Once upon a time I was prolific at entering competitions with my homebrewed beers. That was just as I was becoming involved with the BJCP program and my brewing knowledge had increased tremendously. All of a sudden one day it dawned on me that I was my own beer’s worst critic and I really did not need someone else to tell me where the flaws were and so I stopped entering and now just judge and try to enjoy the competitions. What got me thinking about it is our local competition is this weekend.
There are really only a few types of people who enter competitions. The first is the new brewer or the one who wants validation their beer is as good as they believe it is. Generally they bomb when the enter competition because the competition generally has narrow guidelines and their creation may not fit in that mold. Most appreciate the feedback they receive and after a while figure out it really is not worth the price of admission unless they had brewed the beer close to style or if their beer has a flaw they cannot troubleshoot. The next type is the person who throws in a beer to help their local club. They don’t care about the score sheet and the ribbon, they just want to be supportive. The next are accomplished brewers and are trying to perfect their process. They generally enter a modest number of beers and genuinely desire the feedback to tweak their brewing procedures. The last is the worst, the RIBBON WHORE. This is a brewer who is only out to collect trophies and typically they shotgun the competition. These brewers are gunning for a title and will enter no matter what the cost.
The theory behind shotgunning a competition is you enter as many categories and subcategories as you have beers and try to enter categories where others may not. In a flight of 5-8 beers you have much more success capturing a ribbon than in a flight of 40 beers since most competitions only give out first, second, and third place awards. The beers for shotgunning can be created by blending (which is allowable) or by additions. Back in the day I would blend two beers or add flavoring to create a fruit beer. I actually got quite skilled at it and won many ribbons. Some purists call it cheating, but I do not. Lambic is typically a blended beer style and so is whiskey so I don’t see the rub.
What is bothersome is for a modest homebrew club having to handle all those entries. Our club can easily handle 350 entries, when it goes above 400 it begins to be troublesome. The biggest issue is judge availability for flights and just handling all the bottles. The competition this weekend logged over 450 entires and in a two bottle competition that will be 900+ bottles and over 37.5 cases of beer. It’s difficult to manage, label, haul, etc. Those who did the work are to be commended. Thanks will be given to those who come and help judge and steward. Awards will be presented and if the gods are smiling those who shotgunned will go home empty-handed!