Local Brew Contests in August

Two local homebrew contests brighten up the Kansas City calendar in August, and one of them offers you the final voice in the judging process.

75th Street

The first one will be the 2nd Annual 75th Street Homebrew Master’s Contest. It features a rare, free-form approach to judging. Rather than rigidly measuring how closely a beer matches up to the style guidelines of the Beer Judge Certification Program, this one tosses the style guidelines out the window in favor of which beer tastes best. From all of the submissions, an expert panel will narrow the field to 5, and then those 5 will be served to and judged by the public on Saturday, August 29.

Homebrewing, like many endeavors, balances science and creativity. The vast majority of homebrew contests favor the scientific side. Beers are submitted under specific subcategories, and they are judged by how closely they fit into the written descriptions of those styles. That causes competition-minded brewers to adhere to traditional recipes instead of creativity. Experimentation, like trying English hops in a German style, is discouraged, not because it would taste bad, but because it is not what the style guidelines call for. I use a computer program in designing my recipes to make certain that the color, bitterness, strength and other measurables fit within the guidelines.

The 75th Street Contest is a radical departure. If you want to try tossing oatmeal into a pilsner, and it comes out tasting great, then you might win. Last year, I won the contest with a beer based loosely on the Belgian tripel style, but bolstered with honey and Mexican sugar to create a beer that serious judges would criticize, but pleased anyone looking for something sweet and strong.

If you want to taste a few interesting, well-crafted homebrews, show up at 75th Street on Saturday, August 29 and help choose from among the finalists. I’ll probably be submitting a Dark American Lager, a Hefeweizen, a Robust Porter, a Schwarzbier and a Milk Stout. If I’m one of the finalists, I’ll let you know!

KC Irish Fest Stout Brewing Contest

If the 75th Street contest represents freedom, the KC Irish Fest Stout Brewing Contest represents focus. Only stouts need apply.

That said, stouts are a fairly broad group of beers, with 6 recognized subcategories. Dry Stout is probably what you think of when you think of stout – Guinness Draft, Murphy’s and Beamish fall within this category. Sweet Stout is often brewed with lactose to give it a more full body and a sweeter taste – try Left Hand Brewery’s Milk Stout for a great example of this enjoyable beer. Oatmeal Stout is similar to sweet stout, but it uses oatmeal to increase the body of the beer instead of lactose. Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is a good example of this one, as is Goose Island’s Oatmeal Stout. Foreign Extra Stout is actually two varieties – a thick, sweeter Tropical version, or a strong, bitter Export version. Essentially, these are sweet stout or dry stout on steroids. If you’ve had a Dragon Stout from Jamaica, you’ve had a great example of the tropical version, and if you’ve had Coopers Best Extra Stout from Australia, you know what a great dry version tastes like. American Stout is similar to the export version of the foreign extra stout, but typically uses American hops (which often have a citrus flavor) and tend to be more bitter. Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout is one of my favorites. Finally, Russian Imperial Stout is a monster of flavor, with 8% alcohol or higher, and deep, rich, complex flavor. Go grab a bottle of Bell’s Expedition Stout or North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout for a visit to stout heaven.

Out of all those subcategories, the KC Irish Fest will identify one as the best homebrewed stout in Kansas City. I’m going to be submitting a Milk Stout that is still fermenting, partially because it is a little bit unusual, and might stand out for the judges (who will be tasting stout after stout), and because I wanted to brew a batch for my buddy Ancillary Adams to enjoy. Because, ultimately, while it’s nice to win contests and I eventually want to have a wall full of blue ribbons, my favorite prize in homebrewing is when somebody takes a sip, gets a bit of a surprised look on his or her face, and says, “Hey, this is really great! You brewed this?”.

3 Responses to “Local Brew Contests in August”

  1. les says:

    Dude. Save a glass of the milk stout for me.

  2. bigsmithdude says:

    i also look forward to mooching that stout from AA. no one man should have access to that much creamy goodness..

  3. Nuke says:

    Last year 75th St let us try all the entries, well except some of us got shorted on 1 of them. But id this year e get the 5 best of the lot it should still be fun.

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