When scoring for Barley's Brewing Co. Homebrew Competition, judges look for more than just good taste.
Appearance, aroma, mouthfeel,overall impression and flavor are the criteria considered by 15 to 20 Columbus-area brewers when they judge Barley's Brewing Co. Homebrew Competition, now in its 20th year. Besides being tasked with the daunting process of tasting 80-plus beers, these professional brewers are responsible for scoring the beers based on stylistic accuracy. The judges follow the protocol of the American Homebrewers Association: A perfect beer scores a 50, with 20 points for flavor.
Barley's brewmaster Angelo Signorino says he's never had more judges for the competition. "Every time I sneeze," he jokes, "there's a new brewery opening. If we have 80 beers, it's only fair to have more than one judge on each beer. The more judges, the better."
Home brewers can drop off their concoctions at Barley's between May 18 and 23 to be entered in the free competition. The winner will be announced June 7 at Afternoon with the Brewers, an event that's free and open to the public.
The winning brew receives a coveted tap in Barley's tap room the following year. "There's a pendulum," Signorino says. "One year [the winner is] an IPA, the next, something opposite of an IPA. The judges often are influenced by what won last year." Two winners of the competition-Weasel Boy and Pigskin-have gone on to open their own breweries.
While the beers are judged based on style, some no-no's are applied across the board. "There are flavors that can ruin a beer's score that come from inappropriate yeast," Signorino says. These flaws include solvent flavors like acetone, green apple and a butter-like flavor. Here's a look at which characteristics add to or subtract from a beer's score.barleysbrewing.comWheat Ales
This category includes American styles, German styles (like hefeweizen) and dark wheat beers.
Pluses: Cloudy appearance; light flour graininess, showcasing the wheat character; aromatic
Minuses: Opaque; soap flavorIPAs
Different IPA styles have varying characteristics. "Right now, the trend is tropical fruit-flavored hops: mango, passion fruit and grapes," says Colin Vent, head brewer at Seventh Son Brewing Co.
Pluses: Balanced hops aroma; balanced hops flavor
Minuses: Bitterness orastringent flavors; overcooked vegetable flavor; spicy flavor, which indicates a flaw in the yeastStouts
Vent says all stouts (whether imperial, milk or American style) should be deep in color, with shades starting at dark brown and going toward black.
Pluses: Chocolate or coffee characteristics; clean taste; dark color