Last Sunday was the first homebrew competition I’d ever partook in.
Hoptron Brewtique, along with Port Jeff Brewing, were running it. They would taste beers from 25 homebrewers. The beers would be judged by 5 people: Hoptron’s two owners, the owner of the nearby Tap Room (who also runs Beer Fields), a local food and beer blogger, and Mike Philbrick, the owner and Brewmaster of Port Jeff Brewing. The brewers of the top 5 selected beers would then re-brew their recipes to compete at the Beer Fields Festival in late June, where the public would taste and vote on them. The winner gets to brew their beer at Port Jeff Brewing, where it will then be served at local bars and restaurants.
I have to admit, I was pretty nervous. I’d never had anyone other than family and friends taste my beer. Sure, more often than not, they say they like them. But in the back of my head there was always the possibility that they are just being nice. This time I was going to get an unbiased opinion. And while that excited me, it also worried me. What if they tell me it’s terrible? I’ve gotten to the point where I’m pretty passionate about my brewing. To have someone – especially people who are knowledgeable about beer (more so than I am) – tell me my beer sucks or isn’t all that good, would deflate my already low self-esteem. I’ll admit I went into it on Sunday expecting just that to happen.
But the furthest thing from that happened.
Let me quickly digress before I get into the results. One of the best parts of the whole thing was that I got to talk to some other brewers. One thing I learned is that homebrewers are pretty friendly, even in a competitive setting. I’ve never been to a homebrewing club, so my interactions with other brewers is pretty limited. My brother-in-law is a homebrewer, and we have some good conversations, but he lives down by Philly, so we don’t get to talk often. It was great discussing our process and methods. I met one guy who is an extract brewer, and he lit up when I told him to never let other knock that method of brewing. That felt great. If most homebrewers are like the guys I met this weekend, then I think I want to join a club.
Back to the competition. After a period of time, the judges came out and said they were taking a short break to sober up. They said they had chosen the top 10, which they would narrow down to 5 shortly. Mike Philbrick said he had just judged two other competitions, and this by far had the best group of beers. Then they announced the top 10, and lo and behold, I was one of them! That alone gave me validation. The top 5 didn’t matter at that point. I was happy.
Then they went back to tasting. After a short while, they returned with the top 5. I was selected! I couldn’t believe it! Erin, Maureen, Mindy, Sammi and Melina went nuts. I got to speak with Mike, as he was giving the top 5 the judges’ critiques. He really liked the BPA that we submitted. His only criticism was he said we should ferment it a tiny bit warmer to get a little more phenols from the yeast. Other than that he didn’t have a bad thing to say about it. His compliments really meant a lot to me.
So now it’s time to re-brew this sucker for Beer Fields. Come down and vote for us!