Organizing a homebrew competition, I am actually organizing something

Even with the holiday season being over, I am still filling in one day a week at Modern Homebrew Emporium in Cambridge. This past week I worked my regular job, poured for Newburyport on Friday night for a couple of hours, and then worked an eight-hour shift on a Saturday at the shop.

Anyhoo, my manager at the shop remarked that whenever someone buys a five pound bag of priming sugar that the brewer is lulled into a false sense of security, and that the bag always runs out when it is least expected. Alas that has happened with my blog posts. After having several in the can, which is a bit rare for me, I haven’t had any #content ready to go.

The past week or so I have been devoting most of my energy to helping to organize my homebrew club: The North Shore Brewers’ competition. The club hasn’t run a competition since 2011. Over the years the club had had difficulty finding a venue and recruiting judges. Danielle, our club president wanted to bring the competition back as a way to help club members get feedback on their beer, and to increase the club’s profile in the beer and brewing community.

The first thing Danielle did was reach out to Chris Lohring at Notch Brewing to see if he would be willing to brew the Best of Show (BOS) at Notch. Not only did Chris agree, but he offered up the taproom as a venue for the competition. Danielle then asked me to be Competition Organizer. According to the BJCP Competition Handbook:

  • Organizer – The organizer is basically responsible for planning and running the
    competition, including making sure that every aspect of the competition is completed on
    schedule and according to the rules. Some of the duties performed may include setting
    the date for the competition (which may be done with staff input), securing a venue and
    handling all venue issues, registering the competition with the BJCP, advertising the
    competition, setting up competition guidelines (with input from staff, if desired), setting
    up and troubleshooting the on-line entry process if one is being used, ordering awards,
    procuring prizes if a raffle is being held, fielding questions, and overseeing task progress
    and completion by staff members. During the competition, the organizer oversees the
    competition as a whole and pitches in where needed. After the competition, the
    competition report must be completed filed, and scoresheets/awards sent to the entrants.
    Any of the above tasks can be delegated to other staff members, or additional staff may
    be added to complete some of the tasks.
    The organizer should not judge, but can help in an emergency provided that the organizer
    does not have knowledge of the association between entries and entrants. In any event, no
    additional points are awarded to the organizer for judging or performing
Holy crap, I am kind of in-charge of this thing. We set up a Slack channel for organizing the competition with me, Danielle, Danielle’s husband Tim who is club Vice President, and Jason G.who volunteered to be the registrar for the competition. 
The first thing we had to do was coordinate with Notch to schedule a date/time to have the judging. Since their taproom opens to the public at 12:00 p.m., we decided to have two morning sessions on Saturday May 6 and Sunday May 7. Once we had that settled, I registered the competition with the BJCP. We got it in there just in time for it to appear in Zymurgy. 
I checked the BJCP competition calendar several times to try and ensure we wouldn’t be competing with any competitions in the area. Unfortunately another local club, The Boston Wort Processors also scheduled their competition on May 6. The Wort’s president politely asked if we could move the date of our competition to make sure we both have enough judges. We were too far along to even consider it.
In planning out the competition I looked at the results from the club’s last competition in 2011. Firstly I had a chuckle when I saw that Paul Gentile, owner and brewer at Gentile Brewing finished third in the light lager category. Additionally Max Heinegg who went on to be co-founder of Medford Brewing Company finished second at his table having brewed a robust porer. Five years ago there were 154 entries. For our first year back we wanted to keep things manageable so we capped the competition at 150 entries. From there I broke it down accordingly:
150 entries
8-10 beers per judging flight
15-17 flights
7-9 flights per session
Not including myself, we will need to find at least 7-9 qualified judges per session. From there I can pair the experienced judges with non-BJCP judges in the club who will hopefully volunteer. Like the BJCP handbook suggests, I’ll save myself as an emergency fill-in
Once we had the dates nailed down, we started reaching out to sponsors. A well-run competition has plenty of gifts and prizes for the judges, stewards, and volunteers. This is where sponsors can make or break a competition. Our first year back it is important that the judges and volunteers have a good experience so they want to volunteer again next year. 
Danielle works at a local bottle shop, so I asked if she could reach out to some of the brewery and distributor reps she works with. Beyond that I emailed every type of business I could think of: local craft beer bars and restaurants, homebrewing equipment and ingredient suppliers, distilleries, breweries and brewpubs that Danielle might not have a relationship with. The response better than I could have imagined.After a couple of weeks we already have 22 sponsors.

Working prototype of our poster. We ran out of room for sponsor’s logos. 
As we were reaching out to potential sponsors, Tim updated and uploaded the competition software onto the club’s website. After ironing out a couple of kinks and an ill-timed servier migration, we were able to edit all of the competition information: upload all of our sponsors, add in our drop-off locations, and other details.

The entry window has been open for three days. So far we have nine entries which isn’t too shabby at all. Our competition committee will be meeting this week to go over a few things. I am also working on a special brew to enter just for this competition.

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