OK, so after reading for years about the SA Longshot Contest, I really just started paying attention recently. I just found this years mixed six pack in the store yesterday, so I decided to give it a try. This is what you get:
Lemon Pepper Saison - 6.4% ABV - This was the entry from the SA employee brewer and reminds me of a slightly more spicy version of the Sams Summer Ale. Heavy on the Lemon Zest, and the Grains of Paradise spice that Sams is so fond of. I wasn't terribly impressed at first taste - and had a sort of pallette shock at first. But after a few sips, I could tell there was a bit of complexity to this brew. Even so - it gave me the impression that it was chosen because the brewer used ingredients familar to and appreciated by SA. OK - but not overly impressed.
Mile High Barley Wine - 9.8% ABV - I have to be honest, I am not the biggest fan of Barley wines, and generally find them overly sweet for my tastes. But this brew was a pleasant surprise. The alcohol was not hot at all, and it was a nicely balanced, malty brew. If Barley Wines were more like this one - I'd be a bigger fan for sure. Very enjoyable.
Old Ben Ale - 9% ABV - An English style Old Ale, this too was a very enjoyable potable. Remarkably similar though to the overall mouth feel and general malty character of the Barley wine. Sort of made me wonder about SA's selection criteria. Almost like they were in a certain "taste zone" and didn't care to venture from it. From a purely objective standpoint, the beer was quite good.
From the standpoint of a HB competition and choosing the best in a variety of styles - the mixed sixer sort of left me wondering. And also made me think that what I might consider a good entry for this comp wouldn't stand a chance. I think I'll keep what's left of my cherry porter to myself