Every home-brewer who hands you a self-labeled bottle at a party thinks his or her beer is great. So several local contests are giving brewers the chance to put their batches up for some serious critique.
In March, Cambridge Brewing Co. had a shout-out for home-brewers to submit their best creations in a competition, proceeds for which went to the East End House in Cambridge. CBC laid down a few ground rules on styles (nothing requiring extended barrel aging, for instance), charged a $50 entry fee, and capped submissions at 120. “There’s this great home-brewing community around Boston,” says general manager Laura Peters. “We thought this was a good way to capture it.”
Final judging will take place in front of a group of local brewers and writers, with the winning brewmaster getting a day to make a batch of his or her beer to sell on tap at the Cambridge brewpub.
Watertown’s Brett Bauer, who says he’s been brewing for about four years, submitted a robust porter to the contest. “I would love to get some professional feedback on it,” says Bauer. “It gives me the chance to review my own palate perception. . . . Maybe the judges can pick up on an off-flavor I missed and if the source is in my brewing process, I want to know it so I can make it better next time.”
Vicki Zagdan-Gross of Lynn entered a Russian imperial stout called Hail Santa, named for a neighbor who honors the character with various tributes on her front porch. “Stouts were my first favorite style of beer,” she says. Winning for her would be a first step to more brewing aspirations. “I think about it all the time.”
Some home-brewers do break out of the pack and become pros. Berkley Beer Co. founder Glenn Barboza remembers the moment he felt he could go commercial. “I had about 150 people at my house one time,” says Barboza. “I had made two batches of beer but I wasn’t going to pour it. I had a couple beers and changed my mind. We went through all 50 gallons, and one of my neighbors said, ‘You should be a brewmaster.’ ” That's all it took.
Berkley is teaming up to host its own home-brewing contest with the Urban Grape, a wine and beer retailer with locations in Chestnut Hill and the South End. The winner of that contest, which is accepting submissions through Aug. 29, will have his or her beer brewed at Berkley and sold at both retail locations. “Homebrewing is booming because people realize it’s something they can do,” says Urban Grape’s beer manager Ben Bouton. “It’s not this lofty dream.”
Bouton said he got the idea to hold a contest because of the sheer number of home-brewers who come through the stores, sometimes seeking advice on their own brews. “Someone will say, ‘Hey, I just want some feedback from someone who isn’t my roommate or brother-in-
law,’ ” says Bouton. “It’s so hard to get constructive criticism sometimes.”
Submission details for the Urban Grape contest are at theurbangrape.com. Final judging for Cambridge Brewing Co. contest (www.cambridgebrewingcompany.com) will take place on May 3.Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.