Without wanting to appear egotistical, or rather more egotistical than usual, I enjoyed competing at the Annual Show this year. I won two first places, three third places, a fifth place and my circle, County Beermakers, also came fifth in the three bottle class. Somehow, I managed to get a first for one of my wines. The rest of the places were for beer. The results gave me a great deal of satisfaction that my skills in both wine and beer making are improving.
The show itself was well organised. There were some excellent home-made beers and wines on the Friday night, and some excellent commercial wines on Saturday afternoon at the wine tasting event. We also toasted the NAWB with champagne as it was the 60th show. I stewarded on three classes of beers and the entries were generally of a high standard.
This was the second time that I entered the competition. Last year, having found the NAWB via Cyril Berry’s wine making book, I attended the show and I managed to get a second in Dry Stout, much to everyone’s surprise. Reflecting on the past year, here are the things I did differently:
Brew with others
Since last year’s Annual Show, I have brewed with several home brewers and two commercial brewers. The National Association of Wine and Beermakers has many experienced beer and wine makers. I would wager that if you added the experience up in years, it would be over 1000. It is a great experience to see how others brew and also very enjoyable.
Join a Circle
Joining a club gives the hobby a bit of focus. I joined County Beermakers last year and attended several of their meetings. What you get at these meetings is feedback on the beer and wine that you make, and suggestions on how to improve.
Read as much as you can
My wine making improved immensely this year and one of the reasons is that I read 4 different books on the topic. Some NAWB members have suggested more books and I intend to continue reading. Reading the books gave me breadth of knowledge, alternative techniques and more recipes to try.
I also reviewed all of my equipment. My boiler was not up to the job and I got a new one with two elements. I’ve made better beer since. Some of my equipment was unnecessary and was causing me problems. I had an auto-syphon that oxygenated the beer. When I have the time and money, I will also look at temperature control during the fermentation. This is likely to involve a large fridge, a heat pad and an Ink-bird to control them.
Use tried and tested recipes
All of my entries at the NAWB this year were either NAWB recipes or County Beermakers recipes. The exception to this is the Dry Stout recipe, where I have slightly modified a recipe from a Homebrewing book. It’s likely that a competition winning recipe is well-balanced. I’m still at the stage where reci- pe design is beyond me, so I intend to continue using the work of others.
I’m looking forward to another year of beer and wine making, and I hope to see you all again next year in Manchester.