Written by Henry Hunt
The Kentucky State Fair has it all, including the hoppy, homebrew heaven of one of America’s largest homebrew contests. Local homebrewers, mostly from Kentucky and Southern Indiana, compete in 28 beer style categories (94 sub-categories) for ribbons, fabulous prizes and bragging rights. There is even a contest for best beer label design and BREWER OF THE YEAR.
Make Better Beer
Although there are literally over a 100 ways to win, most people who enter will tell you it is not about winning, it is about making better beer. As a homebrewer this is your chance to have the team of over 70 judges from five states take the time to view, taste and comment on your creation.
Two-three judges take 10-15 minutes to savor your beer and write a detailed report describing your beer on each of the judging criteria: Taste, Appearance, Overall Impression, Mouth-feel, and Bouquet/Aroma. The feedback from trained and experienced beer experts is invaluable to making better beer.
No your brother-in-law does not count as a certified, expert beer taster. There is an important distinction to be drawn between EXPERIENCE and expertise. Your experienced brother-in-law will drink anything that is free. And as long as it’s free he will tell you how good it is. He may even do odd jobs around the house to get more experience with your beer. While this may be of tremendous value to you, he does not have the EXPERTISE to help you make better beer.
Feedback from EXPERTS can help you gain understanding that will help you improve the appearance, feel, aroma and taste of your beer. You will get particular help describing and brewing toward the different styles of beer. If you love to make good beer you should take this positive step in your beer making.
You will need to complete an entry form by July 1 in order to receive your bottle tags and other important program information. So it is time to pull out your best recipes and get that goodness in a bottle. Twelve ounce bottles for judging need to be delivered to the Fair Grounds office, Thursday, August 8 for judging that weekend. Get the complete rules, dates and other information at the Kentucky State Fair website.
Entry is a bargain. For only $8 ($6 seniors over 55) you can enter as many categories as you want. Superintendent of the competition, Tim Rosenberger, just asks that you actually submit a beer for every entry you register. This makes planning for judges and stewards much more sane. Online entries are available after May 6. Entry Registration information is here.
What are the keys to being successful with this contest? Well according to Leah Dienes, brewer/owner of Apocalypse Brew Works and head judge for the event there are four keys.
First. Bottle extra beers for every one bottle you need. You will need for tasting before and after the judging to help you learn after you get the judges comments.
Second. Taste your beer before you enter it to make sure it fits the style and that nothing went wrong.
Third. Follow the entry instructions. Don’t get your entry disqualified because of the bottle, markings or label that is not supposed to be there.
Fourth. Enter multiple categories. Winning is a whole lot about brewing to style. Your best brew may be on the boarder line between style categories and you don’t want to be discounted, because judges think you are a different style.
And finally two truths of all brewing, sanitize and lots of yeast.
The American Homebrewer Association and Beer Judge Certification Program sanction the Kentucky State Fair event. So, yes this is for real and qualifies winners and judges for other national competitions and points.
But blue ribbons, pickles and pies aside, this event is about beer. Good beer. And making your beer better. And whether you are a baker, engineer, librarian, scientist, designer, truck driver, electrician, bricklayer, accountant, artist, tall, short, fat or floppy at the State Fair you are a Brewer. And they have judges to certify that.
Disclaimer. Brother-in-laws depicted in this article are completely fictional and do not refer to any specific brother-in-law. But if you want to repair the fictional bathroom fan there is still some cold JOSE and Coco Bee in the basement.