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SOBA National Homebrew Competition 2012 - Official Thread

I like writing "official thread". It makes me feel like I can now sue people wanting to use those words in combination a la Rugby World Cup or London Olympics! But no, we at SOBA don't really do evil too well. We do beer though, which brings me to:


After a lot of mucking about on my part (for which I humbly apologise) and the fact that most of you already know anyway, I'm officially announcing the SOBA NHC 2012. Head on over to the not-quite-done-yet-but-pretty-sexy website where you can log in using your SOBA login (if you're a member - that's the one you use at http://www.soba.org.nz/member/) or you can use facebook, twitter, or google+ to login. This competition is all cutting edge and social media, and other buzzwords!

One exciting thing about this year's competition is that we have no awards ceremony planned. They are always very regional, and Murphy's Law always dictates that they are as far away as possible from whoever took out Champion Brewer. Instead, we hope to offer value to our sponsors and remove stress from you, our competitors, by announcing the results live to the various social media platforms as they come in! Obviously the "big" winners will still have to wait until everything is tallied up, but medals will be announced as they are judged.

Another change (not yet on the website as we're still working on the points algorithm) is that points will be deducted from non-medal-winning beers. This won't matter to those not competing for the coveted Champion Brewer title, but to those who are, it will mean that entering twenty beers is only a good idea if you're sure they are nearly all of medal winning standard. We think this is a lot more fair to those who enter three beers, and all get gold, versus someone who enters ten beer, gets three silvers, two bronzes, and five drain-pours! ;) Good brewers, nay CHAMPION brewers are consistent brewers, and we want to reward that consistency this year.

A last point is that we've raised the entry fee. I know, I can hear the groaning! To get the top judges we need, we have to be prepared to get them to the competition. Flights ain't cheap, but we thought you'd all prefer judges who really know their beer, and we need to fund that. The good news is that if you are a SOBA member, even if you only join to enter this competition, you'll get a good chunky discount on your entry fee.

Right, that's all from me for now. Remember, you can enter your beers as soon as you like on the website, but official entries open October 13th. We can't accept delivery of beer prior to that date, so if any turns up before then, we'll just drink it! So, feel free to enter now, but don't send any bottles until the 13th!


Greig McGill



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Yeah, I can speak to that, as our table judged a few. The overall standard was pretty good, but as is so often the case, the English styles and the more hoppy styles seemed to drag those averages down.

I have a personal theory on this that I'm planning to write up for a blog entry at some point, but the short version is that these styles are actually really hard to get right, and yet they are the most desired by new and less experienced brewers. I've still not seen much of "who brewed what" (as judges, we had no idea, though would occasionally ask after we'd judged a particularly good or bad beer who had done it). Kelly, Dale, and myself had a great run of beers on day 1, with few dipping below 20 points, and then we hit the NZ Pale Ales, American IPAs, and Imperial IPAs. In general, these were *terrible*. There was just no finesse in the brewing of them.

In addition to Kelly's list above, we were also finding just poorly thought out recipes - hop combinations which don't work, absence of, or sometimes too much, malt character, overly long (or too warm, or ...?) dry hopping leading to major vegetal or overly grassy notes, and just general lack of drinkability. The old "MORE HOPS!" bravado is all well and good as a joke, but I felt like people just needed a bit more thought, planning, and execution beyond just chucking in a ton of hops which might not really work together, or work as dry hops, or whatever. Puzzlingly, we also had two (or perhaps three, I forget) Imperial IPAs in a row which were completely and utterly flat. We had the stewards open the second bottles of each, also flat. A good reminder to always check a bottle of any of your entries before sending them in, and to ensure consistency in bottling. Quite a few entries tasted like they might have had promise, but were old, tired, oxidised, and otherwise showing signs of either poor treatment or age. These styles are really meant to be drunk as fresh as possible, and the judges can only base their assessment on what is in front of them.

It was interesting that the Champion Beer was a NZ Pale Ale. It was one of the only ones that really blew people away, and the only one to be just head and shoulders above all the others. If somebody knows Richard Deeble, it might be nice to ask him if he'd mind writing up a "how to brew a pale ale" forum post, because I can tell you it impressed the hell out of us!

Thanks for the insight Kelly and Greig, that is a good point that an IPA is not one of those beers that you can brew, think "wow, this is a great beer I should enter it into the NHC" and then keep the last few bottles to enter months later.

