Competition advice for newbies

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Chap

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Hi all

I'm looking to enter a beer or 3 into the QABC. Having never entered a brewing comp before, im hoping some of the more experienced members here wouldn't mind sharing a few hints and tips they've picked up from the comp circuit. Being that I'm an extract brewer at the moment, my main aim is to produce a drinkable beer and receive constructive feedback and get a trained palate to let me know if I'm doing something wrong.

Cheers
Chap
 

Mardoo

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Taste your beer, examine your beer, and THEN decide which category you'll enter it in. Let the actual beer decide which category to enter it in, NOT your idea of what the beer is.
 

dammag

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Do you keg or bottle condition?

If you bottle condition and your sanitation is up to scratch then the beer you enter will stand a good chance of being a good representation of your brewing and will allow the judges to give you some good feedback.

If you keg, bottling from the keg raises it's own problems of correct carbonation and the added possibility of infection. Bottling from a keg requires a bit of practice and finding a method that works for you.

I would say that sanitation is the big thing. No use entering a beer that is infected by the time judging comes around.

And Mardoos advice of entering the beer in the category it suits, not the style you necessarily brewed to is good advice.

You can still make good beer extract brewing so don't let that hold you back.
 

yum beer

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Enter your beers if you are after feedback, but to fully understand that feedback I find that you need to sample the beer under comp conditions and rate it yourself.
I rate all my beers using the same score scale, or at least similar to those used in comps. Find out how the beer will be handled before tasting, how will it be stored, how long fridged, serving temp and try and recreate that with your beer at home...then do your tasting. Score the beer yourself in each category, normally, Appearance, Smell, Taste, Style character and overall impression. Take notes and then when you get your sheets back you can compare with your own, this allows you to then accurately compare your taste to the judges. I have found this helps to learn what the judges are looking for and what those faults or good points are in your beer. Most important is to use their advice to improve going forward.
 

Chap

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Thanks for the tips guys.

Taste your beer, examine your beer, and THEN decide which category you'll enter it in. Let the actual beer decide which category to enter it in, NOT your idea of what the beer is.

Thanks Mardoo, this is really helpful. I've been trying to fit my beers into potential styles, but i'll brew them first and categorise later. cheers :cheers:


Do you keg or bottle condition?
If you bottle condition and your sanitation is up to scratch then the beer you enter will stand a good chance of being a good representation of your brewing and will allow the judges to give you some good feedback.
If you keg, bottling from the keg raises it's own problems of correct carbonation and the added possibility of infection. Bottling from a keg requires a bit of practice and finding a method that works for you.
I would say that sanitation is the big thing. No use entering a beer that is infected by the time judging comes around.
And Mardoos advice of entering the beer in the category it suits, not the style you necessarily brewed to is good advice.
You can still make good beer extract brewing so don't let that hold you back.

Thanks dammag, I keg most of the batch and bottle about a 6 pack of the remainder with carb drops. From your points here I think I might bottle at least 12 and keg the remainder, then bottle a couple from the keg a week or 2 before the drop off date to compare and submit the best from there. In the 18 months i've been brewing I havent had an infection yet as i'm pretty thorough with my cleaning and sanitation procedures.

Regarding bottling, are there rules as to the size and type bottles allowed ie 750ml PET vs 330ml glass?


Enter your beers if you are after feedback, but to fully understand that feedback I find that you need to sample the beer under comp conditions and rate it yourself.
I rate all my beers using the same score scale, or at least similar to those used in comps. Find out how the beer will be handled before tasting, how will it be stored, how long fridged, serving temp and try and recreate that with your beer at home...then do your tasting. Score the beer yourself in each category, normally, Appearance, Smell, Taste, Style character and overall impression. Take notes and then when you get your sheets back you can compare with your own, this allows you to then accurately compare your taste to the judges. I have found this helps to learn what the judges are looking for and what those faults or good points are in your beer. Most important is to use their advice to improve going forward.

