I entered my first NHC this year. I finally got my results and scoresheets back and found out that I sent one beer through to the final round. I'm happy, but kicking myself because I think with a few tweaks or changes I could have done better. I guess that's why you should do a few competitions to fine tune your beers before a big competition like NHC.
My thoughts on the results:
Russian Imperial Stout - 13 F - Second place, 41.5/50 The notes on this were great to see, especially because I designed this beer specifically for competitions. That gives me confidence that I can brew competition worthy beers (I see this as a different skill set to brewing good beers). It scored well in most categories, probably worst in the aroma section. I was happy to see this advance, but I'll need a little luck to medal with this as I'd have to imagine 41.5 isn't going to get it done.
Golden Brett - 16E - DNP - 29/50. I knew this beer wouldn't do well. Thinking back now, I wonder why I even entered it. I think because I'm so proud of this beer as just a normal drinking beer, that I hoped somehow it would translate to competitions. That just wasn't meant to happen though as this beer doesn't fit in a category and the comments showed that. I got "the brett overwhelms the beer", "hard to judge", "blend well together, very pleasant". At least I don't have to save 3 bottles for the final round!
Passionfruit Berliner - 20 - DNP - 30.5. This probably surprised me most of all. I purposefully sent my passionfruit version over my raspberry version after a taste test because the raspberry was very fruit forward and my understanding of the fruit beer category was that you want the base beer to be present, and the fruit to compliment it. Boy was I wrong because I was dinged for a lack of fruit character. "A nice berliner, wish there was more fruit character" and "no detectable passionfruit, base beer style well done". I was very disappointed in how this scored.
Gose - 23 - DNP - 32.5. When I entered this in the specialty beer category I said a gose style beer (historic) with sea salt and coriander added. A good gose is basically a tart, salty beer to me. Coriander is traditionally added, but I can't normally pick it out as a flavor component because the sourness and salt are so forward. See Westbrook's Gose for a good example. Naming coriander as an ingredient was my downfall. I should know better that once you name an ingredient you damn well better be able to taste it. The coriander is a light, orange-y background note, not an upfront flavor. The judges murdered me for this saying, "very good version of style..not enough coriander to detect...salt level was great" and "really refreshing beer..lacks coriander flavor"
I'm looking forward to the Final Round in June, but I'm not holding out any hopes that my RIS medals. I do think that I'm going to spend the next year fine tuning these recipes, adding a few others (saison), entering some smaller competitions and taking another shot at a NHC medal in 2016.