By Greg Copen | Mar 12, 2014

Several weeks ago I realized the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) competition was just around the corner and most of my kegs were empty.

I’ve entered this event every year since I started brewing, but this year was looking sketchy. Time was too short to brew something new, so I had to rely on the remnants of my last two kegs. I typically prepare four bottles for competitions. The AHA requires two bottles for the first round of judging and a third bottle if you make it to the finals.

Experience has taught me to keep an extra bottle or two in case my entries are broken during transportation. I didn’t have enough Porter left in the keg, so my competition hopes this year will rest on the shoulders of my Irish Red.

The AHA competition is just the beginning of the events to enter this year. Our very own Frog Level Brewery will host a beer competition on April 19.  Asheville, Kingsport, and Blacksburg usually have festivals for homebrewers during the summer.

The Waynesville Craft Beer Festival is also planning a homebrew competition in September.  It doesn’t take long to drain a keg when you bottle most of it for competitions.

With April fast approaching, I dusted off my brewing notebook (aka Book of Knowledge) and flipped through the pages to find a recipe worth brewing again. I knew that I’d been busy at work and home, but didn’t realize that my last brew session was more than four months ago. My grain stockpile was low and my yeast supply had passed its useful life.

Nevertheless, I worked up a recipe and made a trip to the brew shop in Asheville to pick up all of the missing ingredients. When Saturday morning rolled around, I anxiously fired up the brew kettle and crushed the grains for a nice Pale Ale. It felt good to dust off the cob webs and get back to brewing.

My Pale Ale should be fully conditioned in a couple weeks and I hope my brewing hiatus doesn’t adversely affect the taste. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve accelerated my brewing activities to create a couple of different beers for the upcoming competitions.

Ironically enough, the last day to submit entries into the AHA competition is March 17 … St. Patrick’s Day!  Yes my friends, it’s time to hoist a pint of Guinness and toast the patron saint of Ireland. As you’re celebrating the day, please remember the poor judges who are left to drink my Irish Ale from the bottom of the keg.

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