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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: tomsawyer on March 11, 2011, 08:36:42 PM

Title: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: tomsawyer on March 11, 2011, 08:36:42 PM
I've been at this all of two months, but both the KC Biermeisters event and now the Drunk Monk Challenge are both getting record numbers of entries (DMC is supposed to be close to 800).  Is this reflecting a new interest in homebrewing, in comps or both?  Or have they seen steady growth over the last few years?  Just curious.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: denny on March 11, 2011, 08:48:00 PM
Based on a dramatic increase in AHA membership, I'd say the overall hobby is up.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: tomsawyer on March 11, 2011, 08:55:40 PM
I could see the increase in microbreweries helping to educate the consumer, and the price of commercial craft beer causing them to want to make their own.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: tschmidlin on March 11, 2011, 09:09:05 PM
Entries in our competitions jumped last year and the trend is continuing this year.  We're on our some-teenth annual comp and we never broke ~220 before.  Last year hit ~350, this year 424.  I don't know why exactly, but it wasn't a slow and steady gain.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: bfogt on March 11, 2011, 09:10:31 PM
Homebrewing at the World Expo of Beer certainly took a leap in entries this year.  Nearly 900 a year after having just over 450.  Crazy growth in brewing, home and commercial, in Michigan.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: morticaixavier on March 11, 2011, 09:11:42 PM
I know I brew partially (Very partially) because I can have good beer when I want it for .5 or less of the prices in the store. With the economy in the shape it has been in of late perhaps people are getting frugal like their grandparents were back in the 20s.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: jeffy on March 11, 2011, 09:14:48 PM
Our Florida only homebrew competition (Best Florida Beer Championships) had a record 480 entries this year.  We also had 102 entries in the Pro Comp side of BFBC, all from little breweries in Florida.
I doubt that any of these folks entered to save money though.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: tomsawyer on March 11, 2011, 09:16:09 PM
I know I brew partially (Very partially) because I can have good beer when I want it for .5 or less of the prices in the store. With the economy in the shape it has been in of late perhaps people are getting frugal like their grandparents were back in the 20s.

That could explain increased interest in homebrewing, but not comp entries.  And I'm not sure it is really a driving force behind the increase in homebrewing, though it could be a factor.

One thing, it makes getting invited to be a judge easier!  But I'm not sure I'd want to be a comp organizer.  Wow, how do you deal with double the entries on relatively short notice?  Yikes.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on March 11, 2011, 09:17:04 PM
Homebrewing at the World Expo of Beer certainly took a leap in entries this year.  Nearly 900 a year after having just over 450.  Crazy growth in brewing, home and commercial, in Michigan.

I have entered this one each year.  It has become a big one.  Maybe the second largest east of the Mississippi.  Hats off to the Cass River Club for pulling it off.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: morticaixavier on March 11, 2011, 09:17:52 PM
I know I brew partially (Very partially) because I can have good beer when I want it for .5 or less of the prices in the store. With the economy in the shape it has been in of late perhaps people are getting frugal like their grandparents were back in the 20s.

That could explain increased interest in homebrewing, but not comp entries.  And I'm not sure it is really a driving force behind the increase in homebrewing, though it could be a factor.

One thing, it makes getting invited to be a judge easier!  But I'm not sure I'd want to be a comp organizer.  Wow, how do you deal with double the entries on relatively short notice?  Yikes.

Then I'll blame it on reality TV. everybody wants to be in a contest. Ahh I'm just talking out my a$$
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: tschmidlin on March 11, 2011, 09:27:20 PM
One thing, it makes getting invited to be a judge easier!  But I'm not sure I'd want to be a comp organizer.  Wow, how do you deal with double the entries on relatively short notice?  Yikes.
We've been working hard to increase the number of judges in the area.  In the past we took two days to get through < 200 entries, last weekend we got through almost 400 in just two sessions (~25 or 30 were taken care of Friday night).  If you have enough judges you can really get a lot done quickly.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: maxieboy on March 11, 2011, 10:11:01 PM
I know I brew partially (Very partially) because I can have good beer when I want it for .5 or less of the prices in the store. With the economy in the shape it has been in of late perhaps people are getting frugal like their grandparents were back in the 20s.

