Who will be New Zealand’s tenth Champion Homebrewer?

By BeertownNZ Wed, 21 Sep 2016 National

It’s your opportunity to have your name permanently engraved on the coveted SOBA Homebrew Wall of Fame.

SOBA’s National Homebrew Competition will be held in Auckland on 5 November. Previous winners include commercial brewer James Kemp, and Auckland’s John Golics, who came third in 2007, won Champion Brewer last year, and collected many more medals in between.

This year marks SOBA’s tenth National Homebrew Competition. The first was held in 2007 at Stu McKinlay’s home in Wellington, before Yeastie Boys was formed. Other judges included Geoff Griggs (head judge again this year) and Martin Craig (Beertown.NZ!).

That inaugural event attracted 145 entries. The winners were Barry Hannah (Brewer of the Year); Dan Boyce’s Bock (Best in Show); and Richard Pettinger (Extract Brewer of the Year). The full results are available here.

This year the organisers are expecting a lot more interest. “Last year we had around 540 beers from 150-odd brewers. So with the year-on-year growth reflecting the interest in the hobby and the prominence of the competition, I’d imagine we’ll be around the 600 mark this year”, says SOBA treasurer Tom Coleman.

The most popular styles are, you guessed it, pale ales and IPAs, “by a country mile when you start including the speciality IPAs, which the New Zealand IPAs tend to be”.

Last year’s Champion Ale was a Flanders Red brewed by Christchurch’s Oli Drake. It was his first sour beer, and had aged for two and half years before it was judged.

Aged beers have a good success record – John Golics’ 2007 third-placer was a nine year old Barley Wine – and this can cause problems for the winner. Each year the prize has included the opportunity to go to Hallertau Brewery and make a commercial batch of your winning beer – great if you’ve brewed a NZIPA, but problematic if you’ve produced a barrel-aged masterpiece.

That could be a problem again this year, with more aged and soured entries expected. “There certainly is more interest out there in sour beers in general. People are hunting for that different taste – after hops have gone around so many times, you want to find something new. It wouldn’t surprise me to have more intentionally soured beers coming through this year.”

With entries opening on 17 October and closing on the 28th, Tom points out there’s still time to put down a winning brew. “If you’re doing an ordinary bitter or simple porter or something like that, you could certainly squeeze one out in time to enter.”

All the details for potential entrants are available on the National Homebrew Competition website. Anyone interested in joining in with steward duties or helping behind the scenes can contact organisers through the website. “Stewarding’s a good place to start if you want to learn more about judging, meet the judges and catch up with them afterwards for a pint.”

Champion Ale and Champion Brewer – what’s the difference?

The SOBA National Homebrew Competition has two big awards – Champion Ale and Champion Brewer.

Champion Ale is awarded to the beer that scores highest in blind judging. The competition uses the US-developed Beer Judge Certification Programme (BJCP) guidelines, plus a sole local style definition for New Zealand pilsners. Each beer is rated by a panel of three judges, typically including a brewer, an experienced judge and a trainee judge in each panel. The beer is rated for five criteria and given a score out of 50. Last year’s winning Flanders Red scored 48/50.

Champion Brewer is calculated based on the accumulated portfolio of brews entered by a single brewer. Each beer scoring 45-50 gets 3 points and (an imaginary) gold medal; 38-44 gets 2 points and silver; 30-37 gets 1 point and bronze; 21-29 gets no points; 14-20 deducts 1 point; and 0-13 deducts 2 points and gets spat out quickly. This system rewards consistency and discourages entrants from entering sub-standard beers. Last year’s winner John Golics entered six beers and collected one gold, two silvers and one bronze.

By BeertownNZ Wed, 21 Sep 2016 National