The most important single piece of advice for aspiring homebrewers is this: Don't get creative. Get good.
If you want to win awards (especially at BJCP-certified competitions), try to brew a flawless beer rather than an outrageously creative or unique beer. Put down the açaí and the berries and the cat-pooped coffee beans and be true to a particular style. If that's a pale ale, great. If it's a supersubtle English bitter, even better. A flawless imperial stout? Well, you just go ahead and put yourself together a business plan. Whatever style you're going for, execute that style as perfectly as possible.
Then keg that brewed perfection and put it to the test at a Beer Judge Certification Program-sanctioned event like the one taking place track-side from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, January 16, as the Mardi Gras Casino holds its homebrew competition.
The third-annual Mardi Gras Casino Hallandale Homebrew Competition is great for competitors and beer drinkers alike.
If you've never attended a homebrew competition before, they present unique opportunities to see what the next generation of brewers will be like. Some have gone on to start breweries of their own, most famously Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
There's a $1,000 cash prize for first place, for starters. Runner-up gets $500, and a People's Choice takes home $250. Those are pretty hefty sums and absolutely worth competing for.
For those interested in getting their beers judged, the entrance fee is $15, which includes a six-foot table, ten-by-ten foot tent, and three chairs to have you set up your pouring station. Beers will be judged according to BJCP style guidelines and must be entered with the appropriate category.
If the beer is not to style or contains unique additions, there is the option to enter it in the Open Category.
For spectators and those looking to spend the time sampling the brews, the cost of entry is $15. This includes "15 coupons to taste brews from each booth, one pretzel necklace, $5 bounce back free play, and French Quarter off," according to Sandy Catalano, special events manager at Mardi Gras Casino.
To enter, email Catalano to receive an entry form. To show up and drink beer, just show up and drink beer.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers. He is a Certified Beer Server and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.