So this year, I was a bit bummed not to make it back to Philly to judge again in the NE region of the NHC. However, I did enter three beers. I thought these would be my three best I've made in the passed year. I entered: Christmas Saison, Funky Belgian Stout (tasting to follow in a few days, recipe unfortunately lost), and my Oat Wine.
I thought the saison would do the best, but it only managed a 33 overall. Judges said it was a bit over spiced (entered in 16E, Belgian Specialty) and too alcoholic. I had novice and recognized judges, so nothing too special there. Other notes; there was a 4 point differential between the two, looks like the novice had to come down from a 37 if I can read it correctly. He seemed to really enjoy it despite saying he's partial against spiced beers. He didn't pick up much of the ester profile even though I think it's pretty prominent, just the spices. The other judge hopes things will mellow with age, so if I have anymore, perhaps I'll enter in another contest.
The Oat Wine did the worst, managing a 31.5. I was forced to enter it into OA/Smoked beer category because there's a limit of one entry per category. Both judges said the alcohol was too dominant and the oak wasn't prominent enough. Why I didn't manage full points for appearance is strange (should be a given unless high cloudiness/poor head retention which neither was present). The judges just seemed confused about the beer since there was some "different