That's kind of what I was thinking. Incomes may go down but alcohol consumption remains relatively stable. hic...  ;D
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on March 11, 2011, 10:24:49 PM
As Denny said the hobby is up.  It has become very popular with the people in their 20's and early 30's. 

My first NHC was Chicago, 2003.  At the last 2, I have been impressed with the influx of young people at the conference.  On the other hand, I have gotten a little older. ;)
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: tomsawyer on March 11, 2011, 10:26:27 PM
We've been working hard to increase the number of judges in the area.  In the past we took two days to get through < 200 entries, last weekend we got through almost 400 in just two sessions (~25 or 30 were taken care of Friday night).  If you have enough judges you can really get a lot done quickly.

How many beers do you have a judge evaluate in a session?  I did ten each of porters and Irish/Scottish ales (in a 2hr period), that can be tough slogging.  Not that I'm complaining mind you, just challenging to find those subtle nuances of flavor in entry #10.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: tschmidlin on March 11, 2011, 10:40:58 PM
We've been working hard to increase the number of judges in the area.  In the past we took two days to get through < 200 entries, last weekend we got through almost 400 in just two sessions (~25 or 30 were taken care of Friday night).  If you have enough judges you can really get a lot done quickly.

How many beers do you have a judge evaluate in a session?  I did ten each of porters and Irish/Scottish ales (in a 2hr period), that can be tough slogging.  Not that I'm complaining mind you, just challenging to find those subtle nuances of flavor in entry #10.
20 beers in 2 hours?!  Nothing that fast, we had 7 in the first session, then a mini BOS.  9 in the second session (after lunch).  About 2 hours per session, some people took longer (had more beers, started late, whatever).  It was a very relaxed pace, and I wasn't too swilly to drive home after.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: kerneldustjacket on March 11, 2011, 10:59:05 PM

We've been working hard to increase the number of judges in the area. 

Same here, mostly through the efforts of one of our members ("christo" here on the AHA forum)
He now has us in mead classes to prep for taking the mead judge exam on Mead day in August...we've been doing a mead only comp for 13 years; interestingly, the entries for it have not "jumped" like folks have described for beer comps.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: tschmidlin on March 11, 2011, 11:07:48 PM

We've been working hard to increase the number of judges in the area.

Same here, mostly through the efforts of one of our members ("christo" here on the AHA forum)
He now has us in mead classes to prep for taking the mead judge exam on Mead day in August...we've been doing a mead only comp for 13 years; interestingly, the entries for it have not "jumped" like folks have described for beer comps.

Ugh, the mead exam.  I'm taking it in the morning and haven't studied at all.  No chance of passing, but I'm not backing out either.  I'll study tonight and maybe learn my lesson and start studying earlier next time.

Who am I kidding? ;D
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: bluesman on March 12, 2011, 01:05:16 AM

We've been working hard to increase the number of judges in the area.

Same here, mostly through the efforts of one of our members ("christo" here on the AHA forum)
He now has us in mead classes to prep for taking the mead judge exam on Mead day in August...we've been doing a mead only comp for 13 years; interestingly, the entries for it have not "jumped" like folks have described for beer comps.

Ugh, the mead exam.  I'm taking it in the morning and haven't studied at all.  No chance of passing, but I'm not backing out either.  I'll study tonight and maybe learn my lesson and start studying earlier next time.

Who am I kidding? ;D

Good Luck on the exam Tom.

The NHC had a record number of entries last year and it's shaping up to be another great year this year as well. This coupled with the dramatic increase in AHA membership shows an increasing interest in our hobby.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: bfogt on March 12, 2011, 01:15:57 AM
Who am I kidding? ;D

It's be a Personal Best, though, right?

Judging in the morning.  The contest grew by 30%!  Up to 35 from 24 last year!

Got my reminder of the schedule tonight at 6:30.  Hadn't heard anything since early February...

