While the world begins to open up slowly once, homebrew competitions are now once again in session. The American Homebrew Competition posted an updated list of AHA/BJCP Sanctioned Competitions on their website ranging from United States, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Canada, China, and more.
Whether you’re new to homebrewing or need a refresher, I thought I’d share my tips on entering competitions:
Join a Homebrew Club
Although you don’t need to be part of a homebrew club to enter a competition, it’s helpful to connect with other homebrewers. Many clubs have Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) judges who can give you valuable feedback prior to entering your beer in a competition. Homebrew clubs may also offer tools for you to use or borrow and workshops such as becoming BJCP certified.
Train As a Judge
You don’t need to be a trained judge to critique beer. You just need to understand what to look for and practice. The BJCP website offers a scoresheet online that you can download and use (download here). This is a great tool to use on your entry, as well as practice on other commercial beers. The more experience you have with using scoresheets, the better understanding you will have on picking up on aroma, appearance, mouthfeel, as well as flaws that may arise.
Use clean, sanitized bottles and fill carefully to avoid explosions. It’s a good idea to keep a bucket of sanitizer handy for your bottles and caps and use a Blichmann Beer Gun to fill them. Also make sure to read each competition’s rules for the correct size of the bottle and check to see if cans are acceptable as entries.
Study Style Guidelines
When entering your homebrew, label the bottle according to the competition’s style guidelines as not all of them follow the same one (example of BJCP Style Guidelines). Judges will take off points if your entry does not fit the criteria for the category you enter. When in doubt, have a BJCP judge or homebrew buddy sample the entry before sending it out.
Be sure to package your homebrew thoroughly so they arrive safely. Bubble wrap, baggies, and newspapers are your friend when sending them out.
Be creative and don’t be afraid! While it’s great to have your entry win a medal in competitions, it’s really about the feedback and having fun in the process.