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?
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