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Homebrew contest winner will see his recipe made by Thompson Island

Follmer’s winning IPA has notes of peach, guava and grapefruit: 'This surprisingly full-bodied beer was balanced with fruit-forward hop notes.'
Homebrewing contest: from left, Sean Phipps, second-place winner; Jimmy Valm, brewmaster; Nathan Follmer, first-place winner; and Clayton Ruminski, third-place winner.

REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE  — Nathan Follmer  is quite excited to taste a specific IPA at Thompson Island Brewing Co. in Rehoboth this summer: It’ll be brewed from his recipe. 

The Ocean Pines, Maryland, resident was the recent winner in the brewing company’s first homebrew contest. His creation, a double dry-hopped session IPA, will be made on the Rehoboth Beach restaurant’s brewing system during the summer of 2021, and customers will be able to sample it.

“I was really pleased,” said Follmer of his win. There’s a lot of competition in the IPA category, he said. “It’s popular.”

The contest attracted 19 local homebrewers. Judges included Jimmy Valm, the brewmaster at Thompson Island and Jimmy Kroon, president of Delmarva United Homebrewers, which is in Sussex County, Delaware.

Sean Phipps of Frankford came in second, and Clayton Ruminski of Wilmington came in third.

Follmer’s winning IPA has notes of peach, guava and grapefruit. 

 “This surprisingly full-bodied beer was balanced with fruit-forward hop notes,” Valm said. “There is a lot of flavor in a small package.”

That was Follmer’s goal when he set out to create his India Pale Ale (IPA) He wanted it to have the flavor but not the alcohol of some of the commercially produced craft IPAs. 

Most main-stream beers run at an alcohol level of 4%. Craft beers often go as high as 8%, said Follmer. A session IPA generally runs between 3 and 5%. 

Follmer was inspired to create his IPA by his friends, who wanted a low-alcohol beer so they could hang out and drink a few of them. (Hence the term “session” beer.”)

Follmer, who has been homebrewing since 2007, previously medaled at the Good Beer Festival in Salisbury, Maryland, where one of his Saison beers earned a bronze medal in the Best in Show category.

He doesn’t have any other contest in his sights right now, but says he has a few more recipes he’d like to put up in a contest. Getting feedback from the judges helps him make a better product, he said. 

Phipps entered a h a New Zealand Pilsner, brewed with Wakatu hops. Ruminski offered a Coffee Porter, made with cold brewed coffee.

There are plenty of different brews and breweries, said Follmer, but he doesn’t see that as a problem.

Every town has a pizza restaurant or two, he pointed out. They each have their own crust and sauce styles, but manage to co-exist. He believes craft brewing can be the same. 

“I’m excited about that aspect of it,” said Follmer. “Within this area there’s a number of really good regional breweries.”

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