Thanks mukkaman, this is an awesome idea. Any idea where I might be able to find a blank copy of a comp score card to be able to make some notes?
 

manticle

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Google bjcp scoresheet.

Aabc might be very slightly different (not much) so try that too and find out what your comp will use.
 

manticle

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Just checked - bjcp easy to find, aabc less so. Any AABC reps on here please take note and consider making blank sheets easily searchable and easily found on your website. Apologies if it's just my dumb that's missed it.
 

Jazzafish

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If you want to enter for feedback and advice, it is an ok tool. A better tool is joining a club and sharing beers with a wide range of brewers.

I don't often brew for competitions. But the few times I have, I've done well. If you want to win medals, the best advice I can give is doing a BJCP course. Also working as a judge or at the very least a steward. Until you have experienced a comp in first person, it can be hard to understand my next recommendation towards winning prizes.

Hit the the max limits on the style specs, or exceed them. Make all of the presentation/flavour expectations stand out in your beer, even if it means going beyond. If there is anything in the guidelines that indicates a flaw, make sure it is not existent, this includes something that is suggested as acceptable in small amounts. If a judge detects something considered negative, even if it is acceptable, you will be penalised. If a judge gets a lot of a positive component, you will be rewarded.

Essentially, it is rare that you will be the first beer in a flight. So chances are, you will be presenting a mouthful or two of beer to judges with a significant amount of similar beer to critique in sequence. Likely, the judges will taste your beer in the early stages of palate fatigue. You need to make it stand out in areas that compliment the style.

I feel it is important to note at this point that I have an incredible respect towards judges... this is by no means intended as disrespectful and the judges I know will understand my angle here.

Lastly, if you want a best in show... enter well made big beers. A flawless cream ale will always be trumped a less than flawless (but still a fantastic example of a) russian imperial stout on a best of show flight.
 

manticle

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Have judged a fair few comps over a few years and would suggest you are on point JF
 

GalBrew

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Taste your beer, examine your beer, and THEN decide which category you'll enter it in. Let the actual beer decide which category to enter it in, NOT your idea of what the beer is.

Good advice, you could also brew a beer to style specifically for the comp and take the guess work or if it.
 

GalBrew

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If you want to enter for feedback and advice, it is an ok tool. A better tool is joining a club and sharing beers with a wide range of brewers.

I don't often brew for competitions. But the few times I have, I've done well. If you want to win medals, the best advice I can give is doing a BJCP course. Also working as a judge or at the very least a steward. Until you have experienced a comp in first person, it can be hard to understand my next recommendation towards winning prizes.

Hit the the max limits on the style specs, or exceed them. Make all of the presentation/flavour expectations stand out in your beer, even if it means going beyond. If there is anything in the guidelines that indicates a flaw, make sure it is not existent, this includes something that is suggested as acceptable in small amounts. If a judge detects something considered negative, even if it is acceptable, you will be penalised. If a judge gets a lot of a positive component, you will be rewarded.

Essentially, it is rare that you will be the first beer in a flight. So chances are, you will be presenting a mouthful or two of beer to judges with a significant amount of similar beer to critique in sequence. Likely, the judges will taste your beer in the early stages of palate fatigue. You need to make it stand out in areas that compliment the style.

I feel it is important to note at this point that I have an incredible respect towards judges... this is by no means intended as disrespectful and the judges I know will understand my angle here.

Lastly, if you want a best in show... enter well made big beers. A flawless cream ale will always be trumped a less than flawless (but still a fantastic example of a) russian imperial stout on a best of show flight.

You are spot on about maxing out every aspect of the beer. Do NOT expect to win with subtlety and finesse even if well within the style parameters. You need to nuke the shit out of the judges face for them to acknowledge the presence of a certain flavour or aroma, regardless of what the style guidelines deem acceptable!
 

Chap

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Thanks for the tips jazza, I have been looking into doing a bjcp course and joining a club, might have to move it up on my priority list.

I definitely understand the theory behind your points, makes perfect sense and I will tweak my recipes to push the limits.
 
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