My homebrew club, the Austin ZEALOTS, recently held their homebrew contest, the Homebrew Inquisition. Judging occurred two Saturdays ago (July 18) and this most recent Saturday (July 25). For the past few years, club member Chris Rauschuber has hosted the judging at his house. Our Primary Fermenter, Corey Martin, organized and stored all the entries at his house, then brought them over to Chris's the morning of the judging. We had 210 entries this year, which is more than we had last year. Most of our entries came from within the club.
On the 18th, I judged our malty beer category and later our yeasty beer category. The first beer I judged in the malty beer category was crystal clear and had a nice layer of foam. It smelled beautifully malty and tasted wonderful. It's always nice to start a round of judging with a great entry. The rest of the beers in the category were variable, but none showed any glaring faults. Having judged at homebrew contests for many years, it seems like the bar keeps getting raised every year.
The second flight I judged was "yeasty beers." This category is for beers that show yeast-derived characters different from "regular" ales and lagers. The category is usually full of German hefeweizens and all sorts of Belgian beers. This year, there was only one hefe, with the rest being (apparently) some style of Belgian beer. Most were good, although for a few, it was hard to tell that the yeast added a really distinctive note.
I did escape having to judge our Big and Boozy category this year. The first year of the contest, Jim Michalk and I ended up as the judges, as everyone else present at the judging had an entry in that category. We had over 20 beers to judges and, when it came to pick our top three for the winners of the category, Jim chose three beers and I chose three completely different beers. As our judging continued, club members gathered around the table and encouraged us to hurry up, as everything else was wrapped up. After discussing the pros and cons of just about every beer in the flight, and resampling them to confirm our impressions, we finally agreed on the first, second and third places. It was one of those experiences on which I look back fondly, but don't ever want to repeat. (In subsequent years, we made sure to break that category up into more than one flight, with two pairs of judges.)...