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Competition Brewing Series: Evaluating Feedback and Planning Ahead

Evaluating Feedback

In the previous post we talked about asking ourselves why we enter homebrew competitions. Some of us are motivated by the hardware and some of us are motivated by the judge’s feedback. Applying that honest and unbiased feedback to your brewing process or recipe is what will eventually lead to more consistent (and higher) scores. But there are some things we needs to think about when sitting down with our scoresheets.

Judges Are Human

Judges are people. And sometimes people just have bad days. Some judges may get stuck with a style that they absolutely hate. Most judges are great and want to help improve your beer.

The best way to gauge whether or not you’re getting the best feedback possible it to enter the same beers into multiple competitions. Pick competitions around the same dates. You don’t want to be comparing feedback for 3 week old beer versus 6 month old beer. Once you have all of the score sheets from all of those different competitions; read the feedback and look for trends. If you see judges constantly mentioning oxidation or diacetyl, then you might want to do something about your process.

Planning Ahead

Late Entries or Payments May Equal Disqualification

Competition brewing is all about time management. These competitions have entry deadlines, payment deadlines, shipping deadlines and drop off deadlines. Use the AHA competition calendar for links to information about individual contests. Most legitimate competitions are listed on the AHA website.

I sometimes start getting ready for a competition up to 6 months in advance. Use a google spreadsheet to list all of the competitions that you’d like to enter for the year. I include columns for the contest website, deadlines and how much each competitions entry costs. This just keeps you from having to sift through the AHA database every time you want to check a deadline date.

I also use the calendar in my phone to get alerts a few days ahead of deadlines.

These are just a few more tips that may make competing a little less stressful for you. Just remember that judges are human, but 99 percent of the time they are at the judging table in order to give your the best feedback possible.

Plan ahead and stay organized. Use spreadsheets and set phone reminders when deadlines are approaching.

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