My first homebrewing competition. Exciting, nerve-wrecking, delicious. Although I didn't come away with a win (or placing for that matter) in the Dry Stout sub-category, it was a great overall experience.
Accompanied by my buddy Jeff (a fellow beer-lover and sometime homebrewer), we sampled 36 examples of dry, sweet, imperial, and other types of stout, chatted with the other homebrewers at our table, and did our best to score the competition - mostly "this one is better than the last one, but not as good as the first one." Very scientific.
The mood of the event was less a competition, more a general fun sampling. You could tell when people liked a beer ("I'll take seconds") and when they didn't (sour faces). You could also see it coming as those ahead of you tried each offering.
The other gentlemen at our table turned out to be relative newcomers to homebrewing. Two had been at it for eight or nine months, while for another, the competition was his first beer. Comically, that made me the old hat. And while everyone was friendly enough and I got some great tips about joining a local homebrewing club, I was a bit disappointed that I missed out on some "shop talk" from a "veteran." Next time, I guess.
In many ways the experience was both gratifying and challenging. Of the beers there, I never felt that I was tasting anything I couldn't make myself. And yet, after trying a number of the imperial offerings (those which blew away the competition in my humble opinion) I was moved and inspired to work harder and learn more in order to brew beer on that level. I swear, one was a dead ringer for Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout. That's damn good!
There were also two or three beers that sucked. Glad they weren't mine.
Of the comments I received, the most helpful follow:
- Chocolate malt predominates. Lacks roast barely for style. No hop aroma. Perhaps some diacetyl, buttery. Good color, very clean, okay head. Nice malty stout, good middle and nice hop balance, but then astringency comes in and dominates finish - Were your dark malts crushed too fine or left in to a high temp? Remove before 170 'F if using steeping bag. This starts great but grain astringency is too much in finish. Watch temps and crush. Total points: 31 (of 50 possible).
- Some chocolate. Clean. Lingering astringency. Nice roast. Total points: 27 (of 50 possible).
- Smells a little astringent, almost solvent-y. Head disapates quickly. Astringent, solvent-y, plastic. Dry and astringent. Total points: 26 (of 50 possible).
I didn't take any pictures of the event, but here are a few from the Wine and Hop Shops Facebook page.