First, I want to talk to you about homebrew competitions and about how your homebrews are scored and then finish up with entering competitions and how to ship your beers.
This is meant to be an open discussion and you all can add to the discussion at any time.
I have pretty much been our club’s Homebrew Competition Coordinator for the last two years. I will post on our website in the Events page upcoming competitions and to go over upcoming competitions with you at our club meetings.
Last year we had 28 Seven City Brewers enter their homebrews in competitions with 11 of the brewers placing in 1st, 2nd or 3rd place. We are fortunate to have some great homebrewers.
There are several types of competitions:
Local Homebrew Competitions:
The Hampton Roads Brewers Cup is our local competition. This is a competition among the five area homebrew clubs. We compete against the Colonial Ale Smiths & Keggers (CASK), the Hampton Roads Brewing & Tasting Society (HRB&TS), the Smithfield Hop and Malt Society (HAMS), and the Virginia Peninsula Homebrewers (VPH).
Last year the Seven City Brewers won the HRBC Club Award and our brewers were in 2nd and 3rd place for the HRBC Individual Award.
This competition is to promote the sharing of knowledge and honing of skill in the home brewing community. To be eligible to enter you must be an amateur homebrewer that is a member in good standing of a participating club. Due to the limited number of brewers and judges each competition specifies the style of the beers that can be entered.
This year there are four competitions with one special competition scheduled. March 20th is HRBC Competition #1. The 2019 Competition Rules and Schedule will be posted on our Club news page when issued. For the Hampton Roads Brewers Cup competition go to their website at http://hr.brewers-cup.com and register online for the competitions.
State AHA Stationed Homebrew Competitions:
We have several American Homebrewers Association stationed competitions that are BJCP certified in our state.
What that means to you is that there is a broader range of styles of homebrew that you can enter, you are competing against a larger number of brewers, and your homebrews are being judged by at least one BJCP certified judge. Some of them are:
The 12th Annual Virginia Beer Blitz that is being organized by CASK (Colonial Ale Smiths & Keggers) and is being held Saturday March 9th, at St. George Brewing Company in Hampton VA. Full details can be found on the CASK website at www.colonialalesmiths.org. Register online from January 26th through March 23rd.
The 27th Annual Spirit of Free Beer Homebrew Competition is being organized by BURP (Brewers United for Real Potables) and will be held in Beltsville, MD on April 5th and 6th. All beer, cider, and mead styles are being included in this competition. Full details can be found on the competition website at www.sofb.brewcomp.com. Register online from February 28th through March 28th.
The 7th Annual Hop Blossom Homebrew Competition that is being organized by Shenandoah Valley Homebrewers Guild (SVHG) and Valley Homebrew and is being held May 18th in Winchester, VA. Full details can be found on the competition website at www.shenbrew.org. Register online from April 1st through Saturday May 4th (Dates may change when their website is updated.)
The 26th Annual Dominion Cup that is being organized by the James River Homebrewers Club and is being held in August 10th in Ashland, VA. Full details can be found on the competition website at www.dominioncup-jrhb.org. Register online from June 1st through July 28th (Dates may change when their website is updated).
National Homebrew Competitions:
There are several national homebrew competitions that are AHA stationed all over the world throughout the year.
The AHA National Homebrew Competition final round judging is June 27th and 28th in Providence, RI during the AHA National Homebrew Convention. Online application period is closed.
In 2017 we had two Seven City Brewers in the Final Round of the competition.
How the judges score your homebrew:
I have passed out some Beer Scoresheets. (You can find the beer scoresheets at www.bjcp.org/docs/SCP-BeerScoreSheet.pdf.) These forms or something similar will be used by the judges. Stewards deliver the beers to the judges. The first thing they do is to fill out the know information on their forms.
Now most of us cannot remember what each beer style should contain so there is an BJCP 2015 App that the judges can use that list everything they need to know for that style of beer.
So now, they go down the list of attributes that is appropriate for that style of beer and start scoring the beer.
So, what does it mean to you? From the overall scoring of your homebrew you can find out if you are meeting the stylistic accuracy and technical merit for the style and if there is any noted off flavors.
