Society of Beer Advocates - Beer for all the right reasons

National Homebrew Competition 2017

Frequently Asked Questions

This page exists to address some of the reasoning behind the rules as well answer commonly asked questions.

Where did the NZ styles go?

The Brewers Association styles specifically include international categories where hop character is outside the specific definitions of certain styles.

They also note that given, say, an American Pale Ale, hope character should be reminiscent of American hop varieties, though this may be achieved by skillful use of hops of other national origins.

As always, it is up to you, the brewer, to decide where your beer fits and enter it accordingly. It's not what you used that counts, it's how the beer presents to the judges on the day.

How should I package my beer?

Simply and tightly, with good padding between bottles. You don't need to tape everything to the Nth degree - that just makes the stewards job harder when they need to unpack it. Wrap bottles in a layer or two of bubble-wrap, then pack them tightly together so they don't move about, possibly with extra padding around them, and not forgetting the top and bottom of the box. Tape simply but securely, and you're done!

Can I enter if I work for a commercial brewery? It doesn't make me any better as a brewer or give me secret powers?

Absolutely correct. Most brewers in New Zealand are also homebrewers, or would be if they ever had the time! However, this competition is primarily aimed at amateur brewers, not those working towards or practicing commercial brewing. It's not about putting awards on your CV, or using NHC medals in your marketing, it's about learning to brew great beer by competing amongst your homebrewing peers. We had a lot of feedback saying that people working at a commercial brewery entering the NHC was against the spirit of the event, and only a couple of people disagreeing, which made it seem like the right call to disallow entry in 2013. We have since reconsidered that stance, and now employees of commercial breweries, even commercial brewers themselves, may enter beer so long as it is home brewed and meets all the other rules. They are not, however, eligible for winning prizes. We feel this strikes a good balance.

So even if I only clean out the fermenters or work in marketing at a brewery, I still can't win a prize?

Sorry but yes. We had to draw the line somewhere, and we drew it at "perception of commercial brewing".

Why the change from two bottles per entry?

We used to require two bottles per entry, firstly to provide a back-up in case of obvious visible signs of infection, secondly for re-judging in case of a tie for a major award.

Given the very rare occasions where a bottle was removed by the stewards for infection it was felt that this precaution was no longer justified, it is therefore down to the brewer to take utmost care when bottling to minimise any chance of infection and present their beer in the best possible condition.

As we now have a Head Judge providing assistance to all tables, rather than sitting on a single panel, it has been decided that they will independently evaluate every gold medal award at the time it is judged at the table. The Head Judge's notes will then be used to split any entries tied for a major prize.

Eliminating the need for second bottles will halve the effort required in transporting, unpacking and sorting hundreds of entries and massively reduce the waste of beer and rubbish to be disposed of at the end of the day.

What size and type of bottles are best?

We recommend sturdy 330ml or 500ml glass bottles. Emerson’s type are ideal. Judging does not require more than around 200ml so sending in 750ml bottles is just a waste of good homebrew, as well as taking up more storage space in the chiller and staging areas. If your beer is in 750ml bottles though, don’t feel bad. We’re just sorry you have to waste beer!

Please do NOT use Mac's bottles, or other bottles weakened by odd moulding techniques. These are not safe under pressure, and can break and injure the stewards, as happened in 2013, prompting the hard line we will now take on disqualifying beers entered in these bottles. We’re not sure about the new Tuatara bottles either. They seem sturdy, so we’ll be allowing them this year, though if we strike and breakage incidents, they may be disallowed in the future.

Whilst every endeavour is made to keep the beer cold, we are all volunteers and cannot always get the beer checked in and into the storage chiller as quickly as we would like. It may sit at ambient temperature for up to three days. It is therefore important for reasons of safety that the beer is not over-primed. Exploding bottles will also be disqualified!

Can you give my entries special treatment in terms of storage temperature or serving?

Sorry, but no. We accommodated some special requests where possible in 2013 as, due to the delay in announcing the competition, we realised not everyone was well prepared. From now on, no special requests will be accommodated. All entries are treated as bottle conditioned and poured as if they were. There is no need to state this on the entry notes.

What should I say in the Brewers Notes?

As little as possible! Generally, you will only want to complete the brewers notes section of the entry if a) the style category you’re entering requires notes or b) something about your beer must be known by the judges in order for it to present well. For example, you’re entering an IPA with brand new Chinese experimental hops, with a character not defined as usual/acceptable for the style. It would make sense to let the judges know that you’re using non-standard hops because you were going for XYZ character. ALWAYS state your intent, as after style suitability, this is what you’ll be judged on. “I used Japanese hops” is a bad note. “I used Japanese hops because I really wanted the lemony character they impart.” is good. Of course, if that character isn’t then detectable by the judges, the beer will be penalised, so never indulge in wishful thinking! In categories where multiple sub styles or variants may be entered, a brewer’s note saying which your beer is absolutely vital. Read carefully and think about what a judge would need to know. NEVER list ingredients, strength, or other beer specifics not required. The judges are judging on what it tastes like, not what it is.