My local homebrew club (Members of Barleyment) held an American IPA (AIPA) brewing competition on July 27, 2013.
This is by far my favourite style so I brewed up a batch of Green Flash West Coast IPA (my current favourite AIPA) in anticipation of entering it in the competition. It was kegged exactly a month before the competition to give it time to carbonate and condition a bit (but not too much as hop forward beers are best consumed young).
I had a keg of Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA still on tap that I had brewed and kegged 6 months earlier, so I figured it would be interesting to enter it as well as it is completely different. The hoppiness had mellowed a bit but I was still enjoying it.
16 entries were received. We did not use Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) score sheets - this was simply a "best in show" type competition where 3 flights of 5 to 6 beers are presented and you're asked to rank them from best to worst. Lowest score wins. The only rule was that tasters be familiar with the BJCP guidelines for American IPA and that the beers be brewed (more or less) to those guidelines as well.
Samples were presented in small 6 oz plastic cups:
Colours varied greatly given that American IPAs can range from 6 to 15 SRM:
Brewers tasting samples:
I've done this sort of ranking a few times now and it's amazingly difficult to judge beers based on preference alone. I'd often find myself enjoying two completely different beers, but at the end of the day they need to be ranked. The organizer (who has gone through BJCP training) gave this comment as a hint: "Choose the beer that you'd want to have a second pint of - it's the beer you like the most (but may not really know why)". Unsalted crackers and water are handy tools for cleansing your pallet between samples.
(Competition organizer on the left, me on the right)
The Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA came in a close third which was interesting to see since my two beers were presented in the same flight which meant they were competing against each other.
While I was out at the competition my kids made their own trophies (probably to make me feel better in case my beers didn't win ) which was fun to see after:
Unfortunately their trophies of duct tape and cardboard aren't as resilient as the real thing:
It was an interesting event and lots of fun.
Even though it wasn't an 'official' BJCP competition I still learnt a lot and enjoyed tasting all of the samples.
If you ever get a chance to enter any competitions, go for it! (Especially unofficial ones as the informal nature can make them more fun). It's a real learning experience. To best to way to find these sorts of competitions is to join whatever local homebrew club exists in your area. There are clubs all over the world.
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