Early 2018 Competition Recap
Im a little behind here....but the latest rounds of competitions have been really exciting and I've been a little distracted. But, here's on update on what's been going on!
The winter just did not want to end here on the East Coast this year. The cold temps hung around through March and February....right smack in the middle of the window to get our beers ready for NHC and a few other regional competitions.
Double brew days are the absolute death of me. I really need to plan better so that Im not cramming in two batches that stretches over 9-10 hours. How did this happen? Well the National Homebrew Competition is the biggest competition of the year. Since there are so many brewers trying to get in on the action, no brewer is guaranteed a spot in any of the regional competitions. We were able to submit up to five entries this year so I sent in four hoping that I could grab at least one spot in the New York regional round. Turns out that I did have some luck here, I landed a spot in the New York round and also qualified for four entries...Awesome! Well....crap. Now I have to brew up four batches with little time to spare.
The lineup that I decided on going with were: NATAS (our stout made with crusts of Pasteis De Natas), our Irish Red (Come on You Reds), our Roggenbier (Rye of the Whale) and our smokey Brown Ale (Devils Kettle). NATAS fell under the Spiced/Herb/Vegetable category, which is one of the most popular categories of NHC next to your IPA's and Pale Ales. I still wanted to go ahead and enter this beer to get feedback on the recipe design as I can picture NATAS being a staple to our lineup if we were to ever go pro. Figuring that Roggenbier recipes are rare these days, I thought that I would have a good shot at sneaking in and potentially landing on the podium propelling us into the Finals. Come on You Reds is a beer which falls into one of my personal favorite styles. It scored decently high in our club competition in late 2017 and I was looking forward into receiving some more feedback on this recipe. Devils Kettle is one of my favorite beers that we've managed to produce. I knew that in order for it to have a stronger footing in competitions, I needed to ramp up the smoked malt to bring the beer into higher BJCP style standing.
Brewing for competitions is way different experience than that of casually brewing and experimenting with a recipe in the yard on a quiet afternoon. I fought the cold temps even freezing rain to stay focused at the task at hand and meticulously took notes and monitored my steps with more attention than I have ever done. It was game time. I was exhausted, but as always...I felt rather accomplished and I was ready to sit back and wait for these beers to condition and carb up.
The days leading up to the drop off deadline for NHC regionals, I cracked open some samples of these beers. NATAS was a great Stout that I was proud of. Devils Kettle's smoke aroma and flavor smacked you right in the face.
The Roggenbier was smooth and Come on You Reds' caramel and toffee flavors danced on my tongue. I was debating on entering some smaller competitions outside of NHC, but wanted to make sure that these versions of the recipes were up to par. After the sampling, I thought that I would give these competitions a shot.
Brewing for competitions was new territory for us. Not only tweaking recipes to BJCP style guides, but also the fact that these competitions were out of state and we needed to ship beer for the first time.
Now, I haven't had an anxiety attack in quite some time.....That Saturday I had an epic one. I pre printed my shipping labels, got creative with bubble wrap, stuffed UPS boxes with bottles of fresh homebrew and sprinted to the UPS store minutes before they closed.
My anxiety and meticulous brewing practices to my surprise paid off earlier than expected. It was a Saturday morning. My wife Katie and I were having our morning cup of coffee. She was in the kitchen pouring a fresh cup while I sat in our living room searching the internet for the results of the first competition. I was reading down the list of winners. I had to do a double take because I thought I saw my name....Sure enough...."Come on You Reds" took bronze in the Irish Red Ale category!
I ran into the kitchen. I looked at Kate told her that I had won bronze with a pit of emotion in my throat. I think she thought I was telling her terrible news, but she quickly realized it was great news! Well....from that moment forward I was absolutely hooked on competitive homebrewing. I now have a schedule of upcoming competitions that I plan on entering in the coming months so stay tuned! See below for our official results.
Our Irish Red, "Come on You Reds" did rather well! If you are curious about BJCP style guidelines, you can find information on them here. The judges taste the beers and fill out a scoresheet like the one below based on the BJCP style guides.
The Port City Plunder: Wilmington, North Carolina - April 6, 2018 - Scottish / Irish / Australian Ales - "Come on You Reds" - Bronze
WNY Homebrew Amber Waves of Grain Competition: Buffalo, NY - April 14, 2018 - British Ales - "Come on You Reds" - Bronze
Tippy Brew: Lafeyette, Indiana: April 28, 2018 - Lighter British Beers - "Come on You Reds" - Gold
NHC Regionals ( New York City) - April 6-8, 2018 - We did not place which would have qualified us for the NHC Finals. However, we did manage to get honorable mention certificates for achieving high scores!
NATAS: Silver Certificate - Spice, Herb or Vegetable Beer
Rye of the Whale: Bronze Certificate - Reggenbier (Historical Beer)
Devils Kettle: Silver Certificate - Classic Style Smoked Beer
WHATS COMING UP?
Well once we received our scoresheets from the competitions and the fact that "Come on You Reds" did so well in this round of competitions, I wanted to get right back to work and implement some suggestions from the judges. We cranked up the roasted barley percentage and also increased our mash temps slightly to give the beer some more complexity and body. The beer came out fantastic...I already looked into a few upcoming competitions and we will be entering some beers in competitions in July in Ohio and Illinois.
We also brewed up a new Amber Ale called, "Antilia" as well as a new and improved version of "Cha Bomb." We increased our dry hop charges, added Mosaic to the hop bill and actually removed our bittering hop additions.
Im excited to say that these beers are all ready to go and I'll be packing them neatly in my suit case headed for Sao Miguel Azores next week. Im anxious to see our friends and family have a taste of American homebrew for the first time.
Im also planning on taking a bottle of "Cha Bomb" back to the tea plantation on the island which produces the black tea used in our recipe. Stay tuned for updates from Azores! We'll be there June 15-25.