Searching for the line between "hobby" and "obsession"

Homebrew Competitions

Nordeast Big River Brew Fest homebrew competition results 2012

The Nordeast Big River Brew Fest homebrew competition, put on by my homebrew club (Nordeast Brewers Alliance), culminated with the sour/wild/brett beer judging and best-in-show judging today along with the announcement of winners for all categories. Check out the image below to see the winners of the competition: I picked up three medals, a silver and two bronze. Check out my scores and the feedback: (more…)

Feedback from the MN State Fair homebrew competition 2012

Big white State Fair ribbon is on the far right:

I got my official scores and ribbon this week from the MN State Fair 2012 homebrew competition. I noticed the judges generally gave  me lower scores this year than last year in this particular competition, yet this year I placed. This leads me to believe they scored everyone lower than last year. For instance, last year I entered five beers into this competition and scored 21.5, 33, 35, 36 and 37 yet I didn’t place in any of those categories. This year I entered four beers and my highest score of 33 was the only one to place. Funny, as 33 was my 2nd lowest score last year.

Here are my 2012 State Fair homebrew comp scores: (more…)

2012 Minnesota State Fair homebrew competition results

Today I hit up the State Fair with the wife, kiddo and friends to check out the best-in-show judging for the 2012 Minnesota State Fair homebrew competition. 680+ entries submitted by 350+ brewers, making it one of the largest annual homebrew competitions in Minnesota. My California Common placed 3rd in category 7 – amber hybrid beer. This is the same beer that got me first place in the <6% ABV competition put on by my homebrew club in June, the Nordeast Brewers Alliance.

Speaking of the NBA, I was one of five club members that placed in the 2012 State Fair competition:

  • Category 7 – Amber hybrid: 3rd place, Grant Wright
  • Category 13 – Stout: 2nd place, Nathan O’brien
  • Catgory 15 – German wheat and rye: 3rd place, Davis Kessler
  • Category 16 – Belgian and French ale: 3rd place, Tom Burtyk
  • Category 17 – Sour ale: 1st place, Tom Burtyk
  • Category 19 – Strong ale: 2nd place, Tyler Bye

In addition to the California Common, I’d also entered a maibock, scotch ale and a rauchbier. I’m interested to see what my scores were for those when we receive scoresheets in the coming days.

You can find all the winners of the 2012 State Fair homebrew competition in this picture below: (more…)


Ok, so it’s not quite the victory I was hoping for. My Belgian Golden Strong didn’t place at the national round in the National Homebrew Competition, but just like last year, I’m happy to have advanced through regionals on to nationals. Though as consolation, I must say I was very happy to see my California Common win a “best of show” style session beer competition at my homebrew club’s summer BBQ. Check out the details here on the club’s blog.

The pic to the right is my beer being poured and distributed. Whatever I did with the carbonation on this one was correct, as it has a nice sustaining head without being overly carb’d. I’ll have to look back at my notes. (more…)

2nd place in the NHC 1st round

For the second year in a row, I have a beer going to the final round of the National Homebrew competition! This year, my In the name of doG scored a 38.5 out of 50 in category 18d, Belgian Golden Strong Ale (check out results for my region here), putting me in 2nd place within that category and affording me the opportunity to compete once again at the national level. As an experiment, I also entered this same beer in category 16e, Belgian Specialty Ale, where it scored 33. This beer has competed in category 16e twice in the past where it scored 33.5 (Upper Mississippi Mashout 2012) and 35 (MN State Fair 2011). Looks like category 18d is a better fit, even though some of the non-malt fermentables in this recipe came from honey instead of solely candi sugar as would be more fitting to style.

I’m very excited to be shipping my beer to Seattle for judging on 6/21. There were 7,823 entries submitted by 1,735 different homebrewers in round one this year. As cool as that sounds, I must admit that those numbers are essentially divided into 10 different U.S. and one Canadian region. Within each region, brewers have 28 categories in which to submit fermented beverages. There were a total of 31 entries in category 18d, so the truth of it is I got 2nd place in that particular grouping. Still something to be proud of, for sure.

The other two beers I entered were my pumpkin rye ale and chocolate cherry stout, both of which performed decently, but at the minimal level I expect of myself. I know exactly what went wrong with the cherry stout (fermented too hot, thus it’s a bit tannic and boozy) but just wanted to see the judges confirm/deny (confirmed). As far as the pumpkin rye goes, I brewed it last July and I think it’s just lost it’s rye luster (experimenting with an Irish ale yeast normally reserved for Stout probably didn’t help much either) and they noted it wasn’t quite hoppy enough for an amber (I’d entered it this time as an amber ale-based beer per feedback from the Upper Mississippi Mashout competition) so the judges didn’t get out of the beer what I set them up to expect by labeling this as a pumpkin spice rye amber ale. Oh well. (more…)

2012 National Homebrew Competition entries

Just as I did a year ago, I’ve again entered some of my beers into the National Homebrew Competition. Minneapolis is fortunate this year to be the judging site for one of the nine regions in the U.S. Last year, I had to make sure my first round entries got to Madison, WI to be judged (and later shipped one that got first place at regionals to nationals to San Diego, CA). With the help from a member of the St. Paul Homebrewers Club, fortunately that wasn’t a problem. Easy peasy this year. Just need to drop them off at Northern Brewer.

