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

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:

  • Category 9c, Scottish and Irish Ale – entered my Scootin’ Scottie Ale, a Scottish 80/- that took first place at regionals for the NHC this year. My score back in June for this batch was a 38/50. This time, I received an average score of just 21.5/50, the worst score of my five submissions. What happened? The overall feedback now is saying that a carbonic bite combined with excessive roastiness came out too harsh. Vegetal, smokey phenols were too evident. One comment asked if I’d used peated malt, and if I did, requested I not use any in the future in a Scottish Ale recipe. Is that standard? The recipe I brewed is a Midwest Supplies recipe. Why wouldn’t you use peated malt in a Scottish Ale? If not there, where would it be used??
  • Category 18b, Belgian Strong ale – entered Chasseur de Bruin, my Belgian dubbel. I received a 33/50 on this one. The feedback from the two judges was that this beer was not complex enough and that the level of alcohol present was a bit unbalanced in comparison to the malt. In essence, they said it was a good beer but a bit too highly fermented and singular in flavor. This is disappointing, as I spent a lot of money on specialty Belgian pale malt along with Belgian specialty grains for this batch. The majority of the points I was docked by each judge were in the flavor category.
  • Category 20, Fruit Beer – entered Fraz(zled) Wheat 2.0, my raspberry hefeweizen. I received a 36/50 on this one. The only feedback of substance provided was that there was too much raspberry flavor, overwhelming the hefeweizen base beer. I’d have to agree, but I don’t think this should necessarily be a flaw in the fruit beer category. I happen to like it very much!
  • Category 23, Specialty Beer – entered my amber with kölsch yeast. This one faired the best of the five, with an average score of 37/50 (achieved through a 39 and a 35). The majority of points docked on this one were due to the malt being a bit high and the roast a bit low for what I had deemed a “roasty” beer. Interesting. I thought it was really roasty. Also, one judge thouht it was slightly oxidized, so I got dinged for that. They liked the appearance of this one very much, with one judge actually giving me a 4/3 in that category…
  • Category 16e, Belgian and French Ale – entered my In the name of doG Belgian honey ale and received a 35/50. The majority of points docked appear to be because not enough of the Belgian yeast characteristics came through. The honey was evident but possibly covered up the Belgian yeast characteristics too much. Not as bad as the raspberries in the fruit beer, but still it seems like the judges wanted to see the base style a bit more evident.

First Saturday of the fair + perfect weather = a gross amount of people

Decided to do a little judging of my own at the Summit booth. Winner? OKTOBERFEST by far!


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