BrewMania has quickly built itself a reputation for chaotic fun, but it also offers New Zealand’s biggest home brewing prize, awarded by the most-experienced beer judges.
The BrewMania home brewing competition debuted at the first New Zealand Home-Brewer’s Conference last year. Organiser Mike Stringer wanted a competition format the both rewarded good brewing technique, and provided an entertaining event through the judging process.
“We wanted to do a homebrew competition, and the obvious choice would have been to do something similar to the National Homebrew Competition, but that’s already done very well and it’s definitely not a spectator sport. We also wanted to come up with something that would provide a large group of people some quality entertainment.
“So we assembled a large amount of home brew and let anybody who came along have the opportunity to judge that beer and help select the Champion Brewer. It’s about identifying the best brewer, and that means finding somebody who makes more than one good beer.”
Entrants must submit three beers, which go through three popular-vote elimination rounds. Brewers whose three beers survive then go into a head-to-head round, where their three beers compete against another brewer’s three. Winning brewers go through to the final round to be judged behind closed doors.
That final round is judged by the Conference’s VIP guests, and this year it’s three big guns – US beer writers Marshall Schott and Michael Tonsmiere, and Gordon Strong, the top-rated beer judge in the Beer Judging Certification Program (BJCP). If these guys rate your beer you know you’re doing something right.
And BrewMania’s prize is serious too. The winner will get to collaborate with three different commercial brewers – Hop Federation, Choice Bros and 8 Wired – and all three beers will be brewed and released commercially, giving a real insight into how different commercial brewers work.
Mike has described BrewMania as, “a cross between a tennis tournament and WWF wrestling”. Obviously nothing could be that good – but behind the interaction of the judging process there’s a real home-brewing competition with an excellent prize.
Winners must be technically skilled, able to produce a variety of drinkable beers in different styles, and just a bit lucky. “Each table of judges is encouraged to vote on the basis that the beers reflect the best brewing skills. But when you put a large group of people together and give them alcohol, getting them to follow instructions is not always easy!”
There’s also some strategy, in choosing which order to enter your beers into the three elimination rounds. If your first beer is eliminated, then the second and third drop out to a secondary prize stream. “So the best strategy seems to be, if you think one of your beers is weaker than the others, put it in round one where it has the best chance of survival,” advises Mike.
BrewMania’s happening on Friday 24 March, Trafalgar Pavilion Nelson, as part of the New Zealand Home-brewers’ Conference. The results will be announced at the Conference on Sunday 26 March. Entries will close on or about noon, Friday 17 March – get brewing and get plotting now. Check the BrewMania website for details on shipping your entries for free through local home brew stores.