Why Should You Enter Your Homebrews into Competitions?

Do you enter your homebrews into BJCP competitions?

I didn’t for a long, long time. For about 11 years to put too fine a point on it. It wasn’t that I was avoiding them, as much as I didn’t care. I was making pretty good beer, and it was being enjoyed by me and my friends. In the end, that is enough.

But something happened about 3 years ago.

I think it was a combination of getting too much feedback from friends that was the equivalent of “That was awesome, dude”, and me finally figuring out that I was pretty good at making good beer, but not always at identifying and articulating what was good or bad about it.

So I starting entering the Virginia competitions that are put on by the CASK and James River homebrew clubs just to get the feedback and hear what some real judges had to say. I think that has been really helpful and the quality of the judging, while not always amazing (which certainly could be another blog post of its own), has been light-years ahead of my kind and supportive, but ultimately unknowledgeable, non-brewing friends.

It has been pretty cool in the swag and medal collecting way, too. In the past three years I’ve entered the 6 competitions (including the National Homebrew Competition) and I’ve won 28 medals. I credit some of that to being an above average brewer, and some to the fact that I still bottle my beers. So I’m more likely to have beers hanging around to be entered, instead of kicked kegs. The homebrew store gift certificates are really nice, but the medium-sized t-shirts just end up in my homebrew club’s raffle. (Seriously, when was the last time I was a medium? Middle school?) The medals are great to acknowledge what you’ve done and for braggin’ rights, but they aren’t enough motivation by themselves.

Am I done with competitions now?

Maybe. Or perhaps I’m just cutting back.

I feel like I have a better handle on, and palate for, a variety of beers now. I think getting feedback from these competitions, and being a judge on occasion, has improved my brewing.  But I’ve hit a plateau with that, and I will probably remain that limbo until I get around to getting my BJCP certification.

And these competitions do allow a lot of creatively, but they are also real sticklers about nailing the guideline for the style you brewed. That makes sense, but I found that I’m hitting another creative period where my beers probably won’t be fitting into guidelines outside of category 23 and some of the other catch-alls.

Do you enter homebrew competitions? Why or why not? And why do you still, or why did you stop?

Leave a comment below, or hit me up on The Twitter.


7 Responses to “Why Should You Enter Your Homebrews into Competitions?”

  • beercommdood Says:

    I entered my first competition last year. 2 entries. One was a bit off and I went for feedback on the off-ness. The other was delicious and, well, it took 1st in its category. I haven’t entered since, mainly due to a hectic schedule keeping me from realizing it was submission time. But I’ll be entering the Knickerbocker Battle of the Brews here in NY again in a few weeks. I like the feedback, more than anything. Reading a judge’s closing comment “I would pay good money for this!” really tugs at the heartstrings… or liver straps. 😉

  • Peter at Iron Brewer Says:

    I’m kinda the opposite, I’m extremely experimental in my beers so most don’t fit with a style and I was pretty sick of getting feedback, like great beer wrong category or doesn’t fit the style. So the only homebrew comp I enter are ones where I can get my beer commercially / professionally brewed. In the last 3 months I have won 2 of these types of local competitions, including the largest Homebrew comp in NJ, the State Fair.

    It is also the reason why I started Iron Brewer, as you know. I wanted homebrewers entering this small competition to be the judge of their own beers and to also e able to taste the other beers.

    I tend to brew beer for myself and hope others will like them, which is probably why many of my beers don’t show well, but taste fantastic.


  • Vanessa Says:

    Iron Brewer was actually my first homebrew competition of any kind 🙂 I just entered my first BJCP competition (HAZE Queen of Beer) and am really excited to get the feedback!

  • Chuck McKenna Says:

    I was turned off to competitions after the first (and only(so far)) competition I entered when one judge stated my beer was to style except for mild astringency (useful feedback) and the other said it was completely off style with no other feedback and gave it an abysmal score. It seemed so arbitrary.

    Since then I have considerably improved my brewing skills, though after 17 years I still have a lot to learn. I intend to start entering contests now. I have a beer that I feel can win gold and I have cultivated relationships with professional brewers and hope to one day do a pro-am at GABF.

  • Matt Says:

    I’ve been brewing for a few years now and haven’t entered any competitions, mostly for the same reasons you stated above about why you initially never did.

    I’m also finding myself drawn towards weird and experimental beers, so the Iron Brewer thing looks intriguing to me.

  • Tom Wallace Says:

    Feedback from competitions is a good reason to enter them. Though, to be honest, a lot of the feedback I have received recently has not been too descriptive, so I have not gotten much out of it. To be honest, I really enter the local competitions, and the nationals, to support the idea of having competitions. I think they are a great way for homebrewers to get together and support our clubs and hobby. It is great to win, but I don’t get much out of that either.

    As an aside, I don’t fit into medium t-shirts either. While I am skinnier than you (less muscle-mass, to be sure than), mediums are too short on me. In fact, I can only think of a few people in our club who would wear a medium.

  • Care for a Pint Says:

    I agree that while feedback is the main reason why I was entering competitions, the last one’s feedback was absolutely pathetic. Of my score sheets, only two were filled out and one was barely legible. I’ve been brewing for over 16 years. I know I can make good beer and the comments I ge from my peers is worth more to me than these scribbles. That said, I would like to win more swag, like Mr. Barlow.

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