Every year the Liquid Poets Society holds a homebrew competition known as the Poetry Slam. Continuing with the boom of craft beer, this years 5th annual contest saw a record number of 564 entries. That is 1128 bottles of beer that needed to be picked up, sorted, poured and judged. Alex Grote, organizer of this years Slam managed to wrangle up enough volunteers to accomplish this task, but with so many beers the judging had to be split into two days of competition. The first day of competition was held at the south location of Hops and Berries and the second at Odell Brewing Co. One of the reasons behind the popularity of this contest, is that 7 Pro-Am spots for the Great American Beer Fest are up for grabs. 7 Fort Collins breweries use this competition to decide who they want to select to create a beer on their behalf. For a homebrewer, this is an amazing opportunity to try your skills with the big boys and possibly use an industrial system.
I missed the first day, as it was the same day as Sour Fest, but was able to attend the originally planned day of judging. My first homebrew competition, I had signed up to Steward. As a steward, you assist the judges by pouring the beer, keeping track of paper work, and filling supplies. Each beer, only known by a number, needs to be tracked on a flight summary sheet. As well, each beer gets a cover sheet, and a score sheet from each judge that will be given back to the brewer. That can be a lot of paper.
With beers broken up into style categories, I ended up with 21A-B, vegetable, herb and spice beers. This category can be tricky, as the base beer can vary from a pilsner to a porter. The judging of these beers depends on how well the adjuncts work with the base style, which also must be well executed. My table had 24 beers with 6 judges, who broke up into groups of 2. With flights of 7 or 8 beers, they tasted everything from a cucumber saison of which I could barely swallow a sip of, to an amazing chocolate hazelnut porter that I wish there was more of. This category also included holiday ales, and pumpkin beers. A bit of something different than what is seasonally available.
Once the first round was complete and every beer had been judged at least once, it was time for the Best of Show. I was able to steward this round as well with my friend Lavelle and we helped sort bottles and set up tables and cups in the warehouse of Odells. This round was judged by the brewers of the various breweries offering up Pro-Am spots and a few other master judges. Three tables were set up, and the top beers of each table went on to the final round. These folks really took their time making sure the beer they choose truly was the winner. The conversation was intense as they were scrutinizing every aspect of what was in their glass. The winner ended up being a Brown Sugar Maple Oatmeal Stout. I was lucky enough to get a taste, and I could see why it won. This beer was made with fenugreek, an herb that creates the maple flavor.
Volunteering for events like this is a blast. After the awards ceremony we all kicked back and enjoyed a few of Odells brews and some snacks while discussing the best and worst beers of the day. I plan to enter a beer into next years competition, and plan to volunteer again as well. If you are not a member of a home brew club, many host events such as this and are always looking for help, and it is a great way to get your feet wet in the world of home brew.