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Entering beer into competition, rules and etiquette

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JMan551

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This summer I would really like to enter some beer into local competitions so that I may get some feedback. Last summer I declined to enter any beer because I was unsure if I would be breaking any rules or etiquette. All of my beer was extract and bought in the form of a kit from one of the online retailers. I wasn't sure if this was frowned upon because I had nothing to do with recipe formulation and they were extract beers.

This year I just finished brewing an IPA that, god willing it turns out excellent, I would really like to enter into a competition because it is one of my first all grain beers. My problem is that the recipe is that of a pretty well known home brewer. Again, I had nothing to do with recipe formulation. Is it acceptable to enter this into a competition?

I can see this being no problem because it was my hand mashing, boiling, and fermenting and therefore my skill that made this beer either drinkable or trashable. Although, like I mentioned above, this really isn't my recipe or creativity.

What does HBT think? What are the, if any, unwritten rules and etiquette when it comes to entering comps? This is something I would like to get into so that I can really match my craft against others.

:mug:
JER
 

Phunhog

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Go for it!! The recipe is just one part of making a great beer...it is your skill as a brewer that really counts. The judges don't even see the recipe in most cases.
 

phenry

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Entering a recipe that isn't your own isn't frowned upon at all (at least in my eyes), but I imagine claiming it to be your own recipe would be considered pretty low by most people. Competitions are a great way to get feedback not only on your recipes but also your brewing proficiency. You can start out with a great recipe but use lousy ingredients and poor fermentation control and end up with a poor scoring beer.

I've entered two beers that weren't of my own recipe, but that was mainly to get an idea of how sound my process was and if there were any inherent flaws in my technique that I wasn't picking up on. They scored well, but the comments I received from the judges helping me improve as a brewer were what I really took away from the competition results. I've since tweaked those recipes to fit more to my personal taste and plan on entering them in a competition in the near future.
 

Yooper

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Brewing is a skill- so following a recipe that isn't your own and brewing to perfection is all about the brewing technique.

Even if you and I brewed the same recipe, the final beer would be different. All brewers have different water, and there may be differences in the mash and/or fermentation temperature. So even in the exact same recipe, there will be variations.

A brewing competition isn't a "recipe competition". It's fine to use a published recipe to make your entry.

It'd be a decent thing to not claim the recipe as your own, of course. If you have to submit the recipe (in some comps you do, some you don't), just don't put "original recipe by JMan" and you're fine.
 

rexbanner

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The beauty of competitions is that no one sees what you used for most categories (some exceptions). I've entered comps where submitting your recipe is optional, but never mandatory, so I don't submit it, and I always change the name of the beer if it has anything in its name that will hint at what is in it. This is because people can create unrealistic expectations based on preconceived notions. Everyone does this, that's why color and presentation affect taste. For example, if I'm using a new hop or malt I have a non-brewer friend try the beer and give feedback, because I've read the description for what it is supposed to taste like. I know judges aren't supposed to look at recipes unless they have a question about the beer, so it's probably just paranoia.

Anyways, can I threadjack here and ask a few questions? First, are beers tasted at style serving temperatures when judged? I'd be really sad if a few of my beers were tasted below 45 degrees, they just won't taste good. Second, is it OK to submit multiple beers in one category/subcategory? I've never done that because it feels a little cheap to me, but I've never found anything in any comp rules forbidding it. Maybe I am not looking hard enough.
 

Yooper

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Anyways, can I threadjack here and ask a few questions? First, are beers tasted at style serving temperatures when judged? I'd be really sad if a few of my beers were tasted below 45 degrees, they just won't taste good. Second, is it OK to submit multiple beers in one category/subcategory? I've never done that because it feels a little cheap to me, but I've never found anything in any comp rules forbidding it. Maybe I am not looking hard enough.
Yes, most are served at serving temperature. But if anything, sometimes they are presented to the judges too warm and not too cold.

That's because in a large competition, it's hard to keep 600 bottles of beer in a fridge!

Some competition specifically state something like "one entry per subcategory", which means you can not enter three IPAs, but I've never seen one not allow the same beer to be entered in multiple categories if you're unsure where it will best fit.
 

Braufessor

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Definitely not wrong - I would bet a large percentage of beers entered are either borrowed/bought recipes, or versions of recipes that people have tweeked. As others mentioned, it would be wrong to claim that you were the one who came up with the recipe. I have also seen others mention, and I agree - if you would happen to win or place or get a good score, it would be appropriate to let the source of the recipe know, or share the information - just letting them/others know that a particular kit, or recipe resulted in some good beer and giving some credit, where credit is due. But, you are still the one who brewed it, and it is "your" beer - even when brewing a kit.
 

AnOldUR

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. . . I always change the name of the beer if it has anything in its name that will hint at what is in it. This is because people can create unrealistic expectations based on preconceived notions. Everyone does this . . .
The judges don't see the name of the beer while judging. All they get is a score sheet with the entry number on it. At the most they will see special ingredients in a category where that is required.
 

