Monday, June 22, 2015

Michigan Beer Cup

So, I like my beer. My family and friends like my beer. That's plenty for me.


Thanks, Batyeast.

But what about other people? How about people I've never met? I'm sure they'd like it. But how well does it stack up?

This is America [citation needed]. As explained in George C. Scott's classic interpretation of General Patton, "America is a nation of winners." And by the nature of winning, we are also a nation of competitions. Competitions for everything.

Which dog is the prettiest?

Which toddler is the prettiest?

Which homemade siege engine can throw a pumpkin the farthest?

So, it may not surprise you to know that there are numerous competitions for homebrewing. It might seem a little odd-- a bit like judging art. Homebrewing, by the very essence of brewing in small 1 to 10 gallon batches, is a hobby of experimentation and creativity. You can make anything you like, with enough patience (and beer-soaked ideas for what might taste good). Look at the beer fridge at the grocery store. See any imperial red ales? Maple porters? You could count the number of hazelnut-chocolate stouts on one hand, and the lack of gluten-free, sorghum grapefruit IPAs is a noticeable paucity. Well, if you're looking for them, anyway. But organized, strict styles? Why bother?

After only brewing for a year and a half, I've noticed that the upper limit of my creativity is the strength of my technique. Any artist could have painted that cafe in France-- it was Van Gogh who gave it a heartbeat. I think I get plenty of good ideas from just walking my dog and thinking. But standing out requires doubling down on technique. And that's why you have styles in competitions.

My personal favorite is substyle 05-C... the Doppelbock. This beer has a really interesting story behind its creation, and has a long history of getting tipsy monks through Lenten fasts and making regular people act like idiots in public. So, when you call a beer a "doppelbock", you're providing a well-established expectation. In a competition, this helps judges decide whose technique was best, as well as who was the most creative. If there were no styles, you could have judges saying things like, "I liked this one best because the lavender made me think of my mom," or "This beer was great, I passed out after just two sips!"

Pic credit to Red Sox Bat Girl on Flickr.

This brings me to the Michigan Beer Cup, a statewide competition for homebrewers. Go ahead and page through the styles that you can make submissions under. Some of those styles I've never even tasted. Sure, some of those styles are available for experimental beers that don't conform to any styles on the list. But you have to know that would be a crowded group. I'd really have to pull a rabbit out of my hat to have a beer that stood out-- and my technique would still have to be good. A lot better than it is now (obviously).

Maybe someday. For now, it's more than enough for me to have friends and family drinking my beer and shooting the breeze.

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