20 January 2019

What it more Silicon Valley than turning a beer based hobby into a competition?

I didn’t know when I started that the Homebrew Club I joined was big into competitions. While not something I’d normally be into, I’ve adapted to club culture and have had some fun getting feedback from the experts.

My first competition was the club’s special event- a fundraiser for muscular dystrophy. I entered on a whim, and even helped steward. I got good feedback from that entry. While I didn’t score great (23/50) I did learn that I had some off flavors developing, likely from fermenting too warm. Since then I have started watching that. I also noticed I had some filling problems - given that my bottle filling method involves jamming a bottling wand into a picnic taps- I am not shocked.

The club I’m part of– Worts of Wisdom– has made a major effort to develop a more diverse membership, including several ‘Women and Beer’ outreach events. Its what got me started brewing! As part of this effort, they also focused on getting women to enter the ‘Queen of Beer’ competition. To help that they held a special tasting night to give feedback to those interested in competing.

The feedback evening was very valuable. Some of it focused on the beer itself and the brewing process, but mostly it was learning how the beer that we made fit into categories.

Scottish light

At these tastings beer is generally drunk from light to dark. 14A Scottish light It was the first version of my Scottish Ale. I was so concerned about how ‘thin’ it was, I thought about entering it as a British Mild. My judge friends thought it had enough to carry it, and suggested I up the base grain, since I was planning on brewing this version again before entering.

Other good advice I had was regarding my bottle filling. I guess I had been underfilling? I use the very basic ‘bottling wand shoved in a picnic tap’ method of filling bottles from the keg. The bottling wand takes up a fair amount of space, so when I withdraw it, it leaves the final volume a little low- all great things to know when entering my first competition

Pumpkin Spice Latte Porter

I entered my Pumpkin Spice Latte Porter, which was a collaborative brew!

I entered this as 30A: Spice, Herb or Vegetable Beer. First piece of advice was to make sure I emphasized the ‘spice’ of my PSL- ie. be clear that there was actual pumpkin in my beer, but that I was using pumpkin pie spices. The other advice was a rousing debate about beer styles, since I had to specify base style. The debate was whether my base was more of a stout or a porter. Final verdict was it lacked the robustness to be a stout, so I should enter it as a porter.