Those homebrewers with a competitive mindset will naturally be drawn to participating in homebrew competitions. Those that aren’t should still consider participating. Not only is it a great way to get feedback on your beers, it’s a fun way to interact with other beer lovers and an opportunity to have some pride in your hard work.
If you’re ready to compete with other homebrewers, consider these tips for winning in a homebrew competition. Use these 8 pieces of advice to improve your chances at winning top prize.
Know Your Competition
- First, keep in mind that there are generally two kinds of homebrew competitions: Those that are judged by the BJCP Style Guidelines, and those that aren’t. Your approach may vary depending on what kind of competition your participating in.
Tips for BJCP Homebrew Competitions
- Brew to style – This is one of the most important tips for a homebrew competition I can give you. Judges will likely be reading directly from the style guidelines as they’re judging your beer. To be successful in these types of competitions, it’s crucial that your beer is an exceptional example of a given style. Designing Great Beers is a good starting point for developing recipes according to style guidelines. If you have a beer that just kind of fits in a category, you’re better off submitting it in the Specialty Beer
- Plan ahead – Ideally, you’ll have plenty of time before the competition to formulate a recipe based on the style guidelines. Better yet, brew the beer more than once so you can really dial it in.
- Watch out for the 2014 Style BJCP Guidelines – The BJCP announced changes to the BJCP Style Guidelines, that went into effect in 2015. Some competitions may be quicker than others to transition to the new guidelines, so be sure to check with your competition organizer. Review the changes at BJCP.org.
- Become a BJCP Judge – Learning to become a beer judge will help you become very familiar with how these competitions work. It will also expose you to a wide range of styles and improve your sensory skills.
Tips for Festival Style Homebrew Competitions
- Be creative – For non-BJCP homebrew competitions, you can throw the style guidelines out the window. Sometimes the competitions will have other qualities they’re looking for: best beer with local ingredients, best beer name, best IPA, best Belgian beer. The goal here is to simply make the best beer you can make. Many of these types of competitions will also have a People’s Choice Award or a Best In Show decided by celebrity judges. In this case, it often helps to showcase an unusual technique or ingredient that will make your beer stand out from the crowd. So, the number one tip in these types of homebrew competitions is to be creative.
- Market your beer – Colorful, easy to read signs are eye catching and let people know what you’re pouring. Creative, tongue-in-cheek names will often get people’s attention.
- Market yourself – Smile and invite people to come taste your beer – the more people try your beer, the better your chances at a People’s Choice Award. Above all else, have fun!
For many, homebrew competitions are one of the most enjoyable aspects of homebrewing. Hopefully, these tips for winning a homebrew competition will make it even more fun. Have you participated in homebrew competitions before? What tips would you add to the list?
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.
Also, for BJCP certified competitions, enter your beer for what it tastes like, not necessarily what is in it or a particular process used. If your alcohol is within spec but comes across as boozy, you should probably place it into the next level. E.G. Extra special instead of best bitter.
Medals and placing are great, but it should be all about the judges feedback, esp. in the beginning. As stated, don’t take a loss too hard. Use the feedback and try again. Have fun!
Want to win BJCP competitions? Brew to the high end or above the high end of the scale for the style. Realize many BJCP styles are fictitious or otherwise flawed but they are what judges will look to. In a category with multiple sub styles make the one with the highest abv, in bitters the “ordinary” rarely wins if there is a half decent “ESB” in the mix. Don’t let me get started on why ESB isn’t even a style but a Fullers trademark etc. Finally remember some judges including BJCP certified ones will be extremely subjective and a substandard beer can win, so have fun and don’t take losing too hard.