Author Topic: Preparing for National Competition  (Read 1144 times)

Offline derekb

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Preparing for National Competition
« on: September 22, 2014, 03:52:00 PM »
I'm looking forward to the National Competition and thinking about entering competitions in general. I know where I can find all the rules and processes, which is very helpful and well organized. I'm stuck on a couple practical issues.

1. In Zymurgy, many of the winners say they force carbonated their beer. However, entries must be submitted in bottles. Do they fill and cap the bottles from their kegs, similarly to the way growlers are filled? Does the beer stay fresh long enough this way?

2. When do brewers start brewing the beers they will enter to ensure freshness? Obviously style has a contributing factor because some beers are aged, anyway. But, do many future participants have their entries ready to go in carboys in their basements as of this writing? Or, is there A MOVEMENT of brewing going on in December and January?

Thanks for any insight the community can offer. It's very overwhelming, right now, but I'm sure with consideration and planning it all becomes very simple.

--Derek

Offline theDarkSide

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2014, 04:03:52 PM »

1. In Zymurgy, many of the winners say they force carbonated their beer. However, entries must be submitted in bottles. Do they fill and cap the bottles from their kegs, similarly to the way growlers are filled? Does the beer stay fresh long enough this way?
I use a Blichmann beer gun or have just used a growler filler on lower pressure (attachment that goes on my perlick tap with a vinyl tube and fill from the bottom).  I always try to make sure to cap on foam or hit with a little CO2 to make sure there's no oxygen in there.

Links:
http://www.blichmannengineering.com/products/beergun
http://www.homebrewing.org/product.asp?itemid=4871&utm_source=google&utm_medium=ProductAds&gclid=CjwKEAjwkf-gBRCd-b2m2aOo0EQSJABMeQDk7L_sJhXhgJxlyTzZZMERcstF40Cq1pj2KAhy6mcUvRoC43Dw_wcB


2. When do brewers start brewing the beers they will enter to ensure freshness? Obviously style has a contributing factor because some beers are aged, anyway. But, do many future participants have their entries ready to go in carboys in their basements as of this writing? Or, is there A MOVEMENT of brewing going on in December and January?
So dependant on style...some entries I've sent have a couple years on them.  For APA or IPA, I shoot for 6 weeks from brewing.  Stouts, lagers, etc. considerably more time.  Ciders - at least 3 months, meads preferably 6 months - 1 year.

Just be aware that the popularity of the NHC comp is so high, you may only be able to enter a couple entries, if any at all.  Local and larger regional comps are great resources for trying out your beer before sending to the National comp, but not required.

Good luck!
« Last Edit: September 22, 2014, 04:10:06 PM by theDarkSide »
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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2014, 06:19:15 PM »
I use a bottling wand on my Cobra tap with a (#4 I think) on the wand so I can seal the bottle and create a counter pressure situations.

on timing it is so dependent on style it's hard to say for sure. if you want to start now, brew your stronger beers where hop aroma isn't the start, then stronger beers where hop aroma IS the star, then smaller beers. Sours should have been brewed a while ago as should meads likely.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2014, 06:54:58 PM »
+1 on the Beergun.

One should be thinking about the timing for the first round entries. Some beers should be re-brewed for the second round to be at peak condition (German Wheat is an example). You need to have an idea of which beer will be at its peak when, then go back on the calendar to set your brew schedule so that the various beers of different styles peak for first round judging.

There were 4 entries allowed this year for the National Competition per entrant, and don't count on that limit going up. That makes planning easier if you only have 4 to brew.

My strategy last year was to brew what I wanted, and select the top four of the bunch to send in. I had beers I wanted to drink, the entrees scored pretty well, but did not move on. So I got to drink the beers I wanted to!
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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2014, 11:03:34 PM »
I force carbed last year. 3 entries. One score sheet mentioned faint oxidation. So not bad. Cool the beer below serving temp, boost the carbination a day or two, then reduce serving pressure to about 2 or 3 psi. Cold bottles. I keep mine in ice cold starsan. Fill and cap quickly. Bottle right before shipping.

Offline udubdawg

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2014, 01:14:37 AM »
use a calendar and start going backwards from a probable NHC Finals deliver-by date. 

give your beers enough time; rare is the beer that is not improved by cold conditioning.  Way too many green beers in this competition.

