Tag Archive: competition

Hammerdown Brew Cup Soapbox

I entered four beers into the Hammerdown Brew Cup.  This is by far the most that I’ve ever entered into a competition.  These beers I feel really good about.


Mesa Cerveza Vienna Lager

This is from a recipe I copied and adjusted from Five Blades Brewing.  The adjustments were because of my less efficient system and because my LHBS didn’t have Blackprinz (and I’ve never seen it there). I used Carafa III instead, which is a dark de-bittered malt.  The taste is slightly nutty, not at the level of a nut brown, though. I find it quite pleasing and it pairs well with Mexican (or well, Mexican-styled American) food.  There will be more of a blog post about this one coming soon.  Entered as 07A: Vienna Lager.

Don’t Pout Cherry Stout

This is a milk stout where I racked a gallon onto some canned cherries. While the base beer is just okay, the cherries make it taste quite pleasing. The base beer uses Carafa II, which doesn’t really have the roasty flavor of roast barley that I was looking for (the LHBS was out of roast barley when I was getting ingredients).  Entered as 29A: Fruit beer.

Brew United Kölsch

This beer has been talked about extensively before and it scored pretty well at Brew United. However, I’m not a huge fan of the beer and gave away copious amounts of this beer – everyone else loved it. So I’m seeking validation.  Entered as 05B: Kölsch.

Vampire Dust

Sometimes I just want to experiment. So I did. This is a pre-prohibition lager, but with Citra instead of historical hops. The BJCP 2015 guidelines specifically say that for pre-prohibition lagers, “a fruity or citrusy modern hop character is inappropriate” (57).  So entering it in category 27 (historical beers) would not have been the right thing to do and would have guaranteed a poor score.  Entered as a 34C: Experimental Beer.  Not guaranteed to place well, of course, as it isn’t really an experiment… well, yeah, it actually was.

Judging is on April 23. Cheers!

More Looking at Beer Competitions

In the last few weeks since I first did some data-crunching on a few competitions (the Ohio State Fair, the AHA National Homebrewers Competition, and the Indiana State Fair), two things have happened – the results for the Cincinnati Malt Infusers 2015 All-American Home Brew Competition were released and I read an article about making heat maps, which is a better way to look at this.


Note: green means few, red means many.  Colors are proportion of the entries for that competition.

This really just shows the same conclusions I already came to previously:

  • American Ale, IPA, and Stout are the most popular categories
  • Light Hybrid is a little more popular at the state fairs than the NHC (which can probably be deemed to be somewhat of an average)

One thing the heat map shows is how some styles ebb and flow through time and location.  Smoke, sour, and Belgian strong categories really show that.

The other conclusion I came to in the last writing on this subject still applies, too.  This doesn’t matter if YOU like the beer you brew.


Looking at Beer Competitions

I looked into a few homebrewing competitions.  I think I mostly wanted to look at how big the categories are.


The data I found is from the National Homebrewing Competition, the Indiana State Fair, and the Ohio State Fair.  Only partial datasets were used from the state fairs, because not all the data I need is on their websites.  This data is far from perfect, but I think the conclusions I make below are still valid.



Total Number of Entries per Year

As shown above, there has been a lot of growth in the National Homebrew Competition.  From 2009 to 2012, it grew by 50% and by 2014 it grew even more.  The states did not show any growth.  We’re in a golden age of homebrewing where the Internet helps new homebrewers along, a craft beer surge that shows everyone that not all beer is a Light American Lager.  I think this has helped increase the NHC.

Bud’s crack on craft brewing will likely help homebrewing as well as craft beer.  After all, 44% of drinkers age 21-27 have never tasted it.  Not sure if they’ve had a craft beer either, though (they could be wine or whiskey drinkers).


I visually looked through to see the top five and bottom five.  I didn’t do any actual analysis other than that.

