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Homebrewing Competition Guide [Infographic]

Posted by Select Sheds on 3/15/2016
There is no better way to utilize your backyard (or any space, really) than in the celebration of good beer with good friends. Whether you are a brewmaster yourself, or merely an ale enthusiast, gathering your friends for a laid-back outdoor homebrewing competition is the perfect way to spend any weekend. 

Turn your friends into judges for a day, and let your fellow beer-lovers have fun tasting and voting for their favorite homebrews. Here's what you need to know to plan a tasting party that will be one for the record books.

homebrew-competition

If you had trouble viewing the infographic, never fear! Here's the same information:

"He that drinketh strong beer and goes to bed right mellow, lives as he ought to live and dies a hearty fellow."

-Anonymous

PLAN

We all know that there are a lot of nitty gritty details that go into party planning, but planning a homebrewing competition comes with a couple of its own special set of planning elements.

THEME

First things first: choose a theme. Not only do themes make the party more fun for the guests, but it can also provide a unique challenge to your brewers. THEME SUGGESTIONS
    • INGREDIENT CHALLENGE
Pick a seasonal ingredient that every brewer has to use when crafting their beer. Celebrate spring by requiring the infusion of a flower, or ring in fall with pumpkin or cinnamon. Who used it best?
    • INGREDIENT SWAP
Have the brewers meet together before the brewing begins, and do a White Elephant ingredient exchange. Whichever ingredient you get stuck with, it has to be incorporated into your beer.
    • BEER IMPERSONATOR
Challenge the brewers to mimic one of your favorite beers, and compare the imposters against the originals. Whoever comes closest is the champion brewmaster of the evening.

RECRUIT BREWERS

Invite friends to brew! They could be experienced brewers, or those wanting to try it for the first time. Just give them plenty of time to prepare and brew, inform them of the theme and any pre-determined rules (such as a minimum ABV, required ingredients, or any beer naming or label design requirements), and make sure they know how much beer they are responsible for bringing.

INVITE GUESTS

Obviously, this is a requirement of any party. Considering this is a beer tasting, though, you may want to provide your ale-loving guests with some details in advance. Get them pumped by filling them in on the theme, awards and prizes, and who is brewing. Inform them of a tasting cut-off time, so they know when to get there by to participate in the judging. Also let them know if you plan on providing designated drivers (an excellent call). If you have sleeping areas available, makes sure they know they have the option to spend the night, and can come prepared with a sleeping bag.

PREP

Now it's time to get your backyard ready for the ultimate beer-tasting experience. How many brewers and guests you have will likely determine your set up, so be sure to get a head count before you settle on a party flow.

TASTING SET-UP

For a small party, set up a designated tasting area, with every beer available, and plenty of room for people to taste and make notes. For larger parties, consider giving each brewer their own tasting station, and let guests do a mini tour-de-beer around your backyard, making their way from station to station.

HYDRATION STATION

A food and water station is a must at any beer tasting event. Not only will it help cleanse palates in between sips of different beers, but it will help keep your grown-up tasting event from turning into something more resembling a frat party. Avoid spicy food, or any food that might overpower people's taste buds (you want to keep the beer the featuring flavor here), and serve grub that is high in fats and protein, to help slow the body's absorption of the alcohol.

DECOR

When it comes to decor, think about what would do well sitting outside overnight, in case you aren't exactly in cleanup mode after a day of drinking beer. Have plenty of seating areas for groups to socialize, and provide blankets for later in the evening when the temperature starts to drop. You also don't want to make your guests drink in the dark - string up lights and lanterns to set the ambience.

PARTY

It's party time! Now that the brewers and tasters have arrived, the delicious fun can begin. Welcome your guests with a brief introduction of the brewers and any special challenges they were given in this event. Provide them a little tour of your backyard set-up, and let them know where they can find food and water. Lastly, provide them with scorecards and pens, and let the competition begin!

TASTING

Save the Solo cups for beer pong with your college buddies. A proper beer tasting requires glass. Of course, pairing different types of beer with the proper style glass is ideal, but mason jars will do just fine. No matter what you do, though, don't use plastic! Typical tasting pours are four ounces, so smaller glasses are preferred. Start off your tasting with your lighter, lower-alcohol beers, such as lagers, pilsners, and wheats. Save the hoppy, boozier ales for the end.

JUDGING

How you choose to judge is totally up to you. You can go with a simple 1 to 10 rating, or choose a system that more accurately evaluates different aspects of the beer. We prefer the second option, as it gives brewers more comprehensive feedback, and helps guests remember each beer more clearly throughout the process. Some point categories to consider are: appearance (color, clarity, head, etc.), aroma, initial taste, aftertaste, and how the beer feels in your mouth. You can make up your own scorecards, or download some for free off the internet.

AWARDS

After all the beer has been sampled, tally up the scores for Best Beer and present the victorious brewer with their prize. To make things more interesting, widen your range of prizes available. Have guests vote on things like Best Beer Name, Best Beer Label Design, and even the Worst Beer brewed. Make prizes available for the guests as well. Perhaps they have to guess the special ingredient that is in each beer. Whoever makes the most correct guesses wins a prize! This way, everyone in attendance can revel in the thrill of competition.