How "NOT" to Win a Homebrew Competition: Common Mistakes

Man Holding Beer Bottles With Gold MedalWe’ve covered plenty of tips and advice for participating in homebrew competitions. But what about homebrew competition mistakes? Is there anything you absolutely shouldn’t do if you hope to hang a few blue ribbons on your wall? You bet!
If you want to do well in homebrew competitions, do not:

  1. Enter your beer in the wrong category – You might brew the best IPA around, but if you submit it as a stout, you won’t do very well. If you enter a BJCP or similar homebrew competition, be sure to read the rules thoroughly and enter your beer into the appropriate category. This is especially important in some of the more experimental styles, like fruit beers.
  1. Serve a beer that tastes like mayonnaise – Sure, entering your beer in a homebrew competition can be a good way to get constructive feedback on your brew. That said, if something tastes absolutely awful, do the judges a favor and don’t submit it. If you’re serving at a homebrew festival, serving bad beer will only turn people off to homebrew. So be sure to taste your beer before entering it into a homebrew competition. If you’re not sure, share it with a beer geek friend or two to get their opinion about what you should do.
  1. Enter a beer with distinguishing marks on the bottle – BJCP-style competitions are blind, meaning that the judges don’t know who submitted the beer. Any beer bottles that have something that might tip off the judges to who submitted the beer may be disqualified, so don’t get caught up in this homebrew competition mistake. To be sure, submit your beer in a plain, 12-oz. brown glass beer bottle with a plain old boring bottle cap.
  1. Submit commercial beer – Trying to pass off commercial beer as your own is just wrong. It’s disrespectful to all the other brewers who worked hard to make the best beer they possibly could, not to mention the brewer who actually made the beer. Besides, how good will you really feel if the beer you submitted actually wins something? Chances are, you won’t feel like much of a winner.Shop Beer Bottles
  1. Slam other people’s beers – If you can say something nice, don’t say anything at all. No one is immune to making bad beer, and anyone can make good beer with enough practice. If you come across a beer that has some obvious faults, do your best to offer the brewer constructive feedback. Find something good to say about the beer, and then make a suggestion about how they might make an improvement.
  1. Give up – Chances are good that you won’t win an award for every beer you submit. That’s okay! Homebrew competitions are a great way to learn how to improve your homemade beer. If you’re really determined to win a homebrew competition, you’ll constantly improve your brewing skills and eventually bring home that gold medal.

What other advice do you have for people entering homebrew competitions? What homebrewing competition mistakes have you made or seen made by others?

David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.