Competitions

OK guys & gals, here's the general progression...

1. Drink beer

2. Love beer

3. Get curious about brewing beer

4. Brew beer

5. Realize that home brewers can brew beer as good or better than mass-producers

6. Dial it in, get it under control and brew some really good beer

7. Enter competitions
  7a. Win medals

So, where are YOU in this progression.  If you are at stage 4 or 5, it's time to dial it up a notch!  Get your stuff really refined, documented, and reproducible, and step out there and let the world taste your malty, hoppy goodness.  Get out there and submit your beers to some competitions!

Here is a the best place to find a list of competitions in your area:
American Homebrewers Association - Competition Calendar
This list does not include every competition though.  Be sure to check with breweries and clubs in your area, and state and county fairs as well.  Many of those host competitions that never make it onto the AHA website.

Here are some things you will need to know to enter a competition:
    About the Competition:
        - What is the registration deadline (usually and online thing)
        - What is the submission deadline & location (where and when do you have to deliver your beer by)
        - What is the submission fee (usually per beer you enter, often $5-$7 per beer)
        - What are the bottle requirements (using unmarked, non-embossed brown 12 oz bottles is the safest)

    About your Beer:
        - You will need to have your recipe handy. The submission forms ask for a lot of that info.
        - You will need to have your brew log handy for dates, temperatures, FG, ABV, etc.
        - What 2015 BJCP style are you going to enter it in? Some beers fall into multiple styles. 
            For instance, our Imperial Vanilla Porter, due to vanilla bean additions, does not qualify 
            to be submitted in the traditional Porter categories, but does qualify for either 
            "30A - Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer" or "27 - Historical Beer - Pre-Prohibition Porter".

That last point... the BJCP style categories, can be read about in this document (click here). It's a lot of information!  If you are a little lost in it all, ask club members for some guidance.  The website Brewers Friend also has the ability to let you know which styles a recipe meets once you enter the recipe (on the line with the OG, FG, and ABV, click the "More" button and scroll to the bottom of the expanded section that appears).

OK, so once you are well armed with all the information above, it's time to enter the competition.  Here are the basic steps:
1. Register for the competition (often online), 
2. Register the beers you will be submitting (often online), 
3. Pay the entrance fee for the beers (yup, often online), 
4. Print out the registration forms. This will include all or most of:
    - Brewer registration
    - Beer entry form(s)
    - Bottle labels
    - Payment verification (not always, but good to provide if you can)
5. Fill out any blanks on the Brewer registration form.
6. Fill out ALL the blanks on the Beer entry forms (this is the recipe, measurement and date stuff)
7. Bottle the beer needed. Usually two 12 ounce bottles with no marks and no embossing (like a 
    brewery name in the glass). Here's a hint to keep those bottles straight... you can still use a Sharpie
    mark them with a letter or number on the cap to keep track of them until you attach the bottle
    label forms. You can then remove those markings with a dry erase marker and a paper towel.
    Bottling a couple extra is a great idea so that you can taste exactly what the judges tasted as you
    are reading your judging results later.
8. Attach the bottle label forms to the bottles with rubber bands.
9. Package up your bottles with labels, brewer registration form, beer entry forms, and payment 
    verification.
10. Drop off all of that to the nice people hosting the competition or a designated competition
      drop-off location. In our area, our local homebrew shop is a designated location for most 
      competitions.
11. Put the date/time/location of the judging or awards announcement event on your calendar, 
      and GO... and wear your club t-shirt when you do! These are great events, often at breweries or 
      event parties, and are a great place to meet new people and chat about who brewed what.
12. Receiving the results is sometimes done at the award event, but more often they are mailed 
      to you or scanned and emailed. Regardless of whether you won or not, sit down in a quiet place
      and read through the results, tasting your saved bottles of the same beer if possible.  Remember,
      judges are only human... they make mistakes sometimes, and their tastes are bound to differ
      from yours in some way. Take what they have written as suggestions and creative criticism, but
      don't get your feelings hurt, and don't go making any sweeping adjustments to your recipes
      based on their feedback.  There are two things that we at Mad Cat have learned to stick to
      after reading judging notes:
        - What is most important is that WE like our beer. Whether a guy that had already tasted 20
           IPAs that morning likes it does not matter.  Brew for yourself!!!
        - If you do decide to make adjustments, do it slowly... one change at a time if possible.  Too
          may changes at once makes it near impossible to know exactly what change had which 
          affect on your beer.

Now you know what to expect.  Step out of your safe zone... that zone where all your friends and family tell you that your beer is incredible and why don't you open a brewery.  Get out into the wider world of brewing and see what that world thinks of your beer.  If they love it, you get shiny medals to hang on the wall.  If they don't, either make minor adjustments that you think will improve your beer... or, if you are perfectly happy with your beer the way it is, screw 'em.

Competing is fun and exciting, especially if you have the time to be present at the announcing of the winner, and always rewarding.  You won't always win, but you will always get the written judging notes from the BJCP certified judges, and that alone is well worth the entrance fee.

Good luck!!!