For those of you who are wondering about the competition and how I got from David Homebrew to Homebrew Winner, here's how it worked:
I love oatmeal stout! When I started brewing, it was the third beer I brewed (the first was dictated by the kit I got, the second was a Dunkelweizen). I have been working on perfecting my recipe since then. I submitted an oatmeal stout to last year's Patriots Homebrew Competition (2008), but it didn't get very far for a couple of reasons. First, it had a thin mouthfeel--an oatmeal stout should be full and creamy. Second, I added whiskey soaked in toasted oak chips, so it probably should have been categorized as a "specialty" beer. I filed that info away and did some research in the meantime.
Fast forward to fall 2008...
I brewed the stout again, this time aiming for bigger mouthfeel and a slightly tweaked flavor. I had an additional year of home brewing under my belt, so I think I was a better brewer than in 2007 when the previous version was made, as well. I also decided to eliminate the whiskey and oak flavors in favor of a better base beer. Everything fermented the way I wanted, and I kegged it, then bottled enough for the Sam Adams competition using "carbonation tabs" to carbonate the bottles, while the keg as force carbonated with CO2.
When the entry date rolled around, I dropped my bottles off at the brewery, and that was that until the judging.
The Patriot Homebrew is a three round competition, which is a tad unusual.
In the first round , the judges determine the best beer from each category of beer entered. There were about 200 beers in the competition, I'm told, and there are 23 categories. Not all categories have many entries--in most competition stouts and IPAs have the highest number of entries, while you can only expect a couple American Light Lagers. They are typically judged by 2 judges per category (other than the ones that have large numbers of entries, where the category might be judged by 4 or 6 judges each taking half or a third of the entries).
In the second round (the same day as round 1), a smaller group of judges, usually the ones with the most experience, (Nationally ranked) evaluate the 23 beers that were chosen as the best in each category. In most competitions, they pick the top 3 and award 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. In this competition they were asked to pick only the top 5 beers and not to rank them.
I was notified a short while after the competition day, that I had been selected as one of the top five. Boston Beer asked me to bring over some additional sample of the beer, as well as the recipe, so down to the brewery I went, and dropped off the material.
Round 3: Boston Beer company (Sam Adams to most of us) chose the judges for this round, which took place several weeks after rounds 1 and 2. There are a couple of blogs and even a video describing the judging, so I won't go into the details, but they picked the winner. Hey, it was ME!
So a day or so later, Boston Beer called to tell me that I won! Wow, what a cool thing! Unfortunately, they wanted to hold the info for a few days so they could notify the others in the top 5 and get the press release written. So I kept it under wraps except for my family and close friends-which was pretty hard because I just wanted to shout about it!
Things got very exciting once the news broke. More on that in the next post.