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Old 04-20-2010, 02:07 PM   #1
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Default Competition Strategy

Many of us have NHC regional results coming in and are digesting feedback while planning our trip to "next year country." Lots of brewers don't care what other people think of their beer, some brew what they like and send their best off to competitions, and some plan almost all their brews with an eye to sending it off for judging.

For those in the latter group, what sort of approach do you take? Do you target specific categories/subcategories you perceive to be "weak" in terms of competition? Do you focus on a handful of recipes and make them repeatedly in pursuit of perfection? How far out do you plan your brewing schedule to have your lineup optimized for entry deadlines?

Thought it would be useful to have a thread to help us less experienced brewers plan effectively for future competitions.



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Old 04-20-2010, 02:43 PM   #2
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We have an extreme case in HoV, his goal is to win a first place in every category. He's about half way there and has the remainder plotted out for the next year. He started with styles he had brewed before and is proceeding into new styles. It's a sound strategy, because it proves you can brew to style.

The other extreme seems to be brewing 'whatever' and trying to jamb it into a style. Having judged the results of both approaches, it's clear which produces winners.



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Old 04-20-2010, 03:10 PM   #3
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I'm close to the last group and also qualify as a 'less experienced brewer'. I usually brew to a style but not with the sole intent to send it off to comps. I do it more for the challenge of hitting the specified target...and be good. However, when I brew what I think is a good beer and its to style I'll enter it. If I have a beer that is to style but has an off-flavor that I can't define or name, then sometimes I'll send that in too. Hopefully they'll tell me what that off-flavor is and a really good judge might suggest some potential causes. Now that I finally joined the local HBC I doubt I'll do this anymore.

I don't plan/schedule for comps but I've never entered any hoppy beers. I was recently thinking that I should plan hoppy beers for comps so they're at their peak.

If I have a beer that I think misses its intended style and still doesn't fit any other style then I don't enter it (obv not including specialty beers). Most of my 'non-style' beers do not fit a style and never get entered, no matter how good I think they are.

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Old 04-20-2010, 03:17 PM   #4
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The problem I have is that I would LIKE to enter my beers into a competition, because I think that my beer usually turns out very good. ON TAP. I gave up bottling shortly after discovering the magic of kegging. I always think "if they could only judge my tap beer I would have a fighting chance on winning!". However as we all know, you have to submit bottled beer for judging and I cannot for the life of me equal the quality of my kegged beer.

I would love to know how to get the same quality and maybe I would enter a bunch more comps!

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Old 04-20-2010, 03:22 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BadgerBrewer View Post
The problem I have is that I would LIKE to enter my beers into a competition, because I think that my beer usually turns out very good. ON TAP. I gave up bottling shortly after discovering the magic of kegging. I always think "if they could only judge my tap beer I would have a fighting chance on winning!". However as we all know, you have to submit bottled beer for judging and I cannot for the life of me equal the quality of my kegged beer.

I would love to know how to get the same quality and maybe I would enter a bunch more comps!
Can't you just bottle some beer from your tap?
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Old 04-20-2010, 03:25 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BadgerBrewer View Post
The problem I have is that I would LIKE to enter my beers into a competition, because I think that my beer usually turns out very good. ON TAP. I gave up bottling shortly after discovering the magic of kegging. I always think "if they could only judge my tap beer I would have a fighting chance on winning!". However as we all know, you have to submit bottled beer for judging and I cannot for the life of me equal the quality of my kegged beer.

I would love to know how to get the same quality and maybe I would enter a bunch more comps!
Just BMBF it. That's how all of mine are done.
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Old 04-20-2010, 03:27 PM   #7
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I have tried, but just don't seem to get perfect results. The bottled beer is good, just not great. Maybe I am just too critical? What I do is to fill a 6-12 pack straight from the keg prior to force carbonating. I use Brewcraft carb drops in each bottle to ensure a standardized and repeatable carbonation level. I then let it bottle condition for 3 weeks and then chill. Any other suggestions?

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Old 04-20-2010, 03:30 PM   #8
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http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f35/we-no-need-no-stinking-beer-gun-24678/

I like BM's suggestion. And his Blonde Ale.
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Old 04-20-2010, 03:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BadgerBrewer View Post
The problem I have is that I would LIKE to enter my beers into a competition, because I think that my beer usually turns out very good. ON TAP. I gave up bottling shortly after discovering the magic of kegging. I always think "if they could only judge my tap beer I would have a fighting chance on winning!". However as we all know, you have to submit bottled beer for judging and I cannot for the life of me equal the quality of my kegged beer.

I would love to know how to get the same quality and maybe I would enter a bunch more comps!
You most certainly can get the same quality whether kegged or bottled. I just won a 2nd place in the NHC first round with a North German Pilsner. I had kegged it and for the competition the entries I sent were bottled directly from the tap without using a beer gun or even a bottling wand. My technique is to chill the beer to about 5 degrees below serving temperature. I intentionally overcarb the beer by about 3 psi for several days before bottling. I sanitize the bottles, cover the mouths with foil and put them in the freezer for at least several hours and often overnight. I take the bottles out of the freezer one at a time when bottling. I reduce the keg pressure to an absolute minimum when filling the bottles. Just enough pressure to get a very slow flow. I tip the bottles up to the tap and let the beer run down the inside of the bottle. I fill to about 1 inch from the top and cap on the foam. It's a good idea to test this out with a few bottles in advance of bottling the entries. Bottle some up and wait a day or two to test them for proper carbonation. Make adjustments as needed. This can be a rather time consuming approach, but it works for me. I've done it enough times that I have it dialed in pretty well now.

My competition strategy is basically I don't really have one. I brew beers and enter the ones I think are particularly good. Which competitions I enter depends mostly on the timing, entry deadlines etc. I don't do the shotgun approach. It's not really a competitive thing for me as much as it is getting good feedback from some knowledgeable people and seeing just how well my beer stacks up against the others. Like I said, I only enter the ones that I already think are pretty good. I pretty much know what's wrong with the ones that don't measure up. I share all of my beers with my home brew club buddies and get a lot of good feedback that way. Those guys are brutally honest for the most part. I don't even bother to offer them my substandard brews unless I'm trying to pinpoint a defect that I can't identify myself. Many of them have better palates than I do.
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Old 04-20-2010, 03:38 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BadgerBrewer View Post
I have tried, but just don't seem to get perfect results. The bottled beer is good, just not great. Maybe I am just too critical? What I do is to fill a 6-12 pack straight from the keg prior to force carbonating. I use Brewcraft carb drops in each bottle to ensure a standardized and repeatable carbonation level. I then let it bottle condition for 3 weeks and then chill. Any other suggestions?
Yeah, fill it with carbonated beer. There are a million ways to skin that cat.

I have a counter pressure filler that I'll use to bottle of what is left of a keg or if I need the bottles to last a while. Otherwise I use catt22's method or the Gordon Strong method* if I need to adjust the carbonation or do something else with the beer.

*Fill a 1 or 2 liter bottle with a carbonator cap, do whatever you need to it and then fill the chilled bottles from the PET bottle.


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