Is there a definate difference to an IPA that just didn't get the hop schedule right to one that did but has sat round to long and lost it?

Yep. The "sat around too longs" tended to be lacking in hop aroma, or had that a slightly weird off flavour as the hop oils had destabilised or gone a little rancid. If you want to know what this tastes and smells like, buy any imported US IPA that's older than a few months. There are a few exceptions, like Firestone Walker - not sure what they do to keep their beers tasting so fresh so long but it's awesome voodoo!

The poor hop schedule ones ranged from just being "wrong" in terms of style - ie. US ones without any aroma or flavour notes characteristic of US beers (and some of these were quite good, but had to be pinged a few points for style inaccuracy) through to those with massive or no bitterness, and jarring and sometimes unpleasant aromas. One had a distinct compost/sileage nose which wasn't an infection as far as we could tell, simply a really strange and uncomplementary hop combination.

The feedback you all receive should be fairly substantial, all the judges were briefed to provide as much commentary as possible (within reasonable time limits - we did have nearly 100 beers per table to judge!) and the samples I pulled randomly looked pretty good. Hope that helps.

Good feedback.

This is what was missing from the Beervana competition.. a good general narrative of the highs and lows that would-be brewers can take some pointers from.

Thanks Greig

Thanks Greg! I really enjoyed entering and am really grateful to everyone who was involved in organising the competition. Its a great example of a voluntary organisation and community like SOBA doing such a professional job that serves people throughout the country. A great example of civil society in action.

In response to your post, I've written a bit of blog about my beer and some tips for brewing an NZPA here: Brewing a good NZ Pale Ale

I was fortunate enough to be involved as Head Steward for this event this year. This was my first NHC, both as a Steward and entering a beer. I really cant say enough as to what a great job the organizers of this event did. Greig, Alex, Phil and Beth (and others) all put in a great deal of work ensuring that on the day things would run as smooth as possible. I cant imagine it would have been easy sorting through nearly 400 entries, getting them ready etc. Phil has done an amazing job with the site/program. It was easy for us to enter scores and double check them as they came in - and the live Tweeting of Medal results was a fantastic touch.

It was great being involved and I definitely picked up some good advice from judges and fellow stewards, and over-hearing some really interesting deliberation of judging beers!

One thing I took out of this weekend (among the many), is how important it is to enter your beer under the correct category/sub category. There were a number of occasions were I heard how judges thought a beer was really good, but did not match the style of the category that the brewer entered the beer into. And this is what the judges use to judge a beer. Also, how important it is to provide concise brewers notes for beers entered into the Specialty categories...this helps the judges to judge your beer for what it is meant to be!

Overall a great weekend to be a part of. Hats off to the organizers, judges for providing their time and pallets and all stewards who helped out over the weekend!



Yeah I had three beers that I tried to 'fit' into categories and they all fell short of the expected flavor and aroma. I had one beer that I actively brewed to style, using the BJCP guidelines while formulating the recipe, and then paying close attention to my water... and it got a 46/50.

Great event and extremely well organised. You guys did a bang up job! Can't wait too see all the feedback, and to get a better insight into how you go about judging these things.

The technology side of the event did blow me away, live tweets of medals (first time I have really looked at twitter!) and it sounds like entering the scores and getting them to the entrants was smooth as. On that note has SOBA thought about licencing the IP and selling it to other (international) homebrew compititions, from what I read of overseas boards the biggest gripe is waiting xxxx weeks just to receive the score. I think getting a number back would ease this and kind of make waiting for the result sheets more exciting too as it is more about what exactly made the beer score the way it did than just being in the dark completely.

Good work guys and I'll have to start putting $5 away each month in the cookie jar so I actually have some cash to enter next years event!

Who knows, maybe next year Phil will add in the ability to scan in score sheets, so you get those as soon as they've been judged also? ;)

Seriously, I can't stress enough just how much work Phil did on this year's competition. Though I was "organiser", that was limited to the meatspace side of arranging sponsors, prizes, judges, dealing with queries, and making "buck stops here" decisions. All of what people actually saw of the competition was pretty much Phil and his mad Ruby on Rails web devel skillz. If you ever see him out and about, buy the man a beeer. I don't even like thinking about how many hours he put into the development! :)

yes, thanks to everyone involved, the whole experience has got me stoking on brewing more than normal! thanks Greig for your informative posts too!

Thanks Chad.  Congrats on your WBC second place yesterday too. Pipped me into third! ;)

by 0.33 points mofo!


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