On Saturday I got word that I had won my very first medal in a homebrew competition. My peach wheat, Prunus Persica, took first place in the fruit beer category of the 31st annual Dixie Cup in Houston, TX. I was hoping for the best, but truthfully, I didn’t expect to win, especially since my previous entries in homebrew competitions didn’t yield the results I had hoped.
Let’s back up a bit though, shall we? I started homebrewing about 2 1/2 years ago. Initially, I was unsure how much I would enjoy it, since I’m a beer drinker who likes to mix things up. I rarely buy six packs of beers, because I like to drink all kinds of different beers. But my curiosity got the best of me, and I gave it a shot. In fact, my first five batches of homebrew were of the one gallon extract variety, all brewed on my kitchen stove. That first batch of IPA I brewed wasn’t great by any means, but it was drinkable and even enjoyable. Ditto for the basil wheat, pumpkin wheat, pumpkin ale and another IPA that followed. It was then that I decided to make the jump to 5 gallon batches. I brewed a peanut butter chocolate stout as my first 5 gallon batch, then a double IPA as my second. It was a that point that 2 things happened: 1) my dear wife banned me from ever brewing again in the house (I didn’t see the problem with the house smelling like hops for 3 days, but she did), and 2) I came to the realization that bottling 5 gallons of beer at a time really, really sucks. It was about that time that a neighbor who was moving left me with a refrigerator, so I did what any homebrewer in my situation would do: I purchased some kegs, taps and CO2 tank and built a homemade kegerator.
Since then, I’ve moved from extract brewing to all-grain brewing, which is basically the equivalent of going from baking Betty Crocker brownies in a box to baking brownies from scratch. Once I tasted my very first all-grain beer, a coffee vanilla porter brewed on New Year’s Day this year, I knew the future of my homebrewing would be brighter. I had submitted a few of my previous extract beers to a few competitions, but none of them really scored very well, though they weren’t flawed either. I thought my coffee vanilla porter was good enough to submit to the American Homebrew Association’s National Homebrew Competition last spring, and it got a really good score in the regional round, even if it didn’t advance to the finals.
Fast forward to late summer, when I wanted a light and refreshing beer to enjoy after cutting the grass or while sitting by the pool. I opted for a very simple wheat beer, then added 5 pounds of peaches to it after primary fermentation had completed. That amount of peaches still didn’t quite give it enough peach presence, so when I kegged it, I added a little bit of peach extract flavoring and a touch of lactic acid to give it a slightly tart finish. I lucked up, because I was left with a really good and easy to drink peach beer. A couple of BJCP certified judges even told me it was a very well done beer, so I figured I’d enter it into a competition. It was also the only beer I had available when the deadline for submission to the Dixie Cup rolled around. So I entered it into the fruit beer category, but without any expectations. Fruit beer is such a wide encompassing category with regard to the style of beer (it can be anything from a fruited lager to a stout), as well as the type of fruit used. I was actually just hoping for some feedback on the beer and thought it might score well.
This past Saturday, I got a text from a friend who asked me if I wanted to know how my beer fared. Of course I wanted to know. He sent me the link to the Dixie Cup website that showed the winners of each category, and there it was. Prunus Persica took 1st place in the Fruit Beer category. Hot damn!
I still haven’t gotten the judges score sheets to see their comments or the medal I was awarded (it made its way back with another buddy who was in Houston for the Dixie Cup), but I’m still elated. I’m certainly proud to say that of nearly 1,000 beers entered into the 2014 Dixie Cup, mine was one of 45 that garnered a gold medal for 1st place in one of the categories.
Oh, and lest I forget: congrats to my friends Toby Guidry (1st place Strong Scotch Ale), Wayne Odom (2nd place American Pale Ale), Dale Yoes (3rd place Dry Stout), David Komendanchik & Ashlyn Harmon (1st place Smoked Beer and Honorable Mention Fruit Beer), and Keith Primeaux & Ray Calhoun (1st place Specialty Beer) for medaling in this year’s Dixie Cup and representing Baton Rouge homebrewers so well. Cheers guys (and gal)!