Another factor is money.  The cost is dropping for the smaller comps and the prizes are getting crazy.  WEB was $1000 from NB for Beer BoS and $500 from Adventures in Homebrewing for Cider/Mead BoS.  AND they have prizes for each category winner.  I think entries averaged out to less than $4 if you entered 4 (#4 was free), so a $1000 payout is attractive.  Just for two golds last year I got $45 in gift certificates.  Easily made my entry worth it.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: mabrungard on March 12, 2011, 01:29:31 PM
This issue with increasing competition entries is a real problem for me.  As a BJCP national judge, competitions are interested in my participation and I'm happy to do it...to a point. 

The problem is that the number of judges at competitions sometimes doesn't keep pace with the number of entries.  Judges are overloaded and in a hobby with alcohol, that is a problem.  There needs to be a better solution. 

The ranks of BJCP judges keeps growing and there should be sufficient judges to staff these competitions, but the reward for participating as a judge (beside the comradery) typically amounts to getting a free lunch and a trinket.  The judge is left to foot the bill for the overnight stay and travel costs.  It just doesn't make sense.  Judges need to be better compensated by these competitions for their services.

The Indiana State Fair runs a home and craft brewing competition that is probably one of the best run and compensated competitions in the nation.  They are paying judges on the order of $100 if they live over a couple hundred miles from Indy to cover their travel costs.  Even the local judges get a minor stipend and all judges get several meals during the course of the competition.  That is a model that needs to be implimented across the nation. 

To provide that stipend, competitions need to start increasing their entry fees.  Entry fees are clearly too low and too many entrants see great benefit from their entry.  That is great, but the cost for EVERYONE to participate needs to be spread around.   Right now, judges are the ones paying and that needs to change. The side benefit of the competition covering more of the judge's cost is that more judges will be willing to make the trek to participate and that means that the quality of judge and judging will improve.  Fewer beer entries per judge is a very desirable outcome for everyone. 

The National Homebrew Competition has addressed some of my concern by limiting the number of entries at the regionals to 750 per site.  That is a good start, but they also need to let the market help winnow the entries down and pay for judge participation.  Entry fees need to go up a lot and NHC needs to better compensate the judging staff. 

Let's get more good judges at all of these competitions.  I'm sure that many of you that have entered a competition, have experienced poor feedback from a inexperienced judge.  Wouldn't it be worth a few extra dollars to get better judges interested in participating in the contest and getting that better feedback? 
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: kerneldustjacket on March 12, 2011, 02:02:39 PM
Ugh, the mead exam.  I'm taking it in the morning and haven't studied at all.  No chance of passing, but I'm not backing out either.  I'll study tonight and maybe learn my lesson and start studying earlier next time.

Who am I kidding? ;D

Tom, I was stunned when I saw the depth of information that the exam covers...but I can see the need for a skilled mead judge to know as much of it as possible. I can only hope to score in the mid 60s.
As with the beer judge exam, solid knowledge comes from layers of built-up experience - in judging, brewing, and tasting. (At least for us mere mortals)

I expect when you read this you'll have taken the exam. Hope you have a drink in your hand.  :)
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: tomsawyer on March 12, 2011, 02:08:42 PM
I wasn't clear, we judged ten peer two hour session.

It would be nice to get a stipend but at this point the e enjoyment is my payment.  I do fork out about 400 per weekend for travel and expenses.

I heard they are going to come out with a bjcp test that is easier to grade, that would allow more people to qualify.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: denny on March 12, 2011, 06:07:22 PM
Hear, hear, Martin!  I don't know how realistic it is to think people would pay higher entry fees for hopefully better judging, but I agree with the points you make.  It's the main reason I can't judge at most of the comps I'm invited to judge at.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: tumarkin on March 12, 2011, 10:47:13 PM
Very interesting idea, Martin.

Thinking as I type, let's look at how this might play out with a real comp situation. Let's use Tom's example of his comp growing from 350 to 424 entries.

350 entries @ $6 each gives $2100, while 424 @ $6 gives $2544. Bumping the entry fee up to $10 (picked at random, but don't think folks would be happy with anything much higher) gives $3500 for 350 entries and $4240 for 424. So that's an additional $1400 for the smaller number of entries, and $1696 for the larger comp. Have to pick the number of judges at random, lets say 30. Does that sound reasonable.

