There are institutions within PTB that which newer members may not know the background. These are things we have been doing for a long time, taken for granted, and never fully explained. Our Monthly Club Competitions and “Brewer of the Year” award is one of these things. Let me try to shed some light on this institution of Primetime Brewers.
I am sure many of you have heard Primetime Brewers called a competitive club. Many members have probably said this themselves. Primetime Brewers has a long history of participating in, and operating Beer, Cider, and Mead competitions. This a matter of pride, and an integral part of our identity as a club. There are even other local clubs that were spawned because of an aversion to this aspect of PTB.
Our comps started as part of the AHA monthly club competition. The AHA would choose the category, or range of similar categories. Clubs would evaluate and choose a winning entry from within to be sent to the AHA to compete with other clubs around the country. With the explosion of the hobby, this became too much for the AHA to continue. We decided as a club that we liked doing it and to continue the practice for PTB.
We choose the style schedule at the November meeting. As part of the discussion at the meeting, all members in attendance give suggestions. The VP then creates a schedule based on these suggestions. This final decision resides in the VP as the organizer of judging and evaluation as per the Bylaws. We strive to keep some mainstay months like the Best of Cellar Beer, Cider, Mead, and Beer and Food Pairing months. We also try to work in at least one Lager, Sour, Stout, and IPA month in every year. This can get challenging since we only have 11 months to compete. Remember that these monthly style comps are also designed to challenge you as a brewer to make different styles and try new things. If a member only wants to brew funky mixed fermentation farmhouse black IPAs with fruit, they need to understand we cannot create an entire competition schedule tailored to them. They should enter that hot mess in the Best of Cellar Beer month.
Our competitions are, and always have been patterned after the BJCP process for competitions. This is because the Beer Judge Certification Program (https://www.bjcp.org/) is widely recognized as the standard for judging and evaluating homebrew and many professional beers. Most competitions are operated this same way. By doing ours according to BJCP, we better prepare our members for success. Unfortunately, when your competition ranges from 3 entries to 20 on any given month, it makes it difficult to truly emulate a BJCP registered event.
At a BJCP event you will see the entries split up into flights of around 10 entries according to category. If a category has many entries there will be more flights. If a category has few entries, the flight may contain multiple categories. The entries are then served blind, and judged and scored to the BJCP guidelines by a panel of 2 to 3 judges. The competition organizer will then take the highest scoring 4 to 6 entries from all categories and create a Best of Show panel. This panel will usually not include anyone who's beer is at the table, or anyone who previously judged one of the entries at the BOS table. This panel then ranks the beers solely on their merits as they taste them. Score is irrelevant at this point, and style is not as important. The rationale here is that to even get to the BOS, the entries presumably exemplify their respective category. This BOS round may be a broad range of differing styles. The BOS also serves as an additional buffer from the issue of differences between judges' palates. Some judges may be much more generous than others. That is the nature of trying to make something that is inherently subjective, as objective as possible.
When we do a "Beauty Pageant" it is for those months where it would be impractical or even impossible to timely judge a broad range of categories. We use these for the Best of Cellar Beer, Best of Cellar Cider, Best of Cellar Mead, and Beer and Food Pairing. This seems like a lot because in a comp season of only 11 comps, 4 is a large percentage. The Best of Cellar comps are a barn door comp that allows people to enter those beers that are either not on the schedule for the year, or do not fit a category. It is your chance to enter that White Chicory Stout fermented on Elderberries and Hamster shavings aged in a Maple Tequila barrel. These can be a lot of fun because we never know what we are going to get.
One other facet to the intent of our Monthlies is education. We use these competitions as an opportunity to teach people to evaluate beers. We have several members with extensive judging experience. These people know how it goes and are willing to share that expertise. Knowing how to objectively evaluate beer is helpful not only for competitions, but it can also help you make better beer. We all want to make better beer right? You will be better equipped to spot problems in your own product and hone your skills.
At each Monthly Competition, we are proud to incorporate anyone in to the process that is willing to learn. We do try to keep people from judging their own beer. As with everything the club does, everyone needs to remember this is a hobby we do for fun, stress relief, and camaraderie. It serves no one to cheat at the competitions. We must rely on people being decent, reasonable, honest adults to continue having fun and growing as individuals. These competitions are not life or death. They exist for fun. There are no scouts in the stands, looking to bring you up to the bigs. They are an opportunity to get good neutral feedback on a beer, to further refine your palate, and gain experience with BJCP competition method.
I hope this answers some questions anyone may have had. If ever anyone has a question or is confused about the way we do these things, please speak up and be ready to listen to the answer. If you ask me something that is easily found with a simple 30 second Google query, be prepared for a tongue and cheek answer. That being said, it is probably on the webpage. --DT