Author Topic: Brewing for competition  (Read 862 times)

Offline lenphallock

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Brewing for competition
« on: July 12, 2017, 05:32:01 AM »
It might seem rudimental, but I was wondering how does everyone brew for competition. I have entered competitions before, but I have never really brewed for a competition season. How does everyone prepare for this?

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Offline ethinson

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Re: Brewing for competition
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2017, 12:05:37 PM »
I start by making a list of the comps I want to enter.  I bottle condition, so I have to make sure to have things ready before the deadline.  If the deadline is already published I'll mark the date before that when I want to bottle the beer.  Sometimes it's two weeks before, sometimes I might bottle a week before if the comp has a gap of a week or more between dropoff deadline and judging (larger comps like NHC and State Fairs etc).

I calculate backwards what day I need to brew the beer to be ready on bottling day.  With my equipment and system I can brew two beers in a 6-8 week period, alternating the weeks.  Brew Week 1, Brew Week 2, Transfer Week 3, Transfer Week 4, Bottle Week 5, Bottle Week 6, Week 7 or 8 drop off at comp.

Last year the comps were spaced out just enough that I felt that each previous batch wasn't fresh, so I ended up brewing 7 batches of my CDA recipe to have a fresh one for each competition.  You don't have to go to that extreme of course.  For things like NHC with a second round, I would just automatically plan on rebrewing it so you have it ready if you advance, and if you don't you have a fresh batch for other comps (and personal consumption!)

I haven't been brewing as much this year or entering as many comps, but last year I had a very detailed schedule set up.  That's the only way I could keep track of it.
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Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Brewing for competition
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2017, 05:11:40 PM »
You have to know that there are style guidelines and then there is the way judges tend to judge a style. For most styles the beers that win are going to be at the top of the range for several, if not all, metrics for the style; if not a little above them. Big flavors win.

An IPA on the low end of IBUs, ABV and hopping rate is almost certainly not winning as an IPA. That same beer entered as an APA might be completely out of the APA style guidelines but stands a pretty good chance at winning the APA category.

Look through the NHC winners. You'll find most beers fit this pattern. There's almost always a beer or two that wins gold completely out of the style metrics. You can see it on the pro level at GABF and other competitions. Lots of IPAs, XPAs, etc. in the pale ale category, pale ales in amber, etc. Calculated numbers do not directly correlate to sensory perception but this doesn't happen by accident. Brewers compete to win.
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Offline Andy Farke

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Re: Brewing for competition
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2017, 05:14:05 PM »
The most important thing is timing...I mark out the competition entry dates on a calendar (or in a computer text document), and work backwards from there to make sure everything will be brewed, finished and at optimal condition before the competition. Ethinson's response was pretty on-point, although I'll add/supplement a few comments.

General tips I follow include:
- Enter your bottles at the last possible day that works for you. You have no control over bottle storage conditions once they are out of your hands, so I always keep them under my supervision as long as possible.
- If you are bottling from a keg, bottle your beers just before you drop them off or ship them.
- Note the registration dates; make sure to register in time! If it's a competition with limited space, it might be especially important to register sooner than later.
- Once you have the above activities set, work backwards from there. Depending on the beer (is it something that requires a short or long time to ferment and condition), you can then sketch out your brew days, etc. The main goal is to ensure your beer is in optimal condition for the judges.
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Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: Brewing for competition
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2017, 07:45:34 PM »
Unlike other competitions, the National Homebrew Competition has a set submission date for all first round entries, despite differing judging dates among the competition sites.  That alone may impact where you enter your entries for judging.  The longer the time frame between delivery and judging, the more important it becomes to have a beer hold up for that time frame.  Many homebrewers bottle condition for this reason. 

At the final round, many beers were likely not re-brewed and it showed as oxidation was pretty prevalent according to many judges with whom I spoke.  Another consideration for first round entry site selection - opportunity to re-brew if you advance to finals. (While everyone may certainly re-brew, entering an early-date judge site allows you to know that you have advanced before you need to re-brew certain styles that are more susceptible to storage concerns.)

Just a point for consideration....
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Offline brewinhard

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Re: Brewing for competition
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2017, 08:07:30 PM »
Many times, the summer and fall prior to most brewing comps (a flurry in spring through early summer) I will spend some time brewing up higher gravity beers (RIS, Wee Heavy, Dopplebock, etc) that benefit from some aging time. Then within 2 mos of upcoming comps I will start to brew up some lower gravity beers that I want to enter (lagers, pale ale, IPA's, etc) with hoppier beers being brewed as late as possible for freshness.

Offline gman23

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Re: Brewing for competition
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2017, 12:07:40 AM »
I only enter one competition per year and don't plan my brewing around it so just enter what I have on hand. This creates problems with beers that are not quite to style or that are hard to categorize. It has worked out for me as well as failed miserably. It's about that time again and my two entries are going to be tough sells I think.
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Offline Steve Ruch

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Re: Brewing for competition
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2017, 05:55:45 PM »
I only enter one competition per year and don't plan my brewing around it so just enter what I have on hand.

Me too.
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Offline Wilbur

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Re: Brewing for competition
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2017, 04:21:53 AM »
I check out competition dates, Mark them on a calendar, forget about it, then scramble to figure out what beers for what category.

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