If you split that among all the judges that would be $46 for the smaller number, and $56 for the larger number. Now you might decide not to give a stipend to your local judges & split it all among the out of town folks. Let's say the judges are 50/50 local/visitors, in which case it would double the amount of the stipend. Of course, this is all hypothetical & you could do it a bunch of different ways. But with this example, judges might expect between $50-100 if judging out of town. It would pay the whole cost of your expenses, but I'll bet it would be a welcome help.

The question is, would it actually result in an increase in the number of available judges? Don't know, but Martin's certainly given us something to think about.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: gsandel on March 13, 2011, 02:58:54 AM
I have been thinking about competitions lately....I have no real interest in entering them because while the feedback is nice, I don't brew to win, but rather to enjoy (making and drinking...beer crafted for and by me), but judging has my interest to grow my own knowledge of what is out there....so I may take the exam this year.

I think that capping entries and making them more expensive would work....also, perhaps NHC needs qualifiers.  If you score minimum of 30 in a qualifying comp, you gain entry for 1 beer in nationals.  I like the idea of each brewer bringing what they think is their best beer, rather than the shotgun approach to winning medals.

Obviously, if it cost $100 to enter one beer, you would bring only your best of best, but that is not the spirit of inclusion that the AHA has always been about....hence the two rounds and regional judging at NHC.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: tschmidlin on March 13, 2011, 08:39:29 AM
Ugh, the mead exam.  I'm taking it in the morning and haven't studied at all.  No chance of passing, but I'm not backing out either.  I'll study tonight and maybe learn my lesson and start studying earlier next time.

Who am I kidding? ;D

Tom, I was stunned when I saw the depth of information that the exam covers...but I can see the need for a skilled mead judge to know as much of it as possible. I can only hope to score in the mid 60s.
As with the beer judge exam, solid knowledge comes from layers of built-up experience - in judging, brewing, and tasting. (At least for us mere mortals)

I expect when you read this you'll have taken the exam. Hope you have a drink in your hand.  :)
I'm done. I actually found it to be easier than expected with the exception of the varietal honey question which kicked my butt.  I got lucky on some of the questions on the exam I think, so it wasn't too bad.  That is not to say that I'm going to get a 90 or even an 80.  But it's pass/fail and I only have to break 60, and I feel pretty good about that.

Re: comps, I can't judge all of the ones in my area and the problem isn't financial, it's time away from my kids.  But even if I didn't have kids, I can't see spending $400 a weekend to go judge a comp, that's crazy talk.

I'll have to think about the compensation stuff, I'm not convinced it's the way to go.  We have some in our area that pay, I've gotten as much as $80 and lunch for one session of judging at a fair.  But I've actually found these comps to be some of the worst ones for the quality of judges, people come crawling out of the woodwork to judge if they get paid for it.  Maybe if only actual BJCP judges got paid it would be different, and maybe paid by level.  I don't know though, like I said I'll have to think about it.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: tomsawyer on March 13, 2011, 01:52:23 PM
My second judging experience is now over, it was easier this time out as I'm getting the hang of it.  The ukg did a good job on the contest, and I know at least one forum person who won (johnf).

I think it's a good idea to compensate out of town judges because I'm far from any town!  Seriously, I think giving a premium to higher ranked bjcp judges makes sense, I'm attending to learn from the more experienced guys.  Any time I can judge with a national judge I learn a lot.

I hope these contests continue to be popular, and that clubs make decisions to avoid being victims of their own success.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: bluesman on March 13, 2011, 02:35:29 PM
Martin definitely has some very good points. I would also like to give this some thought. I agree that it can be very difficult for alot of judges to drive over a 100+ mile trip for lunch and a trinket. I know because I just judged a competition a few weeks ago over 150 miles from my home. Compensating judges by rank would be an attractive scenerio. I think some level compensation would attract more judges to competitions. This could be accomplished by increasing enty fees.

