I posted this on reddit.com/r/homebrewing and it w.as well received so I thought I'd also post it here for posterity
I spent the past few weeks compiling all of the gold medal winning recipes that are posted on the AHA website from 2000-2014. I put them in a spreadsheet and calculated the recipes based on percentage of grains, hops used, OG, FG, mash temp and yeast used.
I'm not sure why I did this to begin with, but I certainly did learn some things from doing it.
There are some proven gold medal winning recipes that you can see from some people copying the exact recipe from the year before and winning gold. It was interesting to watch a category such as Pale ale or IPA progress in the last 10 years.
Some things I noticed for success in competitions:
--In hoppy beers, complex hop bills were almost exclusively used (No single hop beers won)
--Also in hoppy beers, Simcoe and Amarillo are almost always in the winning beer. Centennial and Cascade a close second. A lot had all 4.
--For big ABV beers, a complex malt bill was frequently used (>6 grains)
--Almost every Fruit beer that won used extract at bottling and not real fruit
--There are certainly categories that seem to win more often. You have a better chance of getting gold with a RIS than an American Stout (6 wins vs 1)
--Ingredients matter. For example, british style beers almost exclusively had british malts, yeast and hops.
--Don't even try to win gold with an IPA/DIPA because this guy Kelsey McNair or something has won the last 3-4 years with virtually the same recipe. (Kelsey, you out there? Want to trade? ;))
Anyways, those are things I noticed. I don't brew a lot of the categories so the subtleties of some are lost on me. Take a look if you want and I think this could be valuable if people can use this to determine how to be successful brewing different styles.