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First Homebrew Comp. Results

Hello Everyone,
I just entered my first competition and was dissapointed with my results and I feel at a loss to determine where to go with my beers next.
Here’s my robust porter results:

How does it taste to you?

I feel your pain!

I really enjoyed my porter as it had a nice chocolate/cocoa flavor that I haven’t been able to get in my other porters. It was Jamil’s robust porter recipe too but I definitely did feel that it doesn’t have the robustness of a Founder’s Porter. I think next time I might add some white wheat malt for body/head retention and maybe double the chocolate malt content to around 10%.
What does everyone think?

The trouble with comps is that it’s one (in your case 2) person’s opinion of your beer.

If you feel it does a good job of replicating a commercial beer you enjoy, or exceeds it, you have made a winner.

You can always tweak the recipe a little and see if you like it better.

I think the other’s comments are valid. Your next steps could include re-brewing the same beer and take the second judge’s recommendation about healthy fermentation to reduce alcoholic off-flavors and take the first judge’s suggest to enter it as a brown porter. Sounds like you had little in the way of process problems- which is something to be proud of! You can try another recipe (Brewing Classic Styles has very good to-style ones) and see if you like brewing a recipe that might be a bit more in line with the style. My favorite porter recipe doesn’t quite fit the guidelines for brown or robust porters either.

Judging is all about comparing perceptions to a standard as described in the guidelines, and giving good feedback about the beer. I would also sit down with the beer and run through your own perceptions and compare them to those of the judges. I have found that in many cases, a second tasting of my own beer will reveal that the judges are on to things that I didn’t quite pick up on before.

Finally, realize that judging is very subjective and the same beer might score completely differently in another competition- I’ve had the same beer score both a 43 and a 28 or so if two different competitions. Go figure.

Well, recently having 4 beers score 30 or under in a recent competition has opened my eyes to two things. My beer may not be as good as I thought and having a score for you beer may or may not be an indication of how good your beer really is. Confused?, so am I, but I am using it as an opportunity to look at everything and adjust.

I hear ya man, the worst part is that you put a lot of time in to get a very specific product out and even thought you think you might have gotten close, it still misses the mark. I’ve been brewing all over the style map lately so now I’m just thinking about picking two or three styles and brewing them exactly to my own tastes and then send them out to a bunch of competitions. How about you dude?

Alot of good points in this thread. I’ll echo some and add some of my own:

  • Judges are people too, and opinions/scores will vary depending on the judge/competition.
  • Each beer in each bottle may be unique, especially if you are bottle conditioning, but also if you’re filling from force-carbonation (could introduce oxidation, etc.).
  • A “30” isn’t a “bad” score. As one judge said, it’s a “well made beer”.
  • You can get a “bad” score for entering a great beer in a sub-optimal category.
  • Beer age can be a factor in how some styles are viewed/scored; it’s why some brewers will re-brew for later rounds in NHC

Sounds like your beer wasn’t as aggressive as others in the flight - not quite enough specialty malts and hop presence to stand out in the field. To win in a category like Robust Porter you need to dial it up to 10.5 or even 11. It also helps to keg versus bottle-condition - this allows you to dryhop right up to the moment you bottle the beer off the tap.

[quote=“Nighthawk”]The trouble with comps is that it’s one (in your case 2) person’s opinion of your beer.
If you feel it does a good job of replicating a commercial beer you enjoy, or exceeds it, you have made a winner.
You can always tweak the recipe a little and see if you like it better.[/quote]

I agree.
If you’re making beer you like, it’s best to take judging comments with a grain of salt. Despite the reliance on written guideline (which themselves re often flawed) many judges are going by their own individual tastebuds… and sometimes even their own personal preferences.

If the blue ribbon is important to you, or if you have commercial ambitions and eventually want to join in the increasingly competitive jungle of small brewery products, then by all means tweak away because in that scenario you will need to strike a balance in order to meet more peoples tastes and expectations. But if you’re brewing for mainly yourself and your own tastes, and especially if you’re happy with the results you’re getting, then the only judge that matters at all is you.

Why exactly are you disappointed? Because you didn’t win on your first time out? Because your beer was judged in the upper end of the “good” category? I wouldn’t focus too much on the numerical score, different judges have different average scores which is why there are two and also the mini-BOS which evens things a bit. Also, be advised that comps are very popular and that makes medaling all the more challenging. There are a lot of people making really good homebrew out there.

You got some pretty clear direction in the comments, make it “bigger” or enter it as a brown porter. The judges are well qualified so I wouldn’t discount what they are saying. I’d maybe have blacked out their email addresses before posting the sheets.

I’d agree that judges bring some personal experience/bias to the table, but I think its more interesting than having your beer run on a GC/MS. Its a subjective game in the end.

Too true. I’ve never entered or judged in a competition, but one thing I’ve noticed from the tasting panels I’ve done recreationally is that subtle beers don’t survive in tasting flights. All the more aggressive beers deaden the senses, which leaves more balanced ones tasting limp-wristed by comparison.

Given that experience, I’m inclined to suggest that you take the first judge’s advice that your beer would work better as a brown porter with a grain of salt.

Seems like fairly good feedback for the judges. One thing a lot of novices don’t realize is that comps judge beer against (more or less) narrow style guidelines. There are a lot of great beers,even commercial ones, that would not score above a 35 in their category. If your goal is to make a Robust Porter, then I think you have some good feedback on which to go. If you want to just make a “damn good Porter” then I think some of the comments are still helpful, especially those referring to the harsher alcohol notes.

And like someone above said, a 30 is not a bad score.

I would agree with the above posters. These are not bad scores. These judges actually did a pretty good job w/ the scoresheets as well, especially giving you feedback.

At those scores you clearly aren’t brewing bad or flawed beer. Have you ever stewarded or judged in a comp before? I think doing that might help in your understanding of what is actually going on during a flight. If the beer before yours was WAY bigger on specialty malts but extremely flawed and got a 20, the judges might have had a tough time appreciating the nuances of yours.

It also sounds like the first judge got a bad pour, as he picked up yeast and the other didn’t. Both of them seemed to think it had some fusels though. Did you pick any up in tasting it? Did you have good ferment temp/yeast health/pitch?

Again, sounds like a good beer you made that had a few minor flaws that could probably be improved with a re-brew (especially if you can perceive what the judges perceived)

Keep on keepin on-

Per the score sheets certified judges think you brewed a “good” & a “very good” beer. I say congrats. Maybe you can tweak it and get higher scores next time. Definitely do not get discouraged.

You may get crappy judges but you may get great ones, can be kind of a crap shoot. Getting into the 40’s takes time and perfecting your craft. Another main thing go steward at a comp and see how things are run. A style is a very narrow window and needs to be with the styles.
Learn to take criticism is the most important thing IME with people new to comps, to many brewer whine about scores IMO.
Take advice and learn from it.

[quote=“grainbelt”].
Learn to take criticism is the most important thing IME with people new to comps, to many brewer whine about scores IMO.
Take advice and learn from it.[/quote]

I’ll second that. It takes an open mind to accept that what you thought was a 40 point beer may not be. Good judge feedback can tell you why it’s not.

At least you can “read” the judges comments. A lot of times, they are such bad printers that it’s impossible. In such cases, you basically wasted two bottles of beer, a couple hours of your life, and the shipping fee. (unless you want to email the judge(s) to get a clarification - good luck A. being able to read their email addy, and B. having them remember any details about your beer.)

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