I think there has been an increasing interest in competing. Adding a few extra dollars to each entry shouldn't be a problem for most brewers. At least that's my hope. This definitely needs some more thought but I am in agreement with it in principle.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: bfogt on March 13, 2011, 10:23:17 PM
I'm all for helping judges out.  It has (and will continue to) helped me decide what's worth the travel and time away from the family.

However, don't forget, Martin, that the Indiana Brewers' Cup is modeled after the wine competition.  My understanding is that BC still loses quite a bit of money at $10 an entry and 900 entries.  Only BJCP judges are compensated, as I understand, but pro brewers may get the stipend, too.  It's not considered a fund raiser.  I'm not sure many organizations would put on homebrew competitions if they knew they'd lose money, especially on this scale.

The Ohio State Fair has a different approach.  BJCP judges from outside a 35 mile radius are granted a comp room.  This is different in that they are part of the fair's inventory of room comps they get from putting up entertainers during the fair.  They have only a small value to the fair, but a huge value to out of town and out of state judges.  I would venture that the retail value of our room last year exceeded the stipend from the Indiana State Fair the weekend before.  And yet, it attracted fewer judges than Indiana.

I think organizers need to leverage their tourism boards in their localities more.  Cheaper rooms, more attractive family options and even just some planning beyond "Drink, Drink, Sleep" would go a long way.  That's what I've been working for up here, but I'm heading your way, Martin.  Maybe you'll see something pop up SE of you in a year or two...
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: The Professor on March 13, 2011, 11:46:56 PM
Based on a dramatic increase in AHA membership, I'd say the overall hobby is up.

Nice to see that happening. 
Seems like there was a bit of a lull (a slight one, anyway) in homebrew interest there for a while especially judging by the number of LHBS' that have come and gone out my way in the last 10-15 years or so. 

I think that the availability  of better ingredients and especially  all of the info in these forums being so easily accessible probably has at least something to do with it (not to mention the high cost of a lot of the commercial brew out there).   I think that more people are finally discovering that making really good beer just isn't all that that hard to do once you get the hang of it. 

I really think that the easy availability of forums like this one have a lot to do with fueling the interest, or at the very least, encouraging the newbies to keep it going past the first batch. 
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: tomsawyer on March 14, 2011, 12:12:50 AM
I think that the availability  of better ingredients and especially  all of the info in these forums being so easily accessible probably has at least something to do with it (not to mention the high cost of a lot of the commercial brew out there).   I think that more people are finally discovering that making really good beer just isn't all that that hard to do once you get the hang of it. 

I really think that the easy availability of forums like this one have a lot to do with fueling the interest, or at the very least, encouraging the newbies to keep it going past the first batch. 

I agree, theres a lot of help available and having a beer come out decent on the first go-around is a big plus as far as keeping a newbie interested.

Another thought regarding raising entry fees.  This might have the effect of reducing the number of entries slightly.  That might be a good or bad thing depending on where the comp is at with numbers of entrants.  It'd be a free market alternative to limiting entry numbers by an alternative method.
Title: Re: Beer Comp Entries Up?
Post by: MDixon on March 14, 2011, 12:38:17 PM
I scanned through most of the thread. Entries are up because the economy is down and people are turning to homebrewing. It's cyclic in nature and IME has been a slight up and down, but with the recent dip it's brought in all kinds of people. OTOH craft brewed beer is becoming more and more popular and when I started homebrewing if you mentioned hops to someone they didn't know what you were talking about and now a majority of beer drinkers have some idea it is used for bittering, flavor and aroma in beer.

As far as entries, our numbers have grown and we have increased fees for more than a certain number of entries. It's worked pretty well to achieve the goal, but has irritated some who feel we are gouging. To them I say, don't enter more than the number of low cost entries. Next year we are planning to put a cap on the number of entries. We don't know yet if that magic number will be 5 or 4...

Tom - hope your mead exam results are excellent. One day I'll worry about it, but no time soon ;)

 - -

FWIW - another National judge and myself judged 21 entries in a "best beer no style" competition on Saturday using the AHA NHC 2nd Round ticksheet in about an hour and forty-five minutes...our push to BOS took second ;)