Tuesday, March 3, 2015

National Homebrew Competition 2015

It's time for NHC, the National Homebrew Competition, the largest homebrew contest in the country.  It happens once a year and takes place in two rounds.  The first round being across the country at judging centers in different cities and the final round taking place at the National Homebrewer Conference, this year in San Diego in June.  I've never entered before, but I decided I wanted to have somewhat of a goal to brew for and thought I'd test my beers at the biggest competition of them all.

Let me first say that I'm honestly not a huge fan of homebrew competitions.  They're about brewing to style, not brewing the best beer possible.  Sometimes those two things coincide, but a lot of times my favorite examples of the style wouldn't fare well in a sanctioned competition (homebrew and commercial beers alike).  There is also the problem of judge bias, the placement of your beer in the flight (if your beer is tasted last, judges might be tired or palate fatigued at that point), my belief that judges aren't necessarily always the most qualified, honestly there are a hundred things wrong with competitions.  Humans have so many things going on that they can't be expected to accurately and fairly taste and score things.

With all that being said, I am still entering 4 beers.  Hypocritical?  Stupid?  Stubborn?  Maybe, but I'm trying to not let the results affect me.  If I win (long shot) I'll certainly be happy but I know that my beer might not have been the best one there or even the best to style, but for some reason the wind was blowing right and I came out on top.  The same goes for if I lose, at least I'll get some feedback!

The beers are as follows (and I tried to give an accurate assessment of what I think about them, and I'll update this when results come back in a few weeks):

Category 13F - Russian Imperial Stout - The Depths

This recipe was taken from past NHC winning recipes and brewed specifically for competition.  It's tasty.  A bit boozy.  Maybe a little sweet?  Or there's this odd sweet character to it.  I like it, but I honestly have no idea how it'll score.  I can see it getting anything from a 30 to a high score.  I'd guess it'll do something like a 34 but I have no basis for that.

Category 16E - Belgian Specialty Ale - Transfunk'd

I absolutely love this beer.  I think it's fantastic and commercial quality.  The aroma is so funky and the taste backs it up.  There's a little something on the back end, but I would buy this in the store.  With that being said, it's probably not going to do well in competition.  There is no category for it and no real base style to the beer.  It's out there but unfortunately not a competition beer.  

Category 20 - Fruit Beer - Pucker Up Passionfruit

Passionfruit berliner.  I taste tested this against my raspberry berliner and this won because it's more subtle.  The raspberry one is delicious, but it overpowers the berliner backbone, and therefore won't do as well in competition.  I make good fruited berliners if I may say so myself, so I think this beer will score the best.  If I get docked it'll be because the passionfruit is too much, but I think it's nicely subtle.  I also worry the carbonation levels might be too high and shipping will mess with it.  Crossing my fingers.

Category 23 - Specialty Beer - Here Gose Nothin'

Gose with coriander and sea salt.  I actually rebrewed this specifically for the competition.  I toned down the salt a little and I hope that puts it more in line.  It's tart, crisp, salty and quaffable.  I think this beer has a high floor and a high ceiling, so it could do well.

If you can't tell, I can make a crisp, lightly tart beer in my sleep at this point and that's why I'm confident in those.  Also, those beers fit in specific styles that I know can score well and if I do place it'll be because of those (with the RIS being a dark horse).  

The box has been shipped so it's out of my hands.  I really look forward to results and even more so, the next year of dialing in a few other styles for next year when I might be a little more prepared for competition brewing. 


  1. Good luck,I have the same sentiments. The "styles" of beers you are brewing are better off enjoyed by fellow enthusiasts rather than beer judges. I stopped competitions a long time ago and saved more to share with people that can give me helpful feedback. With that said, if you are coming out to NHC in San Diego it would be great to try some of your beers.

    1. Competition is certainly an entirely different type of brewing. I won't be at NHC but get to SD regularly to visit family, I'd be happy to meet up for a beer.

      PS: If I recognize your name correctly via Twitter and your blog, you're part of Council's funky program? I went there last time I was in town, great stuff, especially the tart saisons.

    2. Oh nice, I do work on the sour and barrel aged beers at Council. Thanks for visiting and glad you liked the tart saisons. It was nice to make a beer that I enjoyed at the home scale and can now share it with so many people.

      Email when you are visiting next and we can meet at the brewery - Jeff at CouncilBrew.com