Announcing the 6th non-annual

BS Homebrew Contest

(BS stands for Ben's Styles. Or anything else you want it to mean.)

Tired of getting screwed in homebrew contests because your beer is "not to style"? Do you hate paying entry and shipping fees to send your beer to a contest, only to have judges you've never met give it a low score because it's got too much of this or too little of that for the style you entered it as? Me too.

Hi. My name is Ben Schwalb. I have been brewing for 21 years, and I've made about 600 batches. "To-style" contests can be good for getting feedback on your brews, but they can also be frustrating because of narrowly defined beer styles (click here to see what I'm talking about). I have decided to run my own hedonistic contest. The BS Homebrew Contest is your chance to have your beer judged for how good it is, without being devalued because it can't be pigeonholed into tightly defined styles that leave little room for deviation. Now your too-big-to-be-a-hefeweizen-but-too-small-to-be-a-weizenbock will score on its own merits instead of being hammered for not fitting an arbitrary, limited style.

As an alternative to the BJCP's 34 styles and 100+ sub-styles, I have created "Ben's Styles", of which there are only 7:

  1. Session. Low-medium hops and malt.
  2. Hoppy. Hoppy, not-very-malty beers.
  3. Malty. Malty (but not roasty) beers.
  4. Roasty. Roasty beers.
  5. Funky. Horsey, sour, etc beers.
  6. Yeasty. Beers with yeast-derived esters and/or phenols.
  7. Other. Any beer that does not fit any of the other categories. Mead, wine and cider too.
Your beer does not have to fall within any BJCP style. The main difference between my contest and any BJCP contest is that I will not split hairs over whether your beer exactly matches a narrowly defined style. For example, if your English IPA seems more like an American IPA or a strong bitter, it will not have points deducted. In fact, you don't even declare that it's an English IPA; you simply enter it in Category 2 and it will be judged solely on how pleasing it is.

Color and clarity are never factors in this contest. All that matters are aroma and flavor, and to a lesser extent mouthfeel (carbonation level, etc). My philosophy is that everyone, including vision-impaired folks, should be able to judge beer.

Obviously some beers will qualify for more than one category. A pale ale might qualify for categories 1 and 2. A beer with spices and funky microbes might qualify for categories 5 and 7. A British brown ale might qualify for categories 1 and 3. This will be taken into consideration during the judging, so you will not get a low score because your beer is "not to style". Even if you enter a completely wrong category (e.g., you enter a stout in category 6), I will re-categorize your beer into an appropriate category and judge it thusly.

No entry fee. Just provide 3 bottles per entry. You may enter as many beers as you like, and there is no limit to the number of entries per category. (If you enter more than one beer in a category, please indicate on the beer entry labels which entry a beer is. For example, if you enter 5 beers in a category, the bottle labels should say, "Beer 1 of 5", "Beer 2 of 5", etc.) Bottles may be any size, color or shape. They may be glass, aluminum or plastic. They may have labels on them. They may have raised lettering. They may have identifying marks on the caps. All forms of crowning are allowed: pry-off, twist-off, swing-top, or corked. Hell, you can enter growlers if you want. You may affix the beer entry labels to the bottles with rubber bands, tape, or Elmer's glue.

Note: please enter 3 bottles. Some folks have entered one or two in the past. I do not judge all beers on the same day. A beer might have to be recategorized. I do the best-of-show judging on its own day. If you do not enter 3 bottles, then any remaining beer will go flat by the time it gets judged in its new category or the best-of-show round.

I will judge the beers over the course of several weeks or months, and get the results to you by spring. I don't foresee more than a few dozen entries so I think I'll be able to handle the task. If for some strange reason I get a lot of entries, I will enlist the help of some of my homebrewing friends.

Each beer will be judged by hedonism. Specifically, do I/we like it? I know that my/our palate is not the standard by which all beers should be judged, which is why I hope that others will hold similar contests.

Click here for bottle entry forms.

Prizes: Beer- and brewing-related stuff, including supplies, T-shirts, coasters, beer, and other stuff. Additionally, all brewers will receive some sort of feedback. I might give each beer a number score, but no individual number scores for aroma, appearance, flavor or mouthfeel.

Now, you might have some questions, such as:

  1. Who is this guy, and who is he to judge my beer?
  2. Why should I give him 3 bottles of my stuff?
  3. Is he just trying to get free beer?

To these I answer:

  1. I am someone who thinks beer should be judged by how good it tastes, not on how closely it matches someone's definition of a style. I have never taken a BJCP class, but I have more than two decades of experience both brewing and tasting great beers, and I have judged in several homebrew contests. And in case you're wondering, I have won many ribbons in BJCP-sanctioned contests, including category wins at the 2007 Spirit of Free Beer, 2008 Masters Championship of Amateur Brewing (MCAB X), the East region of the 2008 National Homebrew Contest, and the 2011 and 2015 Turkey Shoots. I also won Best of Show at the 2007 and 2010 Turkey Shoots. You can verify these at the following links:
  2. You don't have to send me anything. But if you do, you will get constructive feedback and you might win a prize.
  3. Well, let's see. I'm not charging entry fees. I'm giving away prizes. I'm paying out of my own pocket to ship those prizes. I have dozens of cases and several kegs of my own homebrew at home. The last thing I need is more beer. The purpose of this contest is to give people a non-BJCP alternative, and to have fun in the process.

Due date: January 28, 2016, although I will extend the deadline if you notify me in advance with a good reason ("I ran out of gas. I had a flat tire. I didn't have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN'T MY FAULT!")

Where to send entries: If shipping, use a private shipper like UPS, not the U.S. Postal Service. Address the package to:

Ben Schwalb
550 Charington Drive
Severna Park MD 21146

If you live near me you can drop your entries at the above address (leave them on my porch), or hand them to me at a homebrew club event, or give them to someone who you know will see me.

Questions? Comments? Use the following address. It is spread out into several lines and infused with red X's in order to thwart spam bots. Remember to remove the red X's: