How to enter your first Homebrew Competition

Dave Dixon - Dave's Dreaded How To

This is a forum post Mike Roszkowski provided for Guild members that will be entering their first competition.  This is very informative and can help not only just new to competiton homebrews but veteran homebrews.

Please raise a glass to Mike for this excellent information.

How to enter your first competition By Mike Roszkowski – NKY Homebrewers Guild Member

First step is to register for a competition.  Example: (this was written for the CMI competition for our club members)

Go to this site and click “register” and fill out your info and create a login/password.  I usually use the same password for all my brew comps so I don’t have to try to remember multiples.  If you’re not an AHA member, you should sign up for that too…it’s an annual membership and allows you to get into just about every comp. Not all comps are open to non-AHA members.

Once you register at the competition site, you need to log in.  Then you’ll want to go click “Add an Entry”   Here’s where it gets interesting sometimes.

  1. Give your beer a name….”Evil Bunny” is what I name my IPA…make something fun up that you can remember.
  2. Pick the style. This is easy for some folks that are familiar with BJCP styles…it may be harder if you’re not.  I’d guess that you know what you’re brewing most of the time, so pick that category.  It only gets complicated if you have a style you need to list special ingredients for. This is only for categories 6D, 16E, 17F, 20, 21, 22B, 22C, 23, 25C, 26A, 26C, 27E, 28B-D, and all custom styles…for example when I enter my Christmas ale, I’m picking 21B for the style, but I have to list that it’s an ale with Ginger, Cinnamon, etc. in it…
  3. Click “submit entry”
  4. All the other info (recipe stuff) is optional for MOST competitions…It’ll let you know if it’s not.  I skip this. If they want my recipe they can ask later.  NHC and the club only comps almost ALWAYS require it.
  5. After you submit your entries you’ll see them listed at the bottom of the page once you log in.  For each beer you’ll have to print your entry forms and bottle labels (click the link on your list of beers).
  6. After you enter a beer or 10, you’ll need to pay for your entries.  Once you either pay via paypal (a lot of clubs offer this) or write a check to send with your entries, it’s time to prepare your bottles for entry.
  7. Most comps require 2 bottles, very few require 1 or more than 2.  You need a label on EACH bottle.  Cut the labels out from the sheets you printed and attach them to the UNMARKED, brown bottle with a couple of rubber bands.  Some folks put each label in a ziplock sandwich bag before rubber banding them so you can read which beer is which in case a bottle breaks…not a bad idea, but I rarely do that.
  8. If I’m shipping bottles I usually wrap them in bubble wrap, put them inside a padded box lined with a garbage bag, tie the bag off when done, then put my entry forms and check on top. You can ship beer by any common carrier EXCEPT the USPS.  If it’s a local competition, ask if you can “hand-carry” your entries in the day of the comp.  This is almost always allowed if you are judging or stewarding…not if you’re just entering and not helping.
  9. You’re ready to go!  Be mindful of the dates they are accepting entries…sometimes you can sign up for a comp months ahead of when they’ll allow you to ship them beer.

Some things to keep in mind.

  • Bottle beers in unmarked bottles…no labels, no writing on the caps, nothing.  12 oz. brown bottles are ALWAYS acceptable.  I know guys that put stickers on the caps lightly that they can take off once they put the competition labels on.  I actually write on my caps but use some stain remover to “erase” them after I rubber band label my bottles.
  • This is fun.  Don’t get bent out of shape if you don’t win any medals.  It doesn’t mean you make bad beer or somebody makes better beer.  Sometimes judges get palate fatigue (common with hoppy beers) and your beer gets lost in the shuffle.  Sometimes it’s all about being lucky of where in the tasting your beer ends up.  Some judges are assholes and most are awesome…don’t take a bad score personally.  Feel free to email the judge and ask if they remember your beer (if you had a flaw, they probably will) and if they have any other suggestions.
  • Drink one of your beers before you enter it…if you haven’t had one in 6 months, it may have changed considerably!
  • Plan to ship your beers early in the receiving window…you can pay for cheaper shipping and your beers will have some time to settle again after being bounced around on a truck—especially helpful for bottle conditioned beers with lots of yeast settlement.
  • If you’re bottling from a keg, use a counter-flow filler or a “Beer-gun” that allows you to purge the bottles with co2—keeps your tasty beers from oxidizing.  Fill your bottles as much as possible so you don’t have a ton of headspace to lose your carbonation into…

Thanks Mike for taking the time to put this together.