With previous contest winners successfully moving their beers out of their basements and into well-known, local, commercial breweries, the competitive spirit of Suwanee Beer Fest’s Home Brew Competition has heightened. Over 100 of Metro Atlanta’s best home brewers submitted a total of 250 distinct homemade beers to contend for title of “Best in Show” this March. This BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) competition begins March 7th with 30-40 certified judges scoring the entries based on a specific criteria: mouthfeel, aroma, appearance, flavor and overall impression. Each submitted beer is placed in a flight with 8-10 other competitors of the same beer category. The winner of each flight will then move on to the final judging for “Best in Show” at Suwanee Beer Fest on March 14, 2015.
Bob Carlton, Owner of Brew Depot in Alpharetta, is in his 4th year of organizing and planning Suwanee Beer Fest’s BJCP-certified home brew contest and has not only seen a spike in participation, but a spike in overall quality of entries over the years. The 2014 “Best in Show” winner was Paul Bushell with a delicious Barleywine. And, some might recognize the name of 2013’s “Best in Show” winner, Josh Rachel, who went on to become Master Brewer at Jekyll Brewing in Alpharetta.
Still though, “I have never given a 50,” Carlton said, referring to the maximum number of points a single beer can receive
in a BJCP competition. “But, I have never received a 50 myself either,” he confessed. “And I’ve been brewing beer for over twenty years…long before the Internet was even around,” he continued, poking fun at his not-so-old age.
But, while the Internet may help a novice home brewer learn a few tips and tricks, there is no better way than by hands-on experience. And, that is precisely why Carlton founded his brewing equipment store – Brew Depot, and why Master Brewers from some of Georgia’s favorite watering holes attribute their fundamental skills and knowledge to Bob Carlton and Brew Depot’s classes. “If you go back and look at the home brew community, I’d say 98% of all brewers today were home brewers first,” he said. Brewing begins as a hobby and only sometimes develops into a business opportunity.
Some of Carlton’s clients have successfully taken that commercial-brewing leap…you may have heard of them! Jekyll Brewing, Monday Night Brewing, Three Taverns, Blue Tarp, Red Hare, Cherry Street and Wrecking Bar all have a history with Carlton and Brew Depot. And, before they became some of the best breweries in Metro Atlanta, they too competed in local home brew competitions – several as veterans of the Suwanee Beer Fest Home Brew Contest. But, how did these now well-known brewers get started? Well, just like anybody else: with a passion for craft beer and a curiosity for brewing their own.