More Homebrewing Lessons Learned at Brooklyn Wort

Saturday was the 2nd Brooklyn Wort Homebrew competition.  I was very excited to go, hang out with a couple of friends, while myself and 29 homebrewers shared their beer with over 250 people.  It set out to be a great day, my trek from New Jersey to Brooklyn was quick and uneventful and got all set up with my jockey box and keg; I was ready to start pouring my beer for all those who had paid the $30 to get in the door.

Simply Beer Jockey Box ready for action

Going into this competition, I knew I was up against some steep competition with four of my friends pouring their homebrews, John Kleinchester, Chris Lehault, Andrew Maiorana, and Jonathan Moxey.  As I poured my first beer, I knew things were not going to go as well as I hoped.  My first problem, my beer was under-carbonated, the beer was pouring with out any head.  It’s especially hard to recover from that lack of carbonation on a 2 ounce pour.  Secondly, my aluminum chill plate was working too well, my beer was pouring super cold.  Not what I wanted for this beer, actually not what I want for any of my beers. Today I was pouring my American Black Lager. The extreme cold of the beer hid the hops and really brought the bitterness of the beer forward.  After tasting my friends brews, I knew there was no way I could possibly show well against their beers.

John Kleinchester's Cask IPA's Hand Pump

AS the event progressed, I was getting great feedback from people.  Most seemed to like my American Black Lager, but it seemed as though I had to explain the beer to everyone.  “It’s a hybrid between an IPA and German Schwartzbier”  with that explanation they seemed to get the concept and enjoy the beer.  My third mistake of the night was not having an adequate style description on the sheet everyone got to try the beers.  (actually my first mistake since we had to email a beer name and style ahead of time).  The is no style called American Black Lager, so I sent in more of a description since I didn’t think these beers were being judged to a style. That was my fourth mistake.  At every competition, judges lean toward some sort of style, it what is most natural to judge against.  I should have simply left it as American Black Lager and I think it might have been better received by the judges?

Nice crowd of people drinking Homebrews at Brooklyn Wort

What do I mean by better received, well I’m not sure, for the most part I think they hated my beer.  To be honest I was pretty upset when I got the comment cards back from event coordinators.  They were pretty brutal.  My scores were embarrassing low.  While I’m still embarrassed by the scores, I’m going to tell you what they were since I feel as though this experience is going to make me a better brewer and I’ll come back stronger next time.  From low to high: 9/50, 12/50, 14/50, 20/50, 23/50, 24/50, 25/50.  If you’re reading this and have had you beer scored, a score like this can be pretty shocking to your system.  While I acknowledge my beer had some flaws, these were eye opening scores.  Now I don’t know who gave me what score, nor do I care or hold any ill will.  Several of the comment cards were helpful, giving me the positives of the beer and also where the beer fell apart.

I was hesitant to write about this, but this made me realize, since I’ve been homebrewing for so long, I think I started to get over confident, maybe even cocky about my abilities, lesson five.  After letting this sink in for a day I have a renewed passion and desire to improve on my basic techniques.  Maybe it is time to go back to basics and reset.  Do some more reading and studying, while keeping these comments in the back of my mind as additional motivation.

A glass of Brooklyn Brewery's Reinschweinsgebot

Even though my beer was not well received by the judges, I did get some great feedback from a whole lot of people tasting it on saturday with a bunch coming back for seconds.  That is what made this day worth it for me, there were some people who really liked it, which is a win for me.  I also got to have a glass of Brooklyn Brewery’s Wild One and Brooklyn Brewery’s Reinschweinsgebot, Win and Win!

While it wasn’t my best showing, two of my friends did do well, Andrew Maiorana received the peoples choice award for his Black Pepper Brown Ale and Chris Lehault received Brewer’s second place with his Hibiscus Ale.  Congratulations guys and look out for me in August at the next Brooklyn Wort!


15 Responses to “More Homebrewing Lessons Learned at Brooklyn Wort”

  1. Jamey Says:

    A solid humbling is a good thing. And we all need them from time to time.

