Improve Your Brew

Enter a Home Brewing Competition

As a home brewer, you craft delicious beers. But there comes a time in every brewer’s game when they plateau. They know there is something they need to change, but they can’t quite place a finger on it. Perhaps it’s an off-taste that keeps showing up in the beer; or maybe it’s a snag that gets the beer to almost what it should be, but something is lacking. If you really want to improve your craft; you need feedback! While visiting your local home brew club, such as the Rimrock Brewer’s Guild here in Billings, you can share and sample and get some feedback. But to have someone sit down and truly analyze your beer; you should be entering into competitions.

Don’t Be Scared of the “Competition”

When encouraging people to enter their beers into a home brew competition, we are met with a bit of resistance. Generally it’s along the lines of “my beer is nowhere near good enough to compete!” Fortunately, that’s not the point of the competition.

Whether you’re just beginning, or you have been brewing for years. Whether you brew in the kitchen on a stove top with a simple kettle, or you have an entire room dedicated to crafting beer; the competition is there to help you become a better brewer.

Here’s how it works:

You hear of a competition that is coming up. Generally there are some guidelines to follow; for instance the Rimrock Brewer’s Guild is hosting one at the beginning of July that requires a particular strain of yeast (the rest of the style is up to you). So you decide to brew.

While you may not normally take notes and write down your recipe; when brewing for a competition, this time you should. You want to document everything so you know what to change and when the next time around.

You brew your beer, and fill at least two 12 ounce bottles that will be entered.

Fill out the home brew competition entry; be as detailed as possible. Then affix the bottle labels to the bottle with a rubber band. These things are important so that the judges can taste the beer without being swayed by any of your information.

Judges will judge the beer based on taste, smell, look, and overall impression. They will write notes on what they smell, any off flavors (and perhaps where they came from), and how true to the style your beer was. A good judge will give recommendations on changing malts, roasts, hops varieties, boil times, yeasts, etc. that will ultimately result in a better beer.

You review the notes, and create your beer a second time implementing the changes. When the next competition comes along, enter your “new” beer and see if you score better!

Brew Small; Brew Big; Brew Beer

Recently the Rimrock Brewer’s Guild hosted a contest called “Here Comes the Sun.” The guidelines were simple: brew a beer that falls on the lighter side of the color spectrum. Matt Miller won that competition with a phenomenally crafted beer. Matt has also placed well in several other competitions.

If you have seen Matt’s brew room, or even if you have seen pictures of his setup, it can be a bit intimidating. Your first thoughts will likely go to, “How am I supposed to compete with someone that has equipment like that?” Fortunately, you don’t need equipment like that.

Matt has been brewing for a long time. He has invested a lot of time into his craft, and he has entered a lot of competitions. He keeps copious notes, and he learns from each competition. The result is that the beer he creates is true to style, tastes amazing, and is well crafted. The equipment facilitates the brewing process, but good equipment doesn’t necessarily mean good beer.

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Vern Anttila, on the other hand, is also passionate about beer. He has been brewing for a long time, and has created a large variety of beers. The difference between Matt and Vern: Matt has a brew room and Vern uses his kitchen.

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A brew kettle and a carboy can make great tasting beer just as well as the full setup. While having a room with fancy equipment might streamline the process, good beer is made by using the right ingredients, with the right touch, and taking pride in your craft.

Whether you’re making a gallon in the kitchen, or 20 gallons in a dedicated brewing room; your beer can turn out magnificently. Follow the feedback you get from the competitions, and your beer will only get better.

Prizes for the Winners

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It’s called a competition because there is generally a prize (more than just the prestige that comes as being called the winner) for crafting the best homebrew among the entries. For instance, Matt gets to collaborate with Mark Hastings, the head brewer at Uberbrew, and see his beer get produced on a commercial level and served to the city of Billings. It’s fun to win, but the real value is in the feedback; and don’t worry even if your beer is the worst in the bunch, there isn’t a ranking system that will put you at the bottom.

Are you ready to brew better beer?


Thank you to Scott Sery from Sery Content Development for writing this blog.

Scott has been a homebrewer for over a decade. Over the years he has developed a palate for well crafted beer, and enjoys experiencing the nuances of the different styles. As the secretary of the Rimrock Brewer’s Guild he makes sure that the Guild is in communication with the members.

Thank you to RBG members Matt Miller and Vern Attilas for sharing your brew days with us.


Article sponsored by MCII



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