Published May 10. 2013 4:00AM
Looking carefully at the 12 taps behind the bar at 2 Brothers Restaurant & Pub in Salem, or the array of bottled beer, the Thirsty Person notices something interesting.
There are zero Budweiser or Coors or Miller products.
All of the 2 Brothers beer offerings are esteemed craft products - a super-buffet of hops-and-barley greatness.
It's no surprise, then, that Zack Adams and Pat Lloyd enjoy hanging out here. Close friends, brothers-in-law and dedicated homebrewers, they combine their own recipes, vision and techniques in the beer laboratory also known as the basement of Lloyd's house in Salem.
On a fine spring evening in the 2 Brothers bar, Lloyd and Adams sip beer and talk about the alchemy of the brewing process - at which they're pretty excellent.
In fact, their Magnificent Seven IPA was one of three national winners in the 2012 Samuel Adams Longshot American Homebrew Contest. As finalists from more than 1,000 entries, Lloyd and Adams were flown to the Great American Brewfest in Denver last October, where Magnificent Seven - a reference to the ingredients - was crowned along with a strawberry lager from Ohio and a wheat beer from California.
As a result, their Magnificent Seven recipe was brewed by Sam Adams and distributed nationally, along with those of the other finalists, in the company's Longshot Mix 12 Pack.
Tonight, at the Brewfest at the Beach in New London, Lloyd and Adams are scheduled to be on hand to present and discuss their beer.
Adams, 26, whose day job is online marketing for a floral company and who is decidedly not related to brewer/patriot Samuel Adams, says, "Any homebrewer who makes that first batch that actually sort of works thinks, 'This is great! I can do this for a living!' Of course, it's much harder than that and you quickly realize it. Your goals become more realistic: how do I go forward?"
The pair met when Adams started dating and then married Laura Frausini. Her sister Amy was married to Lloyd, 31, a teacher at Stonington High School. Both men liked sports, the sisters have always been close, and friendship evolved.
Oh, and Lloyd and Adams immediately bonded over beer.
"You know how it goes," Lloyd explains. "You start off with a cheesy fake ID, drinking cheap college beer. A lot of people stay with those, but for some of us, the universe of beer explodes on you - and it's an ever-changing path you travel."
The two got homebrew kits at about the same time - one was purchased under the guise of providing beer for the Adams/Frausini nuptials - and experimented separately before deciding they should join forces.
In conversation, Lloyd and Adams range from hilarious anecdotes to fervent lab geekery.
At one point, describing some of the arcane minutiae involved in the brewing process, Adams takes a reporter's pen and helpfully writes down some chemistry-speak involving hot water and malted barley and varying temperatures that convert starches into sugars.
"It's trial and error," Lloyd says. "If someone had told me to pay more attention in my college chemistry and biology classes - that you could actually get a degree in brewing - well ..." He takes a sip and shakes his head as though in comprehension of riches lost.
No worries, though. As experimenters and fans of various beers, Lloyd and Adams brewed their collective way through a many different styles, from a Vienna lager to a Belgian saison - burning more than one batch on a kitchen stove top before setting up more sophisticated gear in Lloyd's basement.
"A disclaimer," Adams says. "Yes, you buy this equipment and tell your wives that you'll save money on beer. You are NOT saving money. We wasted money for four years before we go to the point where we could make 30 gallons of drinkable beer. And we should also point out how incredibly patient and supportive our wives have been with this."
The brewing process takes about five hours, followed by five to 10 days of fermentation and another 10 days of dry hopping before they can bottle.
After Magnificent Seven worked its way through the Samuel Adams contest's regional selection process, Adams and Lloyd were jazzed to make the finals trip to Denver. They met a variety of craft brew wizards - folks they regard as heroes - and were dazzled to be treated as contemporaries. Too, both say that Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch and the whole company are gracious beyond measure.
Sam Adams made 500 barrels of Magnificent Seven - roughly 165,000 bottles that were distributed - and once they're gone, they're gone.
As per contest rules, only one of the two men could be featured in the bottle illustration.
"Zack is more the chemist and I'm more the consumer advocate," Lloyd says. "I was more than happy that his face is on the bottle."
Lloyd and Adams are considering the possibilities, down the road, of opening a commercial brewery.
"Because of the Longshot contest, we've been able to meet some people who might be interested in what we're doing. We're exploring our options - and we're going to keep making beer."
"Think about it," Lloyd adds. "If you could take care of your family and make beer for a living ... that's a good thing."