity chefs would compete and a panel of judges would pick the best meal. I figured we could recreate that with a home brew competition and so we invented The Boxing Rock Black Box Challenge.
For your entry fee you would receive a box full of ingredients - all the things you would need to make a batch of beer, without the recipe. Entrants were challenged to use ONLY what was in the box, plus water, to make a beer. You didn’t have to use everything but you couldn’t use anything that wasn’t in the box. Everyone got the same box. Every beer was different. It was a lot of fun.
It was incredibly difficult to choose a winner, so we decided to make it even MORE interesting and invite finalists to make a presentation to us at Stillwell where their beer was available to taste by a panel of judges and they were also scored on their presentation. It was properly geeky.
There were some really great beers made over the years we ran the competition and I’m really proud to say that Sean from Lunn’s Mill and Jana from Truro Brewing Company were both Black Box Challenge winners before they were professionals. Hop Springs Eternal or Hello Darkness anyone?