Homebrew Competition FAQ


Why enter a homebrew competition?

There's a few reasons:

  • It’s a great way to get honest feedback on your beer. Your Mom loves you and will always love your beer. Blind judging is a bit more honest.
  • Also, if you’re having problems, experienced homebrewers judging your beer may be able to diagnose what went wrong with your batch.
  • It’s fun to be competitive and see how your best measures up against your peers.

How do I find out about competitions I can enter?

First, make sure you've checked out the Widmer/OBC Collaborator and OBC Fall Classic!


The OBC Competition Calendar page is regularly updated with the latest information on any competitions in Southwest Washington and Oregon. Looking beyond our borders? The BJCP and AHA web sites also maintain calendars of competitions, nationally and internationally. Send your finest 100-IBU Imperial CDA to Brazil or Japan!


How do I enter?

Most competitions require you to fill out an entry form specifying the style of beer and (rarely) the recipe used.  You will also need to attach a bottle identification form to each bottle.  In some cases, you may be asked to simply attach the entry/recipe form directly to the bottle (no separate bottle ID form).  Do not tape entry or ID forms to the bottles -- use rubber bands.

The number of bottles required per entry depends on the individual competition, and typically ranges from 1 to 3. Smaller competitions usually require fewer bottles; larger competitions may require more, as the beer may need to be judged multiple times to determine its standing relative to the other entries in its category (plus you need one bottle for the Best Of Show round, should your beer advance that far).

You will need to ship or hand-deliver your entries to the location specified by the deadline stated in the competition rules, along with your entry forms, and entry fees (if applicable).


Entry Fees?? Why do I have to pay the competition to take my beer?

Hosting a homebrew competition costs money.  There are duplicating costs (flyers announcing the competition, scoresheets), and the cost of obtaining the ribbons that are to be awarded to the winning beers in each category.  There is also the cost of shipping the scoresheets, ribbons, and prizes (if any) back to the entrants afterwards.   There are disposable items -- plastic cups used for tasting, and other incidentals.   Some competitions provide a meal for the volunteers and judges, as a large competition is an all-day deal.  Really large competitions like the AHA NHC may even need to rent space (e.g. a room at a conference center) to hold the judging.


How do I decide what style to enter my beer as?

If you're looking for feedback on how well you're doing on a particular style that you're trying to learn how to brew, enter as that style.  On the other hand, if you are in it primarily for the competitive aspect, look at the style guidelines, and enter it as the style you think it most closely resembles!


Where do I get a copy of the official beer style guidelines?

Official beer style guidelines are available on-line from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP).


What kind of bottles should I use for competition?

  • Generally, you should use 12 oz brown pry-off "longneck" style bottles.  The bottles should be free of identifying marks -- the original bottle label should be completely removed, and you should not use bottles which have the name of a brewery molded into them.  The bottles should be capped with a plain crown cap; if the cap has any printing on it, completely black out the surface of the cap, using a black felt-tip permanent marker.
  • Avoid non-standard size (i.e. other than 12 oz.) bottles, swing-top (Grolsch-style) bottles, plastic soda bottles, etc.
  • Individual competition rules often specify their tolerance for non-standard bottles. Check the rules for the competition you’re interested in.

Are there any restrictions on where the beer was brewed?

Most homebrew competitions explicitly disallow any beer that was brewed on commercial equipment (or at a commercial brewery), even if it was not brewed by a professional brewer. Check the specific competition rules.


How should I get my entries to the competition?

The best way to deliver your entries is in person; obviously, this is not practical if you do not live near the drop-off location.  But even if you can't deliver the entries yourself, if you know someone who will be working as a steward or judge, you may be able to have them hand-carry your entries in for you.  If you plan to have the entries hand delivered on the day of the competition, make sure you have submitted all of your entry paperwork and fees (if any) by the original entry deadline -- the organizers still need this information ahead of time, in order to help them plan the competition.  Failure to pre-register walk-in entries may result in disqualification.

If you can't drop the entries off in person, and don't know anyone who will be attending the competition, you will need to ship your entries.  Some things to consider:

  • It is illegal to send beer via the US Postal Service.
  • Choose another shipping service, and to reduce complications at the clerks' counter, list the contents as ‘food’ or ‘food samples’.

How should I pack my entries?

If the entries will be hand-delivered, standard 6-pack holders are generally adequate. If you’re leaving it with a drop-off location, be sure to clearly mark the holder with the competition name: drop-off locations often accept entries for many competitions, you want to make sure your winning beer gets to the right place.

If the entries are being shipped, they should be packaged securely, with adequate protection against breakage


How is the judging typically done?

For judging, the entries in a competition are normally grouped into "flights", usually with 7 to 14 beers per flight.  The organizers will generally try to keep the same (or similar) style beers together in the same flight.   When categories must be merged (due to a small number of entries in a given style category), some attempt is made to combine similar styles, so that you don't end up with, e.g. an American Light Lager being judged with a Barleywine in the same flight.  Sometimes, at large competitions (or for very popular styles), a style may be split into more than one flight.

All of the beers in a single flight are usually judged by the same judges.  If there is an inexperienced (non-certified) judge on a flight, the non-certified judge will generally be paired with a more experienced (certified) one.  The judges evaluate how well the beer fits the style it was entered as, and assign a numerical score, in the range of 0 to 50 points.  Scores below 15, or above 40, are rare.  Most beers will score in the 20s or 30s.

The judging is done blind.  The bottle identification forms are removed before the judges see your entry, and the judges do not see your entry form or recipe prior to tasting your beer.  The only thing the judges know is what style you entered the beer as.

Usually, the highest scoring beer in each flight advances to the Best Of Show round.


When can I expect to receive my scoresheets?

Since most competitions are run by volunteers, the time to get your scoresheets varies quite a bit.  Anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks is typical; sometimes it takes longer.  The better-organized competitions may have the results posted on the Web within a day or two after the competition.


How do I become a certified beer judge?

To become a certified beer judge, you need to pass the BJCP Certification Exam.  Check the BJCP Web site for more info.


What sort of prizes and awards are typically given at competitions?

Again, it varies.  A ribbon for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in each flight, and in the Best Of Show round, is typical.  Other prizes -- brewing equipment or supplies -- are sometimes awarded in addition to the ribbons.


I want to get involved -- what should I do?

Competition organizers are always happy to have extra volunteers, especially at the larger competitions.  The easiest way to get involved is to contact the competition organizers, and volunteer to be a steward.  Stewards are basically there to do anything they can to help the competition run smoothly -- ensuring that the proper entries are brought to each judging table, making sure that each table always has enough clean cups, blank score sheets, pencils, etc.  Occasionally, stewards who express an interest in doing so may be asked to sit in on the judging of a flight, as a novice/apprentice judge -- this is a good way to gain some judging experience, if you intend to take the certification exam.


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