Think your homebrew beats anyone else’s in town?
In fact, if you’re a craftsman in general there are currently 105 competitions listed on the website. The categories include everything from candles to reptiles. So if homebrewing isn’t your thing, maybe you have a prize winning Gila Monster.
Back on track – no more details have been released about the homebrew contest but it’s likely that it will follow suit with most competitions and adopt the beer judge certification (BJCP) categories. That means you’ll need to enter your beer into one of their 23 categories like American ale, German wheat beer, etc.
If you’ve never entered a homebrew competition there are benefits besides the ego boost of winning. They make you focus on your brewing techniques, so you’re less likely to half-ass it and do silly things like drop your coffee into your boil kettle (done it). You also get a scoresheet with feedback back from the judges which can help you improve your beer on the next go ’round.
Here are some tips that will help you get that coveted blue ribbon:
- Brew to Style – The BJCP guidelines are rigid and if your beer falls outside of them, it will get a bad score, even if the beer is spectacular. I know you like to dry hop every beer you make but if it’s not appropriate for the style, don’t do it for your competition beer.
- Plan ahead – Start planning your beer right now. Choose what style(s) you’ll be making, decide on a recipe, and pick a brew day. If you’re making a beer that needs aging, like an Old Ale, then you should brew it asap. For beers that should be drunk right away, like a hefeweizen, make sure the beer is ready just in time for the competition.
- Get rid of off-flavors – Judges are trained to pick up on even the slightest off-flavor and they will take off points accordingly. Most off-flavors come from problems with the yeast and fermentation. Make sure you 1) Use a yeast starter with healthy yeast, 2) Properly aerate your beer, and 3) Ferment at the correct temperature. Sanitation is also a major cause of off-flavors. Remember – clean then sanitize. Also replace any old plastic equipment that’s scratched up and could be harboring bacteria.
- Give yourself the edge – If your beer is equal to someone else’s, it’s going to be the little things that make the difference. Water treatment comes into play here. Not many brewers treat their water, but if you brew the same Kolsch recipe as someone else but you have the correct water profile, you’re going to stomp them. Also make sure you use fresh ingredients, hit your mash temperatures, and minimize oxidation.
- Use a proven recipe – it’s tough to create a recipe from scratch and nail it the first time. Unless you get lucky, it will take a few tries to dial it in. Use a recipe that you’ve made before and improve upon it. There’s also no shame in using someone else’s recipe. Brewing is more about the process, anyways.
I’ll be entering the competition myself, so hopefully my followup post this summer will be especially fun to write ; )
Do you plan on entering the Denver County Fair homebrew competition? What are you going to brew?