Entries by Style

Entries by Style

Top 5: American Ale, IPA, Stout, Belgian and French, and Belgian Strong

It is probably expected that American Ales and IPAs would be big styles.  I think a lot of people that ‘stick their foot in’ to craft beer start with amber or pale ales and probably soon make it to IPAs.  After being in the hobby for 6 months, I’m not shocked to see strong numbers from Stout – it seems like the non-hop-head craft beer lovers gravitate towards good stouts.  Also, Stout allows for some flexibility with ingredients without becoming something not-beer.  I’m also not shocked to see Belgian and French, and Belgian Strong classes represented well, as many of the homebrewers I know have a profound interest in those two classes (specifically in saisons, tripels, and quadrupels).

Bottom 5: Amber Hybrid, Strong Ale, Sour Ale, Euro Amber Lager, and Dark Lager

Amber Hybrid (which includes Northern German Altbier, Dusseldorf Altbier, and California Common) is one I would have expected to be higher, although that is mostly because of the California Common style.  BYO Magazine recently did a feature article on this, perhaps we’ll see some growth there.  As far as altbier, I’m not sure my three local bottle shops  have any altbier that would be within these styles.  I don’t know about others, but I’d sure be apprehensive of brewing a style I’ve never tasted.

Strong Ale was a little shocking.  I expected more people to use barleywine to show off malt selection.

I didn’t think it was shocking that sour ale was among the bottom, but maybe that’s because I find them intimidating from the brewing standpoint.

I was shocked to see both the Euro Amber Lager and Dark Lager among the bottom five.  These two style groups include some of my favorites in the lager kingdom, Oktoberfest and Schwarzbier.

From my point of view on one of the hills east of Cincinnati, though, I am partially not shocked about all but one of the bottom 5 being lagers.  According to the temperature on my ale pail, fermentation holds around 64-66 degrees (Fahrenheit, 18-19 Celcius) in my basement with no temperature control.  Perfect for ales, not so much for lagers.  I eventually will brew some lagers, but I have to have better temperature control first.

An interesting contrast in the styles is the light hybrid group.  Apparently this is pretty common in the midwest, but not nationally – it’s pretty low for NHC, but pretty high for both the state fairs.  This includes cream ale, blonde ale, Kolsch, and american wheat or rye.  My only guess here is that we have a local soft spot for Little King’s Cream Ale.

Growth and Losses

I looked at this by looking at the slope of the trend based on the NHC data.

The biggest growth style classes are IPA, American Ale, Stout, Belgian and French Ale, and Spice, Herb, and Vegetable Beer.  I don’t find any of these shocking except the spice, herb, and vegetable class.

The losing classes are all meads.  I’m not sure what to think of that.  On one hand, it isn’t uncommon to find a homebrewer that is at least interested in fermenting mead.  On the other hand, good honey is incredibly expensive, and that may factor into things.

The not-really-growing classes are Pilsner, Specialty Cider & Perry, German Wheat & Rye, Light Lager, and Standard Cider & Perry.  Regarding cider and light lager, I’m not shocked.  While I don’t think the hobby is bent against ciders, perries, and light lagers, I think there is a segment of beer drinkers that look on those three groups as being inferior.  I don’t agree with them (and I have a cider experiment going on in the basement now), but I think it exists.

That leaves Pilsner and German Wheat & Rye as the odd men out.  I’m not sure why, as every beer geek worth his (or her) glass knows that Pilsner is different from Light Lager (and generally regarded as far better).  Perhaps it has to do with the difficulty in water chemistry and fermenting.  Regarding German Wheat and Rye, I don’t know.  It’s not among my favorite styles, but that doesn’t really mean anything to others.

So What’s This All Mean?

Nothing.  Nada.  Jack Shit.  I’m a data geek in real life and wanted to look into this.  Awards don’t matter, your taste does.  Brew what you like, because if you come in from work and look forward to opening another homebrew, you’re doin’ it right.

…but I understand if you still want to win an award (I do).  It’s kinda like getting a medal at the end of a (running) race.  The medal symbolizes the work that went into training for that event.  Similarly, a beer award symbolizes the work put into formulating and executing a recipe.