I actually won something

In my recent post Making hard cider at home, I admitted that the only medal I had ever won in a competition was for a cider. I was hoping to change that last year as I vowed to enter more competitions. I didn’t brew quite as much in 2016 as I had in 2015. A lot of what I brewed last year was for events like Jamboree and Ales over ALS. Entering more of my beers into competitions was one of my Brew Year’s Resolutions.

I had gotten great feedback on my latest batch Pa’s Lager. Before that I entered Pa’s Lager and Curly’s Pumpkin Milk Stout into a competition in Portland, ME: the Groundhogs Day Homebrew Competition 2017 run by the Portland Mashing Maineiacs. Additionally I volunteered to judge in the competition. I’ll take a built-in excuse to visit Portland. I made time to stop by Foundation and D.L. Geary’s before heading home.

The competition wasn’t huge with only around 100 entries. The categories were grouped into six different “tables” from which awards were given. I judged American Ales, American Porters, and American Stouts with a brewer and judge named Doug who is from nearby Swampscott, Mass. He was also a Certified BJCP judge and additionally he is a Certified Cicerone. Our scores tended to diverge a bit, but we were able to reach easy consensuses for the winners of both flights we judged.

Of the two beers I entered I probably had higher hopes for the Pumpkin Milk Stout. I was really happy with how that beer came out, and I thought it was a more forgiving beer and would better mask any flaws or off-flavors. After Doug and I finished our flights, I was milling around and saw the table where all of the judged beers were lined up. As I looked for my entries and any hopes I had of the Pumpkin Milk Stout placing were dashed. I found the bottle of Pumpkin Milk Stout with dried foam on the outside. If my beer gushed, there was no chance it would win anything.

The steward from that table told me the beer didn’t gush when opened, but it did slowly foam after opening. I took a swig from the already judged bottle. It didn’t taste offensive, but it clearly had fallen off from even a month earlier.

What I didn’t find was Pa’s Lager. The Best-in-Show judging was being conducted in a separate room that I could see into through a large window. I saw the bottles in contention for BOS on a table and I was pretty sure I saw a bottle with a yellow cap with the top filled in with black ink. Was that Pa’s Lager? It certainly looked like it.

I made sure not to let myself get too excited, but as soon as I got home I kept refreshing the competition’s website waiting for the winners to be announced. Finally, late on Monday night I saw this:

Pa’s Lager finished in first place at it’s table! After four years of brewing I finally have brewed a beer that medaled in a competition. I woke Jennie up to teller and she was so happy and supportive. I shared the news with my family on social media. That a beer brewed in honor of Pa Chalifour won an award meant a lot to them also. 
For me as a brewer I was happy to receive the acknowledgement. In the past I have entered beer into competitions that I had high hopes for, but the entries maybe were not at the peak of freshness like the Pumpkin Milk Stout or I had send entered “bad bottles” that were infected while the rest of the batch was fine. Some of the beers I have brewed that I thought were the best were made in too small of a quantity, or were consumed at an event like Jamboree, and couldn’t be entered. This time everything came together. 
This past Saturday I received my scoresheets via email. Pa’s Lager was judged by two professional brewers who gave it an score of 43.5. That is by far the best score I have ever received in a competition. Curly’s Pumpkin Milk Stout received a 26. The beer did gush. The judges thought the beer was thin and too spicy. Further evidence that the bottle was infected because having designed and tasted the beer myself, the beer was neither when it was young. 
Now, was this the biggest competition? In terms of number of entries it wasn’t. I am entering three different beers in the Ocean State Homebrew Competition which should have five or six times the number of entries. I also applied for three entries into the National Homebrew Competition, the largest competition in the country. 

I have several projects I am working on at the moment. A couple of them are beer-related so check this space for details. The key is balancing work, brewing, and life in general. I need to keep my pipeline of fresh beer churning if I want to keep doing well in competitions. If I want to go to the next level, a closet full of medals will only help the cause and give me credibility.

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