It's finally getting cold here in NYC which means that most local homebrewers I know are beginning to focus on the beers that they will be entering into Homebrew Alley. Now in it's 10th year, Homebrew Alley (an AHA/BJCP sanctioned homebrew competition) is rivaled in size only by the 1st round of the National Homebrew Competition. Homebrew Alley is put on by the New York City Homebrewers Guild, the oldest homebrew club in New York City.
I try to enter beers into this competition every year and I encourage anyone serious about their homebrew to do the same. This event is one of the rare opportunities in NYC to get critical feedback on your beer from objective, trained palates. That, to me, is the real value of this competition. Your friends are always going to like your beer. It's just true. These judges are going to evaluate your beer based on its merits, not on your friendship.
As a judge I've sat across the table from National judges, professional brewers, and local tastemakers to evaluate homebrew. That has also been enormously valuable to me and I wish there were more events like it in our metropolis.
There are a few ways you can get involved in this year's Homebrew Alley:
If you are a BJCP judge, you can register to judge (even if your rank is pending from the most recent NYC tasting exam).
If you've not taken the online exam or the tasting exam, you can register to steward. Last year, Eric Feldman and I had an amazing steward when we were judging Belgians. He learned a lot that day and tasted a lot of beer with us. My buddy Xavi still refers to that time he stewarded a few years ago as instrumental in his path to becoming a judge and how it continues to influence the respect he has for the judges he learned from that day.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you can brew. There won't be beer to taste if you don't make it. There is an entry fee of $7 per beer entered but the value of the feedback you get is well worth the entry fee. Another thing to note is that, as of now, there are no limits to the amount of beers a single brewer can enter.
A sidenote that should be mentioned, last year's Best In Show winners of Homebrew Alley were Peter Salmond, Erik Norlander, and Oskar Norlander (having also swept the sour category). If their names seem familiar, it's because they are also team that currently hold the title of AHA Homebrewer of the Year.
Homebrew Alley X is now accepting entries until January 29, 2016. Given the popularity of the event the past few years, entries are once again capped at 750. Knowing that, it would be wise to get your entries in sooner than later.
Judging for Homebrew Alley X will take place at Alewife in Queens on February 12th and 13th, with the awards ceremony to follow to completion of judging and the tallying of results on the 13th. You can register for homebrew alley here.
Best of luck in the competition. Now go win this thing!