As you continue to advance your brewing techniques, you might start to think to yourself "Dang… I sure do brew a pretty tasty beer."
We've all been there; that one batch that just makes you realize you are actually getting pretty good at this whole brewing thing. So, the next logical step is to enter your beer into a homebrewing competition to see how it compares to other beers (and to see if other people agree that you make the best beers on the planet.) Here is a guide on what you need to do to prepare for your first homebrew competition.
Timing is Everything
Let's keep this short and sweet: you need to plan ahead to ensure your beer will be properly brewed, carbonated and conditioned to be at optimal flavor profile for the competition. If you see a competition 3 weeks away, you may want to keep looking for another competition a few months later. Depending on the type of beer you are brewing (light vs. dark) you will need to give yourself a good cushion for proper conditioning because those dark beers can take months to reach their best flavor profile.
Check the Rules and Regulations
Most homebrew competitions have a set of rules and regulations that you will need to follow to qualify. From the styles of beer that can be entered, to how the beer needs to be delivered for judging, each competition will have their own rules. You want to read these BEFORE you begin brewing as to not disqualify yourself before you even began.
Make sure you check what styles you are allowed to submit for judging. Most competitions will follow the AHA style guidelines
, so if the competition doesn't list anything, this will be the best document to follow.
Brewing Your Beer
Now for the most important part: brewing the world's tastiest beer. It doesn't matter if you are an extract brewer, a partial-mash brewer, or an all-grain brewer. However, you need to ensure that the method you are using and the style of beer you are brewing are compatible with the style guidelines.
Besides that, the best way you can brew a good beer is to be as cautious as possible. Sanitize like there is no tomorrow, make sure you take readings of your gravity to make sure you are sticking to style, and be diligent that your brewing temperatures are consistent. That style guideline will be your most important asset. You need to make sure that you are getting the correct gravities, color, hops, ingredients etc. Once you have those basics of style down, you can add your own twist to the beer that you think will blow the judges away.
When you are filling out entry paperwork, keep a close eye on how many bottles they want you to send with your submission. Some require several bottles, and if you don't comply, you will be disqualified. If the competition isn't local and you need to ship your beers to be judged, make sure your packaging is strong enough to protect your bottles. Extra bubble wrap and packaging peanuts never hurt anybody, but a broken bottle could lose you your prize. You also want to label your package as "perishable food items" and "fragile" so the shipping company knows how to handle them. Last but not least, don't use the Post Office! No, not because they are terrible, it is because they prohibit the shipping of alcoholic beverages. You will need to send with UPS or FedEx.
The bottom line: if you think you have a good beer, whether you are a beginning, intermediate, or advanced brewer, you have nothing to lose when submitting it to a homebrewing competition. Instead, you have the opportunity to learn how your beer stands up to others of its kind, and keep growing as a brewer.
What's a Good Recipe to Brew?
When it comes to brewing for a competition, brew something you love to brew and drink. This is key. If you aren't passionate about the beer, it will show in your final product.
If you are looking for an advanced recipe from Mr. Beer to brew for a competition, we have a couple recommendations.
Our Howling Red Ale
is one of our most popular recipes, and for good reason. An amber red ale with a deceivingly mild flavor, this beer will creep up on you if you don't pay attention. A very drinkable beer, it is reminiscent of the finest of English ales, and is always a crowd pleaser.
Another popular beer is our That Voodo That You Do
. This brew is a little hazy and malty, yet balanced, but with a twist of spice from the wheat. Just the right notes all the way through, this is truly an award winning beer.