The National Homebrew Competition

Judge and 8 Wired brewer, Soren Eriksen. Photo: Neil Macbeth

This year’s SOBA Homebrew Championships was our biggest yet, with over 400 entries – which means it had more New Zealand entries than the Brew NZ awards! 

Last year’s SOBA Homebrew Championships attracted over 400 entries and required three organizers, 13 talented judges, eight enthusiastic stewards and a lot of time. The competition itself ran smoothly and to schedule, spanning a day and a half.

There was a huge effort from everyone involved. The four tables of judges showed a fabulous dedication to the judging task, inspite of the of the awesome weather outside and the stewards showed a great attention to detail.

Out of the 420 entries it was very interesting to note the styles New Zealand homebrewers are brewing. There were:
+ hoppy beers: 25 NZ Pale Ales; seven English IPAs; 14 American IPAs; seven Imperial IPAs; and 20 APAs.
+ strong beers: eight English and three American Barleywines
+ brown and black beers: 17 Robust Porters; 14 American Brown Ales; nine Oatmeal Stouts; nine Brown Porters; and six Russian Imperial Stouts

As expected, commerical trends were also reflected in the entries. Step forward Yeastie Boys, who are surely partly responsible for the eight Smoked Beers entred (most of them with Peat Smoked Malt). Given the publicity this year, Saisons were well represented with seven entries.

Somewhat surprisingly not a single NZ Draught was entered, which, given we had two Lambics, I found a little odd. It is New Zealand’s most drunk beer, for better or worse, and it’s unusual that this popularity isn’t reflected in the home brew community.

The most popular style? Forty-eight entries in the Specialty Beer category with an honourable mention to its weird beer styles neighbour, the Spice/Herb/Vegetable catergory with 19 entries. My person favourite entry? The wood aged beer with a 4 x 2 inch piece of wood in the bottle….

The judges all commented that they were very impressed with the quality of the entries, with Ben Middlemiss saying he was very impressed at the improvement in quality from the previous year. That quality is certainly reflected in the number of beers that medalled, with 93 Bronze, 80 Silver and 59 Gold medals awarded.

Packaging woes??
Last year saw a huge range of different packing techniques employed for entrants getting their beer to Christchurch. Craig Bowen had a suggestion for next year’s competition regarding posting: rather than send entries down individually, have regional collection centres, and then frieght them down altogether. This would reduce costs substantially and maybe simplify the packing process. Definitely something to be taken into consideration!

And the winners are…
Champion Brewer:
Zane Smith
Best Overall Beer:
Tony Faulkner, Belgian Blonde Ale
Best Lager/Pils/Hybrid:
Stu Marshall, American Wheat/Rye
Best Ale:
Zane Smith, American Brown
Best Porter/Stout/Fruit/Specialty:
Chris Moore, Specialty
Best Imperial:
Craig Fitzpatrick, American IPA
Best NZ Beer:
Llew Bardecki, NZ Pale Ale
Judges Choice:
Andrew Henshaw, Specialty Beer – KawaCress, Malt, Kawakawa and Watercress, no hops.

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