Thursday, July 30, 2009

All's fair in malt and hops

Come Saturday evening, we’ll know the newest beer destined for the tap handle lineup at Krogh’s brewpub.

You probably won’t be able to drink it until sometime next year, but when the Best of Show winner of the New Jersey State Fair homebrewer competition is announced, you’ll know what to look forward to.

The annual summer ritual unites the make-your-own contingent in a quest for bragging rights and that coveted opportunity to strike a mash at the picturesque brewpub by the waters of Lake Mohawk in Sparta (Sussex County) and have that beer served to paying customers.

The contest has grown in size in its decade-plus existence and has made commercial brewers out of a couple of winners (those would be Brian Boak, who contract brews with High Point Brewing in Butler; and Bud Usinowicz, who has helped brew at Krogh’s since his victory in ’06). This year has seen the most entries ever with 106 (up from 65 in 2008), including two-time winners and defending champs Mike Wenzel and Steve Moen; and Dave Pobutkiewicz, who was a 2007 finalist in the LongShot homebrew competition run by Boston Beer Company. On top of that, the quality of the homebrewed beers being entered has surged.

Last year, the contest was opened up to homebrewers anywhere in the country, not just those from the Garden State. Next year, the contest is expected to be sanctioned by the Colorado-based American Homebrewers Association and the Beer Judge Certification Program, a move that's likely to boost the number of entries even more.

Sussex County resident Ken Sharrock is the point guy for the competition. A homebrewer himself and certified beer judge, Ken got involved with the contest eight or so years ago and has helped bring it closer to what beer enthusiasts would recognize as a BJCP-approved event. Besides Ken, the contest has at least two other certified judges, and last spring, Ken administered the BJCP exam to some folks interested in stepping up to the world of accredited beer judges. (They're waiting for their rankings, Ken says.) Most of those people were already serving as contest judges, but in any case, you can expect skilled palates and noses to be crowning the next state champ.

No comments: