Read Part 1 of this story here.
What does it take to organize an event on this scale? Eric Anderson is one of the organizers. He started out volunteering as a beer steward. As an all-volunteer organization, he was asked to help out the following year with the backend. “The thing I like most about this comp is it’s local for me. We have a lot of good judges that come to this area and a lot of people who travel far away just to come judge. We also have a high concentration of qualified mead judges.”
Do you feel that getting quality feedback is important? “I’m a judge myself and a homebrewer so I like feedback. It’s fun to win prizes but I would also like feedback as well.”
If I’m a new homebrewer why should I join a club and why should I enter a comp? “From my experience what I like about being in my club is the direct honest feedback and advice on how to fix flaws. I can bring a beer to a meeting with a recipe and get feedback. But if you don’t have a club, then a competition is a way to get objective feedback. But also, why do we do anything competitive? It’s fun. But you do get different feedback from entering a competition than just that of your friends or people from your club.”
As for what keeps Eric involved in the homebrewing hobby, “It’s fun. I could easily go out a buy a six pack of something, but I know that I can make some of the best beers myself. I like to be able to say that I made that.”
Later in the evening, after all of the hoopla of the awards is over, the beer flows freely and the tension and thrill of the awards ceremony has morphed into a jocular companionship understood by all in this room who have bonded in the shared experience. In the center of the room, Gordon Strong laughs with some friends. For many in the homebrewing world, Gordon approaches god-like status. He is the highest ranked judge in the world, author of several homebrewing books and one of the most awarded hombrewers in history.
We asked him what’s special about this competition? “It draws entries from all over. It’s one of the largest in the U.S. and I like coming out to see friends that I only get to see once or twice a year.”
Do you still feel that homebrewing is important and has impact on the culture? “I actually wrote an article for a South American brewing magazine that I called I’m Proud To Be A Homebrewer about why every homebrewer doesn’t want to be a pro because there’s an honorable thing about making your own beer at home, respecting the artisanal trade and not just wanting to run a beer factory.”
What’s the one thing you love most about homebrewing? “The people. Homebrewers are the best people on earth. I’ve made so many good friends in homebrewing and this is how you stay in touch. You don’t want to look back on your life and say I wish I hung out with my friends more. Take the time and hang out with your homebrewing buddies.”
What’s the number one tip you might give to someone entering a homebrew competition? “Competition brewing is different from brewing for yourself. The most important thing is understanding the styles. Know what you’re being judged against. It might not be what you intended to brew but evaluate your beer and figure out what category it fits in and enter it into the right place.”
It’s the end of the night, but the work isn’t done…
As the room starts to thin out, a relaxed look comes over the face of Kristen England. He helped start this competition and turned his hobby into a profession several years ago when he opened his own brewery. But he is deeply rooted in the homebrew community and continues to promote and advance homebrewing on all levels.
But now that the event was over, we wondered how he felt. “I’m not done yet. Tomorrow I’ve got to get all of the awards and packets out; get them all packed up, stamped, shipped out. And then it’s a lot of Scotch.”
So if it’s so much work why do you do it? “Because it’s fun, friends and camaraderie. It’s a good time.”
What’s the most important thing about homebrewing? “It’s to care. I feel that way in my commercial business as well. If you don’t care you’re not going to make good stuff no matter what. The only reason I do this is so that other people can have fun.”
Being a homebrewer is unique isn’t it? “Unique is the best way to put us. There’s no nicer way to put us than unique. The geekiest weirdest kids that were in high school, whether you were one or not, it’s all the same feeling. Like you’re the weird guy saying ‘Hey, try this beer!’ I think that’s cool being in a group of f-ing weirdos where everybody is weird.”
It’s this common theme of friendship, acceptance and pursuit of great beer that makes homebrewing competitions truly amazing. BSG HandCraft is proud to support events like this and we wish you all encouragement and luck in your next competition. Cheers!
For more info on Mashout, to see the list of winners and find out how you can be a part of it next year, check out: