When I brewed Vicious H-Bomb, it was just to satisfy two things:
- H.’s lament that he should have a beer named after him; and
- My desire to experiment with some Belgian yeast.
In other words, I never intended to enter it into competition but… when the Fair rolled around and I heard there was a homebrew competition in it, I just couldn’t resist.
And I’m glad I didn’t.
When I took third for the IPA category in the Noonan Competition in March, I thought that was it — that was my homebrewing highlight for the year.
Boy was I surprised when I found out that I’d won second for the “Strong Ale” category at the 2016 Champlain Valley Fair. Not that I didn’t love the beer I’d made but… let me explain:
When I first heard about the competition, I just assumed that I could enter the beer under it’s normal category (i.e., 21B. Specialty IPA: Belgian IPA) and that it’d get sorted into whatever bucket was most appropriate by the judges. After all, that’s what happened at the Noonan in March and so far that’s been my only real competition experience. So I was surprised to learn that they had it limited to four major categories comprised of 25 of the normal BJCP styles. And none of the Specialty IPA categories were among those 25. OK… I thought, and sifted through which beers I had available to enter and which categories made sense. The thought process went something like this:
- I could enter Summerclone, because they had (18A.) Blonde Ale as a category, but I was enjoying it too much to give any more away.1
- They had (20B.) American Stout as an available category, and I had plenty of bottles of Snape Stout2 but… well, I’ve already told the tale of how bad luck seemed to follow that beer around. Not that I wasn’t enjoying it but… I got superstitious.
- There was Churlish Otter but… nope. No good category matches, and (again) while totally quaffable, I wasn’t confident it could win.
- But of course there was Vicious H-Bomb. The problem there was that (again!) there were no obvious category match. I’d had luck entering as a (22A.) Double IPA before (vide supra) but would that luck hold out twice? It was an IPA, but it didn’t have the full throttle punch of bitterness that you expect from a DIPA. What about (21A.) American IPA? Hmm… That could work, but probably stiffer competition in the “Light Beers” category. And H-Bomb was clocking in at 8.1%. “Strong Ale” it would be so…
…I decided to roll the dice on (22B.) American Strong Ale. It was all Vermont-malted (and sometimes-Vermont-grown) Peterson Quality Malts, after all. Totally American. Totally Strong. Totally an ale.
Well, the rest is vide supra in the photo with the red ribbon. The feedback from the judges was constructive, but I had to wonder if I would have scored better than 25 if I had been able to enter it under the “more correct” category.
Still… can’t argue with a second place win!
- I’d already given away at least five to the crew at BBCo., to say nothing of the multiple others that I’d shared with friends. Probably my most shared beer, Summerclone. [↩]
- Which, if you’ll recall, I’d planned as a Russian Imperial Stout (or 20C. Imperial Stout) but the O.G. was way off and well… 20B. American Stout. [↩]
About Rob FrieselSoftware engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →
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