    In the competitions I’ve entered, I think that the judges have been, at times perhaps, kinder than they should have been. No one really wants to rip another person’s beer, and if you do then maybe you shouldn’t be judging. But honest and constructive feedback is priceless.

    But look at your feedback with a grain of salt. I was dismayed by a beer that I entered into a pair of Virginia BJCP competitions. It got terrible scores and only averaged an 18 in one of the events. An 18. I tried the beer afterwards and there were no major flaws in it to earn such a score. It would have bothered me more if that beer hadn’t made it to the final round of the National Homebrew Competition. Yes, WTF. :)

    So, the moral of the story is listen to the feedback and try to use it to improve your craft. But the judges aren’t infallible. Especially if the beer doesn’t fit into the tight confines of a style definition.

  2. Simply Beer Says:

    Thanks Jamey! IT was a solid humbling and I’m actually grateful for it. I have a lot of respect for 3 of the judges (professional brewers/owners), don’t know the other 4. Non-the-less the last couple of weeks and now this, have really made me look at my process and I’ve found a number of spots that I can improve upon.

    Here’s to better future showings! :-)

  3. NW Bearded Brewer Says:

    I’m new to home brewing, and just racked my first batch of brew to the second fermentor this weekend. Sounds like I have a long way to go. Hope you at least had a good time at the event. Like you said, you got a great response from the people attending, and that’s always a good thing.


  4. Simply Beer Says:

    NWBB, that is what made it a good day, positive feedback from all the others drinking my beer. Good Luck with your brews. Cheers

  5. John K Says:

    Cheers, Peter. I thought your black lager was really tasty. We had some similar results with our judges cards. oh well, next time. But congrats to Andrew and Chris!

  6. Simply Beer Says:

    Thanks John, I really enjoyed your IPA as well! Until Get Real NY!

  7. Vanessa Says:

    It can be so tricky too, when you make a beer (even for a non-style comp) that doesn’t fit into a neat little box; I’ve found that especially true with entering my Iron Brewer beer into comps – people often just don’t know what to make of it!

    Regardless, as long as you take it as constructive criticism, it’s only going to help you improve! :)

  8. Simply Beer Says:

    Thanks Vanessa. Yeah, Iron Brewer beers really doesn’t fit anywhere except specialty categories. LOL :-)

  9. Jason Harris Says:

    I’ve yet to compete with any of my beers, but the whole category thing makes me not want to. I’d rather make a great beer than a beer that fits the standard definition of style ##X.

  10. ST Says:

    Nice positive take! My barleywine also did not get the scores I expected either, and based on some of the comments I felt it was either being mistaken for 19B English style, or possibly the judges weren’t following BJCP? One even made very specific comments about my fermentation temps and poor attenuation – which were WAY off the mark (the comments, not my attenuation!) Anyway it took a while to let all that filter in and I am now feeling more appreciative for the constructive criticism than put off by the few questionable cards. And most of all – the event was a BLAST! Enjoyed tasting your black lager.

  11. Simply Beer Says:

    ST, The event was a blast and glad you enjoyed my Beer. I’m not even going to speculate what people think, but the best thing you can do for yourself is try to take some positive away from it, which it seems you are. Are you going to do Get Real NY in a couple weeks or Brooklyn Wort in Aug?

  12. Threefrenchs Says:

    You have always been a positive influence on my brewing and this is a great post. I just entered my 1st contest after home brewing off and on for over 15 years and although what my friends think about my beer means a lot, having a neutral party judge your beer brings this hobby to a whole new level. Thanks for sharing and I have no doubt that you will be even a better brewer having had this experience.

  13. Simply Beer Says:

    Thanks Robert! Probably on of the best compliments I’ve had in a long time! Keep brewing!

  14. mike Says:

    You obviously have influenced me too and I’m looking forward to your Get Real NY cask’d beers. Really effin’ excited!! Oh — Yours too, 10 Guys

  15. Chris (idrunkthat) Lehault Says:

    Man, I dug the ABL style! It was a fun day and you never know what is gonna happen in these competitions. Can’t wait to see how messed up my fermentations will be for the August edition.

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