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By beerrevhay, Dec 14 2016 08:09AM

September saw us with our journalist hats on, this time on commission for Ferment magazine and reporting from the judging session for the annual National Homebrew Competition.

This is the UK’s premier comp for amateur brewers, organised by Ali Kocho-Williams of Welsh nano-brewery Seren.

We learnt loads about homebrewing, but - more importantly for anyone who likes a bit of shiny - we came away with a steaming mashtun full of insights on how to do well at the National.

You can download the full piece in PDF format here, but in the meantime here’s three tips for would-be homebrew heroes.

Style guru

The national is run along Beer Judges Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines, which means judges are essentially ticking boxes as they assess beers against established style criteria. It’s not ‘do I like this beer?’, it’s ‘does this beer meet the style guidelines’. So - read up on the styles and their characteristics at the BJCP website, sample a few classic examples and try to emulate the best of the best.

Don’t be clever - be smart

Clever, tricksy beers can sometimes struggle as they often involve merging or straddling styles. A mango IPA is both an IPA and a fruit beer in BJCP competition terms - but it can only be entered in one category and might not push enough buttons in either to do well. The overall winner in September was a straight-up Munich Helles. No bells, no whistles - just very well done and to style.


One way of improving your chances of taking home a medal is to look at the odds. In BJCP comps, first, second and third gongs are dished out to category winners. In this year’s contest, your American-style pale ale would have been up against 34 other entries, giving you a roughly one in ten chance of placing. In a less popular category such as Strong British Ale, you’d have been duking it out with just six other beers - giving you an almost one in two chance of winning a medal!

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