Calichusetts

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I wouldn't do it, but I guess there is nothing wrong with it. To me, I would be far more satisfied with a winning beer that I created from scratch than someone else's recipe. I completely agree that everyone will produce a different beer with a given recipe, but if I ever one a competition, I would like to think that it is because of my skills as a brewer AND my ability to formulate a fantastic original recipe, just my 2 cents...
 

AnOldUR

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The thing is that in all probability any recipe you come up with was done by someone before (or at least something pretty close.) What makes your beer unique is your skill as a brewer, the system you brew on and the location of your brewery.
 

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I wouldn't do it, but I guess there is nothing wrong with it. To me, I would be far more satisfied with a winning beer that I created from scratch than someone else's recipe. I completely agree that everyone will produce a different beer with a given recipe, but if I ever one a competition, I would like to think that it is because of my skills as a brewer AND my ability to formulate a fantastic original recipe, just my 2 cents...
I understand that completely. I think that to most newer brewers, though, it's not about "winning", it's about getting good feedback from impartial judges.

It means a lot, even though criticism can hurt!, to get back a scoresheet that says "slight astringency on the finish- check water source for alkalinity", "esters (fruitiness) too prevalent for this style of beer, check fermentation temperature", for example.

Your friends and neighbors might love your beer, but a "real" critique is why most people enter competions. Although there are those who enter to win, of course.

A well run competition will give you back useful critiques and suggestions for improvement. If you start with an excellent recipe, then you know the suggestions are for your technique and not the recipe itself.

That's why I think it's a good idea for newer brewers to go ahead and do that. If they make their own recipe that may not meet style guidelines, I think that there are too many critiques to make them meaningful if that makes sense.
 

Phunhog

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I know that there are pro brewers out there that have taken Jamil's homebrew recipes and have medaled at the GABF!! Of course they give credit where credit is due but they still brewed the beer.
 

HerbieHowells

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Not to speak in the man's place, but I have heard Jamil on his radio show talk about people telling him that they have won competitions with his recipes. He is the first person to acknowledge that technique is as important as recipe, and that winning a competition tells you that you had a good recipe and great technique. So he doesn't seem to mind, although you should give credit if someone asks you how you came up with the awesome recipe.
 

opiate82

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It's been echoed pretty well here, but I think you can get some great feedback on your brewing processes by entering whatever you brew into contests, even if it isn't your own recipe. And if you think about it you probably want to improve that area of your brewing first before you worry about formulating recipes.

Imagine if you developed a great IPA recipe. But when you enter it into comps you keep getting low scores. Now you don't know if your recipe is off or if you need to improve in your brewing process somewhere.

I think using some tried and true recipes to enter comps with could end up being a huge benefit to you as a brewer.
 
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JMan551

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Thanks everybody. Most all of your responses reflected what I felt was right to me...but just because it feels right to me doesn't mean it's what meets the status quo.

Regardless of how well I do, I will attempt to let the recipe creator know how it went. I believe the recipe has done well (not sure of competition record). As has been echoed, I want this to be a judgment on my brewing technique. I'm 10 batches or so into my 'career' and this is my second AG batch. I couldn't formulate a good recipe to save my life, yet. I'll be entering this beer into at least a couple of comps this summer. Who knows, maybe I'll get surprisingly good results...but I won't hold my breath!

Besides, the beer hasn't even finished dry hopping yet. I may have completely ruined it already, so the competition talk won't be necessary.

Cheers all!
JER
 

planetscott

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Don't let one bad score at a competition deter you from entering more and brewing more beer. One of my highest scoring beers was an extract. One of my lower scoring beers, entered in the next competition got a first place. The ONLY way you can get true feedback is to enter in BJCP competitions. I had too many friends tell me my beer was great, only to cross their eyes and squirm. Getting anonymous feed back keeps your friends from having to lie and it gives you a chance to make better beer.

Also, if there is a competition close to you, volunteer to be a steward. That's another way I learned to brew better beer is to listen to the judges discuss the beer. Most will share a taste and you can follow along as to what they find off and what they find works. As an organizer for a competition, I appreciated all the volunteer help, so if you can, sign up to be a steward and good luck!
 

Phunhog

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I also feel that there are so many great, solid recipes for most beer styles. I am an advanced homebrewer but I brew a ton of beers straight from BCS. Why? Because I know that if the beer does badly in a comp it is not a recipe problem. It is a "brewing" problem.
 

neophilus

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Recipes are easy to find, technique is the hard part. You have to get to know your equipment and what it is capable of, brew a batch and see how it turns out. Then maybe tweak something here or there to make it better next time. That's the hard part.
 
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Water chemistry/composition and yeast management (pitch rates, fermentation temps, etc.) factor into the final product of a beer way more than recipe and brewing technique.

During last year's HBT comp, a bunch of folks got together and brewed the exact same mild recipe and wound up with completely different results.
 
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