Judging the Australian Amateur Brewing Championships a tough job

Natasha Rudra
A fine brew: Kris Rogers, of Sydney, at Bent Spoke Brewery for the Australian National Home Brewing Championship.
A fine brew: Kris Rogers, of Sydney, at Bent Spoke Brewery for the Australian National Home Brewing Championship. Photo: Jay Cronan

It's not a bad way to spend an afternoon in Canberra – tasting 339 beers from amateur brewers around Australia.

Judges at the Australian Amateur Brewing Championship crammed into the upstairs eatery at BentSpoke Brewing Co in Braddon to sip beers, ciders and meads in 20 categories on Thursday.

Competition organiser Stephen Lawford said the beers would be judged on aroma, appearance, flavour, mouth-feel and overall impression and were a way for home brewers to get feedback from top professionals.

"It's really nice to enter competitions and win, but it's not the reason why you should be entering; it should be a blind assessment of your beer, so you can get objective feedback to make better beer in the future. I can pour a beer and hand it to someone and they can be polite and tell me it's a great beer. That doesn't help me very much," he said.

The championship judges on Thursday included BentSpoke brewer and owner Richard Watkins, US beer celebrity Nate Smith, John Keeling from traditional British brewery Fullers, and other professional and commercial brewers.

The competition has come to Canberra alongside the Australian National Homebrewing Conference 2014.

Mr Lawford said winners would be announced at a special dinner on Friday night.

The two big awards on offer are Best State and Brewer of the Year, which is determined by adding up points from each of the beers judged during the competition. 

The individual brewer with the most points is proclaimed Brewer of the Year and the same goes for the state or territory whose beers collect the most points. 

"The bragging rights come and what everybody is looking for is the two trophies."

Mr Lawford said the amateur championships were held in one, huge session.

"It's a real buzz. I've run a similar-sized competition over several days, [but] I've never run one competition like this in one session where there's no break," he said.  

But, at the end of the day, when all the points were allotted and the pints were sunk, he was looking forward to a beer of his own.

"I'm having one of Richard's beers, the Crankshaft, which is an IPA. I need something big and strong this time of the day," he said.

The Australian National Homebrewing Conference continues until Saturday. See anhc.com.au