Homebrewers, have you ever entered your beer into a competition? You might wonder why you would bother when you just brew for yourself and your friends. We aren’t really competitive people so we see your point. As homebrewers ourselves, though, we have always gotten a lot out of entering competitions. First and foremost, there is a submission deadline – this makes us get off our seats and actually make beer. Then, the beer has to be entered into a category – that makes us stop and think a little about whether our brews are actually hitting the targets we set when we start. And finally, no matter how our beers fare in the judging we get clear, unbiased feedback from a new perspective.
A few years ago, we began volunteering with the Nelson A&P Show Homebrewing Competition because it was at risk of dying out. New Zealand has a long tradition of regional celebration of home craft, and we loved that beer had always been a part of that. But, as homebrewing has become less about rural tradition and more of a hobby craft, it hasn’t transitioned well into the A&P Shows.
A couple years ago, the Lake Hayes A&P Show in Queenstown completely misjudged this new audience when they thought they’d breath life back into their Homebrew section by creating a Blokes Only Shed. Homebrewer Rachel Beer (yes, her real name) lodged a protest and got national attention.
The Nelson A&P Show has always allowed women, but sadly, we haven’t given it the attention it deserves, so it was still teetering on the edge of extinction until some new blood jumped on board. Happily for 2014, Gareth Kerr and Dean Hunter are teaming up to make this the best showing in years. Both are hobby brewers who have participated in past years. In fact Dean, who now runs NZ Brew Supplies in Richmond, was inspired to begin homebrewing by a homebrew demo he saw at the A&P Show. “I have a real soft spot for it, and I’d hate to see it fail,” he said.
Gareth and his brewing partner Matthew Hoddy have entered beers in the past and have also helped with judging. With a little extra time on his hands, he was more than happy to help ensure the tradition continues. Already, he has updated the schedule to make the entry guidelines clearer and simpler. “It needs to make sense for brewers, so we took out old stuff from when it was combined with wine,” he said.
Gareth and Dean are working on adding some new incentives, including new a new cup and some prizes for winners. They will be recruiting some new judges and stewards as well. They are hoping to get entries from all levels of brewers all around the region and maybe even further afield. “There haven’t been as many competitions this year, so it might have a bit more draw,” said Gareth.
We will be part of the judging again, so we won’t enter any brews, but we expect participants will get a lot out of it this year.
So, whether you are a veteran of competitions or this is your first time, visit the A&P website (http://richmondpark.org.nz) to find the updated Beer Section Schedule and then get brewing in time for the 18 November deadline. If you are brewing now, entries open on 6 October for the SOBA National Homebrew Competition (http://nhc.soba.org.nz/).
A version of this article appeared in the Nelson Mail.