This year, I’m entering my In the name of doG Belgian honey ale in category 16e (Belgian Specialty ale) and 18d (Belgian Strong ale) to see where it does best, also entering CUJO SPICE v2.1 pumpkin rye ale in category 21 (spice/herb/vegetabel beer) and Snot Snout Stout, my chocolate cherry stout in category 20 (fruit beer). This will be the first competition for Snot, the second for CUJO v2.1 and the third for doG. The feedback I’m getting in competition is very informative, so I’m trying to enter my favorite batches in multiple competitions to help me refine recipes before I re-brew.

From L to R: Snot Snout chocolate cherry stout, CUJO SPICE v2.1 pumpkin rye ale, In the name of doG Belgian honey ale (x2)


Upper Mississippi Mashout results – Pumpkin rye ale

Recently I published a post dissecting feedback I received on my Belgian honey ale at the Upper Mississippi Mashout homebrew competition. That was just one of the three beers I entered. In today’s post, I will go on to detail feedback I received on another entry, CUJO SPICE v. 2.1 pumpkin rye ale (brewed July ’11), BJCP category 21A, spice/herb/vegetable beer.

This pumpkin rye ale, the better batch of the two versions I brewed last summer, scored worse than I anticipated. I received a 27 from a BJCP “certified” judge and a 32 from a BJCP “national” judge. I can at least be glad I got the higher score from the judge with more experience. None the less, my score averages to just 29.5. Yes, I think some recipe tweaks are in order but I think this batch is quite tasty and that my execution was decent. It deserves to be in the 30’s. Since this was the first competition this beer has been in, I’ve entered it in the upcoming National Homebrew Competition (NHC) to get a few more opinions before I re-brew it this summer.

Here’s the feedback recap: (more…)

Upper Mississippi Mashout results – Belgian golden honey ale

I recently entered three of my beers in the 2012 Upper Mississippi Mashout, which this year became the second largest homebrew competition in the world right behind the National Homebrew Competition.

Here, you can find the official 2012 Upper Mississippi Mashout competition results. In forthcoming posts, I will recap feedback my three entries received from the judges, one of whom was Gordon Strong, current President of the BJCP, the organization that publishes universally accepted beer style guidelines. This was very exciting. The President of the group that literally defines beer styles tasted one of my beers, and happened to think reasonably well of it! Very cool.

In today’s post, I’ll dissect feedback received on In the name of doG (brewed Feb. ’11), BJCP category 16E, Belgian Specialty Ale. (more…)

Upper Mississippi Mashout 2012

I entered three beers into the Upper Mississippi Mashout this year:

Byggvir's Big Beer Cup homebrew competition

This past weekend, I took the highest scoring beer from the five that I entered into the State Fair competition and entered it in Byggvir’s Big Beer Cup, the Minnesota Renaissance Festival’s homebrew competition. My amber fermented with kölsch yeast (Burning Bridges Amber Ale) will compete at Byggvir’s in the same category as it did for the State Fair competition, Category 23 – specialty beer.


2011 State Fair homebrew competition results

Out of the five beers I entered in this year’s State Fair homebrew competition, I placed in zero categories. Granted, the competition was stiff with 650 entries submitted by 240 Minnesota brewers, but I’m still a bit disappointed. The winners are posted here.

I got a group of friends together to  head to the fair on opening weekend (yay…) and check out judging of the “best in show” portion of the competition at the fair this past Saturday. We had absolutely perfect weather in the morning. That, coupled with the fact that it was opening weekend, created a nexus of PEOPLE. If you hate crowds, this was probably the worst day to go to the fair this year. I’m not a huge fan of crowds myself, but for the love of beer… I suffered through it.

I had never seen an official judging session in progress, so it was less interesting than I had expected (and I hadn’t expected too much). Unfortunately, the judges keep their thoughts to themselves as they’re tasting instead of letting the audience in on their thought process. I understand this is done to allow judges time to change/fully form their opinions. I get it. It makes sense, but it also makes the competition less exciting to watch.

Here is a summary of my results: (more…)

Fraz Wheat 2.0 has come to fruition

Who would like a tart, raspberry banana bomb of a wheat beer on a summer evening in Minneapolis?

Yes please:


2011 State Fair Homebrew Competition

This year, I’ve entered five beers into the Minnesota State Fair Homebrew Competition. Preliminary rounds closed to the public are happening 8/19 and 8/20 with the final round of judging happening on Saturday 8/27. I have a small group of friends rounded up to attend finals on the 27th whether I’m in them or not. It’ll be cool to see judging as it happens, as I’m interested in becoming a BJCP certified judge one day. If it turns out I didn’t make finals, we’ll just hang around for a bit and hit up the rest of the fair afterwards. No big deal.

