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Contest brews a champ

Annual Autumn Pour beer competition judges best local beer

Posted: Friday, October 19, 2007

In 2005, Juneau home brewer Scorch Burnet discovered an intriguing recipe for a saison, a Belgian farmhouse-style ale.

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He entered it in that year's Autumn Pour Homebrew Competition at the Alaskan Brewery and it won no medals. But he received enough feedback to fine-tune it for 2006.

That year, it won Best of Show.

"I might like a beer, and it might taste good to me," Burnet said. "But I like to find out what it tastes like to other people that have even better educated taste buds than I do. They give me constructive criticism and that helps me improve my beers in the next batch."

Burnet, the defending champion, is one of at least a dozen Juneau home brewers entered in Saturday's eighth annual Autumn Pour Homebrew.

Home Pour

What: Eighth annual Autumn Pour Homebrew Competition.

When: Saturday afternoon at the Alaskan Brewery, judges only.

Awards: 8 p.m. Saturday, Alaskan Bar & Hotel.

The grass-roots competition, sponsored by the Alaskan Brewery, was started eight years ago when there were a lot of certified judges in town, but few contests to judge.

It also was helpful for the homebrewers in town. At last, there was a Juneau competition that didn't require shipping beers to some out-of-state locale.

The Autumn Pour adheres to the strict stylistic guidelines of the Beer Judge Certification Program, a nonprofit organization that tries to "promote beer literacy and the appreciation of real beer," according to www.bjcp.org.

Under the program's rules, brewers are asked to enter their beers in one of 99 styles. Porters, for instance, can be either brown porters, robust porters or Baltic porters.

The beers are judged on how well they sync with the accepted guidelines for that particular style. That means brewers can have a fine beer, yet still get penalized if they've miscategorized the brew.

Most of this weekend's judges are trained in the Beer Judge Certification Program, but a few novices may be thrown into the mix.

"Practice helps," said judge and co-organizer Rachael Juzeler. "When you take the BJCP class, you have to memorize hundreds of styles. You have to know how to trouble-shoot and give really good feedback. The contest helps."

Juzeler just returned from the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colo. She was impressed by the "specialty" beers, in particular a black India Pale Ale. The style includes somewhat experimental brews that may not adhere to a certain guideline.

The "blends," combinations of beers, also were a treat.

"I'm waiting for people to do that kind of stuff around here," she said. "They're getting closer."

Burnet has entered the Autumn Pour every year since 2002. He used to make 50 batches a year, but has cut back to 25 to 30.

"Another thing about this competition is it puts brewers in touch with each other," he said. "That facilitates knowledge exchange. I didn't know any other brewer when I first started the competition, and I meet more and more every year."

Burnet learned so much from his saison critique in 2005 that his 2006 batch also won Best of Show at a similar event held during the Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival in Haines.

"It is a cool competition," Burnet said. "It's given me an opportunity to improve my process in my home brewery, and just make all around better beer."

• Korry Keeker can bereached at 523-2268 or korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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