Brew Biz: Werts and All

A BJCP/AHA homebrew competition, here? Why: yes!!! And: why not?

The Topic: Small Competitions and the Best of Mississippi


Written by Ken Carman for

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.

History was made.

Yes, there have been competitions, but the first officially sanctioned: BJCP and AHA competition in Mississippi was held November 19th, 2011 in Brandon, Mississippi: a suburb of Jackson. A competition in a state where homebrewing is still illegal. In fact I think Ole Miss. is one of the last states, if not the last.


Usually I just do a more news reporter-like  competition story for The Professor when I cover my judging adventures, and save Brew Biz for reviews of brew businesses, interviews with important brewers  and other facets of the biz. But I feel this column covers two important topics in beer world.

1. That history was made: Mississippi has taken another important step in not just legitimizing homebrew with their first sanctioned competition, but blazing a path that hopefully will be taken many, many more times.

2. Most sanctioned competitions I have judged at are blow out affairs with hundreds to close to a thousand entries, over 6,000 bottles at one. (3 bottles were required.) This was a very small competition with just two categories and a small stipend was offered to judges who traveled to the competition… and as those of who judge often know: judges frequently travel many miles at their own expense. But I would never decide against judging at a competition because it is small. In fact I find small competitions are like small towns and small churches: more intimate, more focused on the reasons why people gather together. Less on the pub crawl, less on competing with other big towns, or the huge coffee hour after the church service.

Big, more often than not, is not better: it’s worse.

That doesn’t mean I’ll stop judging at competitions like Bluebonnet where they had close to 6,000 bottles. It does mean, as a boy who lived near New York City when I was real young, but also a boy who loved it when he moved and started going to a K-12 school with only 500 students, I think I instinctively knew that small competitions like this would have as much, or more, to offer than brew-extravaganzas.

Not unlike the difference between being just one bottle of Bud amongst many on a mega-brewer’s bottling line or all the bottles in one special one off batch. A judge in a small competition might feel like one very special brew amongst a very small number of one off batches for an up and coming nano-brewery.

A lot more care and consideration is give when you’re not one of many.

But the object of my reverie awaits. Let’s move on to the main event: the first sanctioned homebrew competition held near Jackson, Mississippi: Brandon, actually.

Brad Lovejoy, "Welcome to our home!"

Competition Organizer Brad Lovejoy: yeah, that’s him, was a gracious host and a grand organizer. We spent a lot of time on the web planning; E-mailing back and forth, about how judging was to be handled in this small, two category, competition. We had 4 judges: split into two teams of two for American Pale: category 10: then a mini Best of Show (BOS), and three judges for Stouts: 13. They had breakfast both days and we stayed up stairs for the night. Wow! I’m not used to this much attention since I’m usually one judge amongst many.

See what I mean about big is not always better?

J.L. Thompson: yes, that’s his full name, folks, both judged and talked to the judges, and the stewards, before we started. He did a great job and had asked me to chime in with any advice. Except for a few minor things I didn’t have to say anything. I thought from the start J.L. had it handled, and handle it well he did.


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