The rise of craft beer has been spurred in large part by the increasing popularity of home brewing. The vast majority of craft beer head brewers started out doing it at home in small batches. They discovered that not only were they able to make a palatable beer, but that they actually enjoyed the process for its own sake. Equal parts cooking and science, brewing is more than an art – it’s a science. But it’s one that you don't need a degree to get into.
If you’re like most folks, there are several home brewing competitions held in your area throughout the year. They often fly a little under the radar, not garnering the press lavished on brew festivals and the like. However, if you can find one, it’s well worth attending. Not sure why? Here are 10 reasons for you to put in an appearance at your local home brew competition this year.
We’ll start with the most obvious. You get to enjoy beer. What’s more, chances are good that some of those brews (even most of them) will actually be very good. Beginning brewers who can’t pull off a tasty pale ale or a rich stout the right way won’t be in attendance. Not only that, but you’ll most likely find some very interesting experimental options (think chamomile infused pale ale).
2. It’s Most Likely Free
It’s no secret that most beer festivals cost a lot to attend. Homebrew competitions might be smaller, but they’re generally free to get in. That means you get to sample brews without having to shell out any cash at all. Saying that, most do accept donations, and many put the proceeds towards a local charity or another nonprofit organization, so consider donating.
3. You Meet Cool People
Home brewers are interesting folks. You’ll find all ages, from just turned 21 to old timers who’ve been brewing for longer than you’ve been alive. Of course, there’s also the chance that you’ll meet future head brewers and local brewery owners, giving you the chance to say, “I knew them back when.”
4. Help Propel a Career
Some home brew competitions are sponsored at least in part by one or more local breweries. They let attendees (non-brewers) vote on their favorite beers, and then the winner is brewed in a large batch at a full-scale brewery in your town. That’s cool in its own right, but winning such a competition, or even coming in as the first or second runner up in a large crowd, can propel a career forward. And we could always use more inspired and passionate brewers.
5. Get Some Eats
What’s great beer without equally great food? While not true for all home brewing competitions, many of them feature catering from local restaurants, while others are meccas for food trucks and even burgeoning home cooks looking to make a name for themselves and eventually start their own restaurant or catering company. So, head out for the beer, but stay for the eats.
6. Experience True Rarities
Most breweries only make what’s commercially viable. That’s true for big brewers and craft breweries alike. Home brewers don’t have to worry about whether or not their product will sell to the masses, so they’re free to try out some truly rare recipes, resurrecting older styles and bringing a new touch to modern ones. Whether you’re interested in learning more about styles like “scrumpy” or want to taste real mead, home brewing competitions are often the best way to do it.
7. It Doesn’t Get More Local
One of the best things about home brewing competitions is that they’re pretty much the definition of “local”. These are people in your area, doing what they love to do. They’re local business people, sales clerks, restaurant workers and more following their passions. Not only are you supporting local people doing something close to their hearts, but you’re most likely supporting local brewing supply stores and possibly even local growers (wheat, barley, hops and more).
8. Entertainment Abounds
Beer and music go hand in hand, and most home brewing groups have learned this lesson very well. Look for at least one live band at the venue, possibly more depending on the size of the competition and the area in which it’s held. So, you get beer, food and music all in one package, and chances are good that you won’t have to pay much of anything to enjoy it.
9. The Atmosphere
There’s something about state fairs that really resonates with most people, and you’ll find the same atmosphere at your local home brew competition. While you won’t have the rides and games, it’s the same festive, fun environment filled with laughter and camaraderie.
10. It’s Good Family Fun
While some folks might balk at the thought of taking their kids to a beer competition, the fact remains that most are geared for all ages. It’s surprising the amount of enjoyment kids can get at these events, and it teaches them that beer is not taboo, which can help combat the prospect of binge drinking when they do come of age. Plus, it really is a great way to spend a spring or summer afternoon with the entire family doing something other than sitting in front of the television or playing computer games. Most competitions even welcome the family dog, although you should check with your local sponsors and the venue to make sure of this before loading Fido up in the car.
There you have it – 10 reasons for you and your friends and family to head down to the local home brewing competition. Have you attended any in your area? What was your experience like? What rare or experimental beers did you get to enjoy?