Strange Brewin’ at the Beehive Brew Off

Posted August 8, 2013 in ,

(L-R) Daniel Orser and Ray Madsen of Wasatch Brewing described their tastings as a roller coaster of flavors with both good and bad notes. Photo: Talyn Sherer

In July’s beer issue, we left the Beehive Brew Off in their preparations for year Number Five of their annual homebrew competition. With all entries submitted and loose ends tied, last Saturday, Aug. 3, and Sunday, Aug. 4, marked judgment day for the 253 contestants and 598 beer entries of 2013.

Considering that these numbers are near double what they were back when the competition first started in 2009––it’s pretty wild. Of course, we can’t forget to acknowledge that this was the same year our ever-so-gracious legislature passed the bill which made beer brewing legal on any premises called home.

“The amount of participants has drastically increased, which is good––the more the merrier,” says Beer Nut Brew Supply manager and Brew Off organizer, Jamie Burnham. We’ve gotten some entries that have come in from Kansas City, Missouri, some from Las Vegas, Nevada and a couple from California.”

As tradition follows, the 2013 Beehive Brew Off filled the Bayou’s seats with judges and more bathtub craft concoctions, for better or worse, than their restaurant fridges could hold. So, they parked a refrigerated semi-trailer in the back and judged from nine to five all weekend.

Sean Zimmerman-Wall eloquently stated in last month’s Brew Off article, “One benefit of being a judge is catching a solid buzz.” While it’s true and somewhat unavoidable, aroma, head, body and taste are everything to the seasoned critic who follows strict BJCP [Beer Judge Certification Program] guidelines.

In the mix, I was surprisingly fortunate enough to discover my good friend, judge and entrant Jeremy Llewellyn going over his spit vs. swallow taste technique with his scoring counterpart Carrie Dayton-Madsen. They were just wrapping up their review of fruit beer and moving towards best of show, which, of course, I had to sit in on.

“Basically we’re looking for any off flavors––you learn a lot doing this all day,” says Llewellyn, who’s also a member of the Lauter Day Brewers club out of Salt Lake County. Starting with two, the best-of-show panels filled a table of six judges who took six of the day’s best entries per category and debated them. These flavors ranged anywhere from cherries and coconuts all the way to mangoes, ales, lagers and stouts. There’s nothing at all like a good crowd debating alcohol ethics.

Out of 28 different categories of beer to be ranked, competitions like these can feel somewhat overwhelming to the beginner. The good news is that, it’s half as hard and just as rewarding for anyone to fork up the five bucks and three blank brown bottles of batch, mead and cider included.

“If you want feedback on your beer, you enter the contest. Whether or not you feel it’s worthy of a medal, that’s aside the point––if it’s your first beer, or your 250th,” says Burnham. “Anyone who enters gets their score sheet with critique back to study. Home brewers really crave the feedback that these judges give them.”

Next to the growing popularity of beer festivals in Utah, brew competitions are too far and in between. The soonest upcoming contest will be held at Grace Lutheran Church’s Oktoberfest in September, and entries are encouraged. Call 801-298-5268 for details. With another year of Beehive Brew Off wrapped up, don’t just wait till next year to get something cooking––in the meantime, let the competition results give you some ideas! Find more photos of the competition here

(L-R) Daniel Orser and Ray Madsen of Wasatch Brewing described their tastings as a roller coaster of flavors with both good and bad notes. Photo: Talyn Sherer What better way to enjoy a variety of beers than by lining them up in an orderly fashion? Photo: Talyn Sherer The life of a beer at the Beehive Brewoff starts with the unopened body, quickly displacing the head and pouring its guts into a cup to be slowly consumed and enjoyed. Photo: Talyn Sherer