You can still miss the mark on the style and have minor flaws and still have a good beer.
Things to watch out for:
Any special instruction required to be listed for the style of beer. If you forget to list the special instructions it dose not matter if you have a great beer it will be scored lower by the judges.
Low carbonation. This is one of the easiest things to note and it can affect more than one attribute. Aroma, head retention, appearance and mouthfeel. So do your best on getting the carbonation right.
Most competitions have online registration with detailed information.
For local competitions we have drop off points. For out of the area competitions you need to ship your entries.
I found an article on How to Pack and Ship Beers for Competition that I thought was pretty good.
How to Pack and Ship Beers for Competition
March 8, 2016 by Boundary Brewer
I’ve been on the receiving end of beers being shipped to me for competition, and I’ve also packed and shipped a few hundred bottles for competition and beer trading purposes.
I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way, so this is a quick rundown of how I recommend shipping to competition. The person who unpacks your beer will thank you, and your bottles will arrive intact, everyone wins!
Bottles and Caps
When entering competition, it’s best to use plain brown 12oz longneck bottles with plain gold crown caps. Every competition will accept plain bottles with gold caps, but not all competitions will accept bottles with raised lettering like Sam Adams or New Belgium bottles. And not very many will accept cork and caged bottles. Most competitions will accept a blacked-out cap, but not all. A great tip here is to write a couple letters on the caps of bottles with a sharpie, so you can identify the bottles. When you go to ship the beer, you can use 91%+ rubbing alcohol and a paper towel or cotton ball to remove the writing and make the cap plain again.
The competition you enter will probably have you fill out or print a form to attach to your bottle. The only proper way to affix the label to the bottle is with a rubber band. Don’t glue it, tape it, or attach it with wire or string. Doing any of those things might get your beer disqualified, which would defeat the purpose of entering the competition. The competition staff will remove the labels and attach an entry number on the bottle so that the judging process is anonymous. If it’s difficult or impossible to get the label off the beer may be disqualified.
The National Homebrew Competition recommends that you place the bottle label in a plastic sandwich bag in case the bottle breaks they can identify which beer broke and possibly contact you for a replacement. This is good practice for any competition and as long as the label is readable while rubber banded to the bottle in the bag, you won’t be disqualified.
Tag ‘Em and Bag ‘Em
Once you have the labels rubber banded onto the bottles, place each bottle in a gallon size zip lock bag. This will contain any leakage if a bottle cap were to fail or if a bottle were to break. I like the freezer bags because they are thicker plastic that’s less likely to be cut open if a bottle breaks. As long as the breakage is contained, the box will likely still be intact and therefore still being delivered by your preferred carrier. Your bottle should look about like this now:
Protect the Bottles
When it comes to padding the bottles and the box, I take a three-step approach.
1. Protect each bottle individually with a layer of bubble wrap. Use a rubber band or two to secure the bubble wrap to the bottle. The person who unpacks your bottles will be thankful you didn’t use tape here, and from my experience it is a perfectly effective way to secure the bubble wrap.
2. Secure all bottles to each other so they don’t collide with each other. If you have some large and sturdy rubber bands, use those to secure each bottle to a buddy, then secure the pairs to each other until you have one large mass of secure bottles. If you can’t make rubber bands work for whatever reason, use packing tape to secure the bottles in a similar manner. When you are done you should have a solitary mass of bottles that doesn’t do much shifting. This will prevent the bottles from crashing into each other and breaking.
3. Protect the collective bottles with additional padding. Wrap a layer of bubble wrap around the mass of bottles and secure with a piece of tape. This will protect the bottles from outside threats such as the box being dropped on a sharp corner or piece of metal.
Box ‘Em Up
Find a suitably sized box and place the protected bottles inside. Use more padding to make the box tightly filled. Don’t over stuff the box, but you should have to hold the flaps down manually to make the box closed. Tape the outside of the box securely with packing tape on all the seams and the edges.
Ship using UPS or FedEx. It’s illegal to ship alcohol with USPS. I know there are some people that do it anyway, but I can’t recommend it since there is some tiny risk of legal trouble by shipping that way. I’ve personally found FedEx to be cheaper than UPS, and close to price with USPS anyway.