Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sorting for Byggvir's Big Beer Cup 2012

Since Jack Of All Brews is co-sponsoring Byggvir's Big Beer Cup this year, and since Steven is cellarmaster, we hosted the sorting session for all our entries at my place earlier this week.  In the past this competition has consistently had about 150 entries, making it a smaller but more manageable size than some of the other local competitions, (Mash-Out and MN Fair I'm talking about you!)  Part of this has been due to the limited categories, but also I've found that this competition attracts more new brewers and folks not already involved in the beer judging community around here.  It is a nice stepping stone to get a couple beers in a competition and know the ropes before moving on to bigger contests.  Since I won my first ever medal in this competition, I make sure to help out with it and to put some beers in every year.  This year one of the Best Of Show beers will be brewed by Mike Hoops at Town Hall Brewery for the GABF Pro-Am competition!  I'm guessing that is the biggest reason for the increase to about 250 entries this year.  We also added in Foreign Extra Stout and Russian Imperial Stout.

So what happens after the deadline arrives and everyone has dropped off their entries?  Well, the Cellarmaster, and hopefully other volunteers, drive all over the Twin Cities picking up all those entries at the various drop-off points.  This year we had 5 homebrew supply shops as drop-offs, with the majority being left at the Northern Brewers and Midwest Supplies.  Keep in mind that each entry is two bottles and that leaves us with nearly 500 beers in the back of a truck.  Add in Minneapolis/St. Paul traffic and your Cellarmaster has a hair-raising ride back to the western suburbs! 

With everything back safely in my now-crowded basement, Steven and I do an initial sort, getting the entries into a rough order by entry number.  Then we get a bunch of us to help out with the next steps.  Our big sort was this Monday and we had eight of us on-hand to help out.  Two volunteers help put each section into order and bring them to the labelers in small batches.  Two people remove the entry labels from each beer and put on our stickers with randomly generated numbers to make sure the judging is truly blinded.  Each bottle gets one label on the neck and another on the cap...Yup 1000 labels done in one night!  One or two more people remove the recently labeled bottles to be placed in BJCP categories to make placement for judging easier.  We also made sure to taunt my basement-dwelling cat with lots of fun boxes and papers.  Then clean-up.  Oh, and we drank some homebrew and commercial beers too.  No we did not cheat and sample from the contest entries! 

This entrant was not messing around!

It is very interesting to see some of the packaging that comes along with the entries.  We saw bottles in plastic bags; laminated entry labels; cellophaned up boxes; wine bottles; funky caps; etc.  There were late entries; entries that were never really submitted; double entries; and lost entries (only one though!) But in the end we catalogued and organized everything into a semblance of order!  I had a good time and would highly suggest being in on this part of a competition in the future to see how the nuts and bolts of the behind-the-scenes stuff works.

Next up is a round of judging this Friday, to make up for the increase in entries this year.  I'll give more info soon!

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