QR codes!


Final round of the NHC competition is today

My Scootin’ Scottie Ale competes in the biggest homebrew competition in the U.S. (nay, the world?) in San Diego today. TODAY! Results will be announced at an awards dinner this coming Saturday night. I’m not sure when they’ll be posted online, but I hope they don’t wait too long.

Though the package containing labels and mailing instructions (along with a ribbon and certificate) for the final round arrived after we had left for Europe, my mother-in-law was nice enough to grab the materials from our house and mail three bottles of SSA off to San Diego for me. The online portion of the submission was a bit confusing to her (rightfully so), but I was actually able to find an internet café in Tuscany and complete that part using information I’d posted on this blog months ago as I was brewing the batch. Go blog!

I will of course post about any good news on the Barrking Dog Facebook page as soon as I hear the results, with a blog post to follow. Given the fact that this is my first competition, I’ll be pretty surprised if I place at Nationals. Fingers crossed though!

1st place!

I learned via snail mail Monday that my scottish 80/- export (Scootin Scottie Ale) placed first in the BJCP’s 9C category a few weeks ago. Wow, I didn’t truthfully expect to advance along to the finals, but here we go! The only things I got dinged for were having a bit too much carbonation for the style (true, my bad) and they said I could think about dialing back the roasted malts a bit to even out the flavor. Other than that, both judges that reviewed my beer (#4 in a flight of 11) preferred it above all the rest of the same style.

I’m not too confident about the next/final round, as my score was just a 38/50, which is at the very bottom of the “excellent” range. I anticipate I’ll be getting my butt kicked by more experienced brewers in the final round, but that’s ok. Glad to have made it there on my first attempt.

Here are all the AHA / BJCP score ranges:

  • Outstanding (45-50): World-class example of the style
  • Excellent (38-44): Exemplifies style well, requires minor fine-tuning
  • Very Good (30-37): Generally within style parameters, some minor flaws
  • Good (21-29): Misses the mark on style and/or minor flaws
  • Fair (14-20): Off flavors, aromas or major style deficiencies
  • Problematic (0-13): Major off flavors and aromas dominate
Apparently I’ll receive directions on what to do next / where to mail a few more bottles for the final round. As a member of the St. Paul Homebrewers’ club, I was able to have my bottles hand-delivered to our region’s drop point (Madison) for just $0.50 per bottle, so I’m a bit nervous about mailing bottles for the first time. I’d better get used to mailing bottles though, I guess.

NHC 2011, Barking Dog Beer Entries

My last post discussed the upcoming National Homebrewers Competition I decided to enter this past week. This post will examine the thought process behind choosing which beers to enter.

Ready to hit the road!

While brewing in February, I had considered the fact that I would eventually be entering these recent batches in a 2011 competition, but I didn’t think it would be this soon. Nevertheless, upon tasting the first few bottles of my SaiSon of a Bitch batch last weekend, it was clear this one is definitely ready to compete, and turned out pretty damn good if I don’t say so myself. It is entered under the BJCP’s 16C Saison category.

It was a bit more of a challenge to pick my second entry. At first, I was going to go with the In the Name of doG batch, a18D Belgian Golden Strong honey ale. After reading the BJCP’s style guidelines for that beer, I got worried that the 1.5 lbs. of honey in that batch would shine through too much and I’d get docked points even though I think the beer appears to have turned out very well. The batch had only been bottled six days prior, but I got curious and popped open one bottle to really test it out. Personally, I thought I could taste the honey just a little bit, but it could have just been the bottling sugar (it was still flat, hadn’t re-attenuated yet). I had my wife try to pick out all the flavors she was tasking, neglecting to give her any clues. She didn’t call out honey, so that was a good sign. BUT… now I’m nervous that with my luck, this beer will get opened the first day of judging and won’t be carbonated well enough yet. Also, I’m guessing once the bottle is out of my hands and on the way to Madison that it won’t be in 70* temps anymore in order to allow for the yeast to finish off the bottling sugar. Too much of a risk… (more…)

National Homebrewers Competition

I joined the St. Paul Homebrewers Club (SPHBC) back in February with the intent to compete some of my beers via the club sometime in 2011. Turns out, the biggest (?) competition in the country, the National Homebrewers Competition (NHC), starts in just a few weeks and the club – which has won Homebrew Club of the Year in the competition three times in recent years – is struggling for entries. They are focused enough on once again attaining this award that they have a club member who is driving our entries to the drop point in Madison, hand delivered for just $0.50 per bottle. It’s very cool to be able to put your trust in a fellow brewer to get your beers there safely rather than a UPS guy.

The SPHBC guys are so concerned because to win Homebrew Club of the Year in the NHC, your club must amass a certain number of points through number of beers entered and number of participating brewers in the NHC and other events throughout the year. After reading up on the rules, I made a last-minute decision earlier this week to help out the club, step up my personal competitive timeline and enter a few beers.

All full as of Wednesday