Much has changed over the past decade in the Alabama beer scene to help advance our beer culture, thanks to organizations such as Free The Hops, Alabama Brewers Guild and a lesser known grassroots effort by Right to Brew. Homebrewing beer in the state of Alabama was a felony offence, even though it has been federally legal since 1978. Right to Brew led the grassroots campaign to legalize homebrewing in Alabama for over 5 years and on May 9, 2013, Governor Robert Bentley signed into law HB9 making homebrewing legal. In support and celebration of the new law, the first ever, legal, homebrew competition in Alabama was held in Birmingham on July 22nd 2013; it was the Alabama Brew-Off.
The second annual Alabama Brew-Off was held on Saturday August 2nd 2014. Homebrewers from all over the country entered into the competition to compete for a $1,000 prize for the best beer. If you have never heard of a homebrew competition before, here is a quick primer:
Usually the competition is held as a sanctioned competition with the American Homebrewers Association.
Each style of beer is entered into a specific category for judging. There are 23 beer categories with multiple sub-categories. IPA? That would be Category 14b. Saison? Category 16c. The beer styles are written by a BJCP Style Committee. Each category is then judged by BJCP judges or aspiring judges.
What is the BJCP? The Beer Judge Certification Program is designed to spread knowledge and appreciation of the world’s diverse beer, cider and mead, styles. They are also responsible for the standardization for evaluating beer. There are varying levels of certification you can hold within the BJCP, from Apprentice to Grand Master. Each certified judge must pass a series of exams to hold a rank within the BJCP.
Each beer is judged and provided a score from 0-50. The best beers within each category are then judged together to determine 1st, 2nd and 3rd place for each category. First place beers from each category are then judged together, again, to determine who has the best brew in the entire competition. The competition was capped at 300 entries and judging commenced on Thursday night. Another judging session occurred Friday night and the final two sessions on Saturday. On average a judging pair (or trio) will judge between 5 - 15 beers in one session.
The quality of the entries speaks bounds to how far the beer scene has evolved recently. A great deal of pride (and a little love) is crafted into each bottle of homebrew. I can speak from experience since I judged in this competition. Speak to any seasoned beer judge and they will agree, we are living in the pinnacle for beer, right here in America.
The awards ceremony was held at John's City Diner directly after the last session of beer was judged on Saturday night. Gold, silver and bronze medals were given to each respective winner of each category. Overall best of show winner was awarded to a Birmingham homebrewer, Tom Vaeretti for his American IPA! Tom’s fantastic beer netted a score of 46.5 out of 50. Second place was awarded to Jon Mormon from Missouri for his Eis-Stout and third place was awarded to another local Birmingham brewer, Robert Etheredge, for his Roggenbier (German Rye Beer).
If you are interested in homebrewing beer, we have excellent resources in Birmingham to help support your new hobby (habit...). For homebrew supplies, visit one of our local supply shops:
We also have two local homebrew clubs in Birmingham who hold monthly meetings and other shindigs. They can be reached at: