Atlas Brew Works is embracing the idea that imitation is greatest form of flattery by encouraging homebrewers to replicate its signature rye beer, Rowdy. The brewery will host a "Rowdy-ish" competition at its Ivy City facility on April 10, and the winner will get a chance to assist in brewing a batch of Rowdy.
Atlas founders Justin Cox and Will Durgin came up with the idea after a homebrewer posted on the DC Homebrewers Facebook group asking for a scaled down version of the Rowdy recipe. The brewery finally posted the recipe a couple weeks ago, although it's not an exact replica of the original. Durgin says he changed a couple minor details—a slightly different yeast strain and hops—so they wouldn't be giving away any trade secrets. "Recipes are an asset that we have as a business and we need to protect them to some extent otherwise we lose a significant amount of our claim to them," Durgin says. At the same time, he says the changes should not make a significant difference in the beer.
Even though Atlas has put the recipe out there, that doesn't mean every homebrewer who enters the competition will come back with the same beer. "Every brewing system is different," Durgin says. "Even if I were to take Rowdy and brew it down at DC Brau, I'd probably have to make some changes to accommodate their different equipment." Adjusting to a homebrewing system is even more dramatic.
A panel of industry types, headed by Durgin, will determine the winner based on flavor, taste, and aroma. Durgin ultimately doesn't care if people use the recipe he posted or not. As he posted on Facebook, "We're not looking for exact clones as much as capturing the spirit of Rowdy."
Photo by Jessica Sidman