From the Editor
Grassroots Effort Launches
New Brewing Competition

An old saying holds that "there is nothing new under the sun," but the creative spark is alive and well in the specialty brewing movement, and nowhere more strikingly so than in the fruits of collaborative effort. A fresh new concept has surfaced under the home brewing sun -- a national homebrew competition organized by volunteers at the grassroots level. The Masters Championship of Amateur Brewing (MCAB) offers elements never before seen in a brewing competition. It may even affect the way national commercial brewing competitions are organized in the future.

In keeping with its stated goal of "identifying and recognizing excellence and achievement among amateur brewers," MCAB is designed to search out and honor the créme de la créme. The ingenious process achieves two seemingly contradictory goals simultaneously -- maximizing access while ensuring the highest quality of judging possible.

The process begins with a group of "qualifying events," amateur brewing competitions from each region of the United States (and one from Canada) selected for their size, geographic representation, level of organization, and, most important, quality of judging. They must also be "open" competitions; they must allow entries from anyone, anywhere in the country, regardless of geography or club membership.

Winners in these qualifying events will then be invited to enter the Masters Championship. If they enter, they must enter a beer in the same category they won in the qualifying event, though not necessarily the same beer; entrants can brew a fresh batch of the same recipe or any other recipe within the same style.

The organizers have chosen the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) as their standard of judging quality, and the MCAB judges will include master level BJCP judges. The small number of entries will prevent or minimize the problem of palate fatigue so common to large-scale competitions, and will also help ensure proper handling of the samples and overall efficient management of the event. The organizers also aim to limit the number of qualifying styles to 10-15 traditional beer styles (no fruit or spiced beers, no coffee or chocolate beers, and no meads, for example).

The result is a small championship event consisting of beers from a handful of proven winners and judged by the nation's best judges. With its proposed organization, the road to the top promises to be the fairest and most reliable available to amateur brewers.

MCAB aspires to other goals besides efficient, fair, and accurate judging. Its stated goals include "promoting and encouraging high-quality, locally run amateur brewing competitions and events in all regions of North America; providing opportunities for all amateur brewers to advance their skills; and encouraging communication and cooperation between local amateur brewing clubs." The qualifying event selection process (and the presence of the masters event itself) will likely inspire local brew clubs to reach new heights in their own friendly competitions, and having as many as 10 shots at winning a qualifying berth certainly provides opportunities for advancement. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of MCAB is its grassroots organization. The all-volunteer effort seems to be fueled by passion for excellence and the desire to be a part of something greater than oneself.

MCAB makes good sense. It provides thousands of brewers access to a possible national honor, one small competition at a time, and offers a structure that will help to ensure fairness and accuracy in judging. It's a goal that commercial competitions (1813 beers in two days at the recent GABF) would do well to emulate.

We at BrewingTechniques will be fully supporting the MCAB effort as it develops. Look for more information about qualifying events, competition schedules, and other news in future issues of this magazine.

Stephen Mallery

Issue 5.5 Table Of Contents
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