BVC - More thoughts on Brewing Competitions Travelling vs. Local

Mills, Scott Scott.Mills at
Thu Apr 6 15:58:08 PDT 2000

Another LONG post.

I have been giving SCA brewing competitions a LOT of thought recently so
please bear with me as I try to share my thoughts with this list.
Hopefully, some of you will have opinions and comments to share.

One of the biggest things I see lacking in SCA brewing competitions other
than standards and trained judges (there are some of those) is the apparent
complete lack of mail-in competitions.  Recently I have tried to enter a
couple of competitions without actually being present and was refused.  At
one event I even had a person who was attending the event and would deliver
my entries for me. I still came up against the "must be present" attitude.  

If you have competed in the mundane BJCP style competitions you are aware
that virtually all of them allow for mail-in entries while in the SCA you
basically must be present to compete.  I think it is a good idea to attend
the competitions you enter and to help out but there are some advantages to
mail-in competitions.

The primary advantage from mail-in competitions is that you get a new set of
judges evaluating your beer and therefore the feedback becomes more valid.
Within a region there is a limited number of qualified beer judges that work
at the events.  Judges do come and go but if you attend all of the annual
events in a region the majority of the faces become very familiar.  Also
judges often specialize in particular styles so you might get the same judge
evaluating your mead at event after event.

It is my experience that the judges palates within a region become somewhat
aligned as do their judging styles.  This is natural because they all learn
from one another.  Additionally, the brewers in a particular regions produce
different styles of beers according to the regional brewing traditions.  You
don't see a lot of ciders in competitions down south simply because we don't
grow a lot of apples.  Other areas produce more meads, some more lagers,
some more ales, etc.  The judges in those areas get better at judging the
styles more common in their areas.

I have set a goal to host an SCA brewing competition that will accept
mail-in entries.  I have been working with Nathi (my co-moderator in the
SCA_BREW list) on this.  We view this as a true inter-kingdom event but to
avoid any confusion with the IKBG we had thought to call it a "Known World
Brewing Competition".

I have talked to my local SCA group here (Gates Edge) about hosting a
brewing event and they have been very receptive.  In fact the talk was to
make it a second annual event for the group.  Further talks revolved around
perhaps expanding the event into something akin to "Culinary Collegium" so
that there would be interest for people other than just brewers.  Still
brewing/vintning/cordialing would remain a major them of the event.

If this event does happen I WILL accept mail-in entries.  The local homebrew
store has agreed to be a reception point for the mail-in entries.
Additionally, I WILL solicit experienced and qualified beer judges from the
BJCP crowd and might even register the competition with the BJCP so the
judges can earn points for helping us with the judging.

Below is the text of a private email I had with Nathi regarding the
advantages of mail-in competitions.  If our are REALLY interested in the
topic or my ramblings then read on.  Otherwise, stop here.




Scott Mills	 
Scott.Mills at Compaq.Com

One of the biggest values I see in mail-in competitions in the AHA/BJCP
world is simply that it gives you another relative data point.

Let me explain.

The Front Range typical year had about 6 real competitions, Cheyenne, Fort
Collins, Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs/State Fair, First round AHA
Nationals.  There where other smaller competitions, club only, single style
we had an AugustFest very small local thing in Fort Collins, but they really
didn't count much and where often not BJCP/AHA sanctioned. While living
there on the Front Range of Colorado I found that results in the regional
competitions where often pretty predictable.  There is a regular set of
brewers that enter competitions outside of the few newbies you get each time
that are trying their luck, there are a handful of brewers that win pretty
often, and once you have gone through a year worth of judging sessions you
have met most of the judges.  

Go through two years of judging and you have judged with most of these
people.  Consider that usually there is a morning and afternoon session,
three judges per table so typically you sit with 4 other judges throughout
the event (mebbe more if you judge more than two sessions).  If you make 4
events per year then over two years you will have set with 32 other judges
and you have pretty much racked up all the regulars.   These are the people
we learn to judge from and with.  Typically you develop similar judging
styles, similar descriptors/vocabulary, and often a similar mental picture
or sensory memory of what a good "Brown Ale" is supposed to taste like.  The
results become somewhat predictable.  I ran two 200+ entry competitions
where I was privy to who brewed what and who was judging and except for
those random entries from people you don't know and have never heard of, you
can guess who is likely to win ribbons before the judging even starts.  The
suprises often came from outside the region.

For instance, do you think it is possible that if Nathan Moore becomes known
as a brewer of exceptional brown ales in the Colorado Front Range and his
beers start getting passed around a lot, shared at meetings a competitions,
that people might not develop a sensory memory and start using that
particular profile as a yardstick to measure other brews?

On MANY occasions while living in Fort Collins Brian Walter, Keith Schwols,
Larry Pyeat, and myself would send beers away to competitions (Keith and I
very often shipped together to save money) and get completely different
results that what we got in our home region.  Sometimes a beer that did
poorly locally would get raves from Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Ann Arbor,
or SF Bay area judges.  Sometimes it was the other way around.   Hopefully
you get judges that give some good feedback along the way and you can
decipher the truth.

Lastly, in a small local competition there is really very little anonymity.
At the Augustfest each year there where 30 or so entries.  Since all of the
brewers in the area knew each other, and since we all knew what each other
liked to brew, and since if we had a special project working we probably had
been talking about it at meetings or even sharing it with the others, well
you see by the time the competition came around even if you had not tasted
the beer you might have a pretty good idea who had brewed that "Scotch Ale"
or "Vienna Lager".  Hopefully, the judges are still objective enough to give
good  feedback but I have judged before and was pretty damn sure I knew the
brewer of the beer before I even tasted it.

Still, I do like being there when I can.
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