question on competitions

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Well-Known Member
Aug 20, 2006
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Madison, Wisconsin
Question on competitions. I'm thinking about entering a few, not to compete, but to get feedback on my beer.

Is this a good way to go about it? I feel like my friends and family always say, "oh, wow, this is good beer!" and never give me constructive criticism ("consider lowering your mash temperature by two degrees" or whatever).

Note that I'm a fairly new homebrewer (still finding my all grain rhythm) and I'm not out to win or get recognition or anything like that.

Anyway, in a competition, should you stick with perfectly classic interpretations of style. That is, if the style is a stout, should I try to make it taste like Sierra Nevada Stout? I must be part belgian because I like doing twists (not entirely creative, I know) on style like adding rye to a stout, oatmeal to a porter, and using funky yeast varieties.
You could try a beer swap and get some feedback from HBT members - but you have to be a paying member to participate. They aim to give real, constructive criticism, not just comments like 'wow, this is good'. They have 12 swaps planned (if I recall) - I hope to do one or two this year.

That might be a good way to start, since I hear that competition judges don't hold back.

Others here may be able to chime in with their experiences in competitions, what strategies work best. I can't help you in that area.
I'm not adverse to becoming a paying member, but (stupid question?) how do I get plugged into the HBT hombrew swap once I join?
The BJCP style guidelines, unlike the Brewer's Association styles, are not focused on specific commercial beers. Just read the style and target within the guide. BJCP competitions can be sources of useful feedback, but you can also end up with an evaluation by someone who hates the style. Competitions try to avoid this, but can't always.
Entering a competition is not a bad way to get feedback. You have to keep in mind, though, that the feedback you receive will, in large part, be related to how your beer compares to the style guideline. You can enter the specialty category, though, which is reserved for beers that do not fit any other style.

Like the others said, though, a great way to get feedback is to get your beer in front of other brewers.

Another way to get honest feedback is to have a blind tasting with your friends. Grab a few commercial examples of the style you've brewed, mark some dixie cups with A, B, C, D on the bottom and insert your brew. Have them taste them all and write down what they like and dislike about each.

You can do the same yourself but I'd have someone else do the pouring and you should blindfold yourself.
Bring it to a homebrew shop for advice if you have one. If you like experimenting and doing twists competition is not for you. The only thing they are evaluating is how close it is to style...not how good they think it is. It's not a bad idea if you do want to brew to style to see what you can do though.