What I Learned: 2013 National Homebrew Competition

What did I get out of from this year’s National  Homebrew Competition? One that I cannot complain about my scores at all. Two, it is pretty awesome that all of my beers went to their respective Mini-BOS. Three, what can I do to make my beer stand out against the competition in a Mini-BOS? The beers I sent to this year’s NHC were just five beers I had around the house that were worth submitting to this year’s competition.


Three of them are my go to beers the other two beers were experiments per se, and they scored the best!

Chocolate Hazelnut Porter (BJCP Category 21A) – this beer has won m
e quite a few awards. It advanced to the second round of 2011 NHC with the same recipe, and it’s normally a holiday time brew. It’s usually on tap at my house up until May. I’ve almost blown that keg this year.

Judges Overall Impression –

Judge 1 – Certified: Great example of your chosen style and description! Score: 41

Judge 2 – Certified: Well balanced cocoa & hazelnut – Roasted grain & other porter characteristics are subdued & might benefit from being brought forward a bit. Score: 38

Hoppin’ Oaked Saison Squared (BJCP Category 22C) – woah! This scored a 41? I entered it as a Saison IPA aged on medium french oak chips. I brewed this beer for an intra-club competition and I entered this solely to get feedback from people outside of my homebrew club. I’ll enter this into other competitions just to see how it will do, and as the judges noted, I needed to be better on my description which the next competition I entered it into, I was a bit more descriptive.

Judges Overall Impression –

Judge 1 – Certified: An excellent beer. The flavors are well matched and compliment each other. You need to do a better description in the future and don’t make the judges guess what the base style is. Score: 43

Judge 2 – Provisional: An interesting beer which as much not a saison as its not an IPA but its nice the wheat and oak makes for a great texture. While Belgian yeast and hops provide a nice bubble gum spiciness, very unique, slightly fusel, but not solventy. For the competition I judged it as an IPA with Saison aspects. Score: 40

Let’s Stout It Out (2012) (BJCP Category 13F), the 2011 version of this turned out really good, but the only problem was that I only brewed a 3 gallon batch and it was really good. So in 2012 I tweaked the recipe a bit based on the success I had with my Regal Porter. I used the base malt I had on hand and also changed to Scottish yeast, which my little secret in 2012 on the malty beers I brewed this year.

Judges Overall Impression –

Judge 1 – Rank Pending: A good representation of the style. Fermentation was well done in order to not be hotter than it is. The alcohol aroma is a bit much. Score: 37

Judge 2 – Master: Has al the right flavor elements, but higher alcohols are a bit too fruity / floral and harsh / hot. Be sure to pitch HUGE for high-grav beer like this, oxygenate well, keep temps under control. Consider different yeast strain. Score: 34

Two Sides of the Schwarz (BJCP Category 4C) – ok I have pretty much had a Schwarzbier on tap at my house since I got a fermentation chamber. I received really good feedback from 2012 NHC so I tweaked the recipe a bit. 2012’s was a bit too roasty for the style. So I backed off of it a bit, and I get a lower score in 2013. Live and learn and keep brewing it.

Judges Overall Impression –

Judge 1 – National: A fairly nice beer that suffers from a little diacetyl. Aside form a diacetyl rest at 68 degrees F 75% of the way through fermentation (75% x (OG – FG)) maybe aerate more and/or lager longer. Otherwise nicely done. Score: 35

Judge 2 – Certified: This is a good beer. That has balance between the base male and the roast. Also has enough hops to balance the malt. Score: 34

Regal Porter (BJCP Category 23A) – this was another experiment at the Wickham Brewery and it turned out phenomenal! This was brewed as an Imperial Porter. Sweet, chewy, luscious, and it is awesome with some ice cream! I only hope I can recreate it. The experiment for this beer was to do a parti-gyle brew day. Which if you haven’t done one, it is a long brew day, but you get TWO beers out of it, which is spectacular. The beer had almost six months of age on it and it is just getting better with time. I’m really proud to get a 43 on this beer.

Judges Overall Impression –

Judge 1 – National: Very well made beer with no major technical flaws. Imperialzing this beer amped up the good parts of the base style without adding any unpleasant harshness. It may benefit slight with more carb & perhaps cutting back on the highly kilned malts a touch. Score: 42

Judge 2 – Certified: An excellent Impl porter. Roastiness, malt sweetness, hops & alcohol are all bumped up but not harsh or conflicting. More carbonation is needed to improve aroma, appearance, and to maybe thin (dry) out the flavor a little. Score: 44

I learned quite a bit from most of these sheets. The one glaring thing is when submitting specialty beers, be very descriptive of your beer. You do not want to keep the judge guessing. After judging at my local competition this weekend I totally I understand. I was judging fruit beers and there were a couple beers that did not state the base style so I had to make assumptions. After we were done judging the competition I found the second bottle of the entry and the name says what the style was. So there you have it and of course I was wrong on one of the base styles. But it still scored well, I at least got the category number right.

I submitted the same five beers to my homebrew club’s local competition, and I will compare those sheets with these judge comments. Should be interesting. Hopefully this will kick start me to write on my blog more.


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