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My First Homebrew Competition

Posted by Don on February 25, 2013 at 7:30 PM

So I have been brewing for about 2 years now and have made well over 1000 bottles of beer. Don't worry, I didn't drink them all myself. That is one of the best things about this wonderful hobby, I usually don't have a hard time finding someone to help me enjoy the fruits of my labor. So far, I have enjoyed most of the beers I have crafted and have received very positive feedback from those I have shared them with. However, over the last few months, I have been wondering how my beers would fare in a competition. 


While browsing around the AHA (American Homebrew Association) Website, I noticed the "competitions" link at the top of the page. I have been hesitant to ship any of my brews due to convenience (it is not legal to do so through the US Postal Service) or cost (around $20 through UPS or Fed Ex). So I decided to see if there were any competitions within a reasonable drive of my home. Lo and Behold, the 2013 Boston Homebrew Competition was accepting entries until February 15th for their competition on Saturday, February 23rd. That didn't give me much time. Most of the bottled beers I had in reserve were a little past their prime and my most recent batch, the Honey Ale brewed by the White House for the last Super Bowl, was in my keg so if I was going to enter this event, I had to get brewing. 


First, what kind of beer to brew. Since this was my first competition, I wanted to improve my chances so I reviewed the lists of previous year's winners/entries to see which categories traditionally had the least amount of entries. After much thought, I decided to enter the Fruit Beer category. I had brewed some fruit beers in the past (Cherry Wheat and Blueberry Wheat) with pretty good results. However, rather than brew another wheat beer, I decided to add fruit to one of my favorite styles, Blonde Ale. Now that I decided what kind of beer to brew, I needed a recipe. I use a website called Beer Tools to formulate my recipes. After a short period of time, I had a recipe that looked good on paper. So it was off to the brew store to pick up my supplies. This time, I purchased my ingredients from The Homebrew Emporium in West Boylston. I decided to buy enough ingredients to make six gallons which I would split into 2 three gallon batches; one plain blonde ale and one with blueberry flavor extract (I used real blueberries and the extract in the past and found that I liked the taste of the beer with the flavor extract better). 


Finally, time to brew. Sunday, January 13th was a cloudy but very mild day so I set up my Mash Tun in the garage and got to work on this All Grain Brew. Six hours later, all my equipment was cleaned and put away and I had 2 carboys filled and ready to ferment. I pitched the yeast and prepared for the hardest part of the brewing process......waiting. 


After 2 weeks, the beer was ready to bottle. I ended up with about 30 bottles of each. Now part two of the waiting game, waiting for the beer to carbonate in the bottle (aka bottle conditioning). This process usually takes any where from 2 to 3 weeks. But with the approaching deadline for entries, this meant I would have to drop off my entry prior to tasting it. So on Groundhog Day, my oldest son and I drove to one of the drop off sites, The Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont.  


Fast forward to Saturday, February 23rd....competition day.  I cracked open one of the beers from the batch to give it a taste.  Not bad. I had tried it the week before and was disappointed that the flavors hadn't fully blended yet. I crossed my fingers and hoped the extra week would take care of that. 


On Sunday, I decided to take a look at the competition's website to see if they posted the results yet. I was surprised to see that they had and took a look to see how I did. The main reason I entered this competition was to receive feedback from certified beer judges but, I thought, how cool would it be to have my beer actually place (first, second, or third) in it's category. After scrolling down the page I located category 20......Fruit Beers.


My wife says that the look of shock on my face was priceless....not only did I place, but I finished first in the category! I am now anxiously awaiting to receive a package which will not only contain copies of the judges scoresheets, but my first place medal as well. Once it arrives, I will be sure to post a picture of it along with a picture of my award winning Blueberry Blonde Ale.   


Update - Thursday, March 21, 2013 - After a very long wait thanks to an error by the US Postal Service, I have finally received my package. Along with my medal and scoresheets (see Photos section), I also received a T-Shirt, a package of hops, and a music CD. I also received 2 pint glasses, a bottle of Belgium Tripel Ale,  and a certificate for a 55lb bag of grain from the Cambridge Brewing Company.  



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