I brewed a ton of stuff between Halloween and New Years last year but I do higher % of lagers than most.

Brewing the day after thanksgiving worked out for me this year; I'll probably do that again just out of superstition.

good luck--
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Offline santoch

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2014, 02:12:27 AM »
Don't forget there are a TON of competitions across the country.  You should probably start with a couple of those to get a feel for it first.  That way, you'll get some judge feedback that you might be able to use in subsequent batches.. 

Good Luck!
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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2014, 03:15:27 AM »
Don't forget there are a TON of competitions across the country.  You should probably start with a couple of those to get a feel for it first.  That way, you'll get some judge feedback that you might be able to use in subsequent batches.. 

Good Luck!

Yes! And there are judges needing more opportunity to stay sharp. And, you might get quicker feedback locally

Offline tress

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2014, 12:17:31 PM »
I use a bottling wand on my Cobra tap with a (#4 I think) on the wand so I can seal the bottle and create a counter pressure situations.

Exactly what I do.  I have yet to be dinged for any carbonation- or oxidation-related issues.  Plus, the wand is small enough to leave an appropriate amount of headspace in each bottle.

As for timing of your entries, +1 to what everyone is saying about how it is style-dependent.

Good luck.
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Offline udubdawg

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2014, 12:52:56 PM »
And, you might get quicker feedback locally

more/better feedback too.
I get that not everyone agrees with me here, but I'm on record that I view feedback as critically important in competitions EXCEPT things like NHC and MCAB Finals. 

Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2014, 05:27:26 PM »
And, you might get quicker feedback locally

more/better feedback too.
I get that not everyone agrees with me here, but I'm on record that I view feedback as critically important in competitions EXCEPT things like NHC and MCAB Finals.

I agree not from personal experience but just because it makes sense that, generally speaking, a competition with 700 beers and check box forms probably wouldn't be as thorough as a 60 beer competition with standard forms.

Offline theDarkSide

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2014, 05:50:55 PM »
And, you might get quicker feedback locally

more/better feedback too.
I get that not everyone agrees with me here, but I'm on record that I view feedback as critically important in competitions EXCEPT things like NHC and MCAB Finals.

I agree not from personal experience but just because it makes sense that, generally speaking, a competition with 700 beers and check box forms probably wouldn't be as thorough as a 60 beer competition with standard forms.

Not to mention the entry fee if usually half of the NHC comps.  I find the comps from 350-750 entries to have great feedback, and usually attract some highly qualified judges.  Check out the MCAB page http://www.masterhomebrewer.org/) and look at those comps.  Any Gold in the beer categories qualifies you for an entry in the MCAB the following May (ish).
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Offline brewinhard

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2014, 06:10:55 PM »
I too agree with trying your hand at some local comps before trying out the Nationals.  This will let you know where your entries stand as well as your brewing practices.  You will get more valuable feedback from these smaller comps which enables you to fine tune recipes and procedures along the way.  The more comps you enter, the better you will get at timing of brewing, aging, and packaging the beers you plan on entering. 

Offline derekb

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2014, 01:09:01 PM »
Thanks for all the great info. As it turns out, a new homebrew shop is holding a local competition I'm going to try out. (http://newfarmstore.com/events/first-annual-cranberry-homebrew-contest/)

Knowing what to search on the internet is always a great help; found lots of great videos/info when I researched filling bottles with a wand. Thanks, again, to everyone who shared their knowledge and experience.

Offline dkfick

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Re: Preparing for National Competition
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2014, 01:43:00 PM »
Thanks for all the great info. As it turns out, a new homebrew shop is holding a local competition I'm going to try out. (http://newfarmstore.com/events/first-annual-cranberry-homebrew-contest/)

Knowing what to search on the internet is always a great help; found lots of great videos/info when I researched filling bottles with a wand. Thanks, again, to everyone who shared their knowledge and experience.
Just an FYI that doesn't appear to be a BJCP competition.  It looks like they are just having the judges judge heuristically.   So your entry would not be judge to a specific framework like it would during the NHC (BJCP guidelines.)  Of course there is nothing wrong with a heuristic competition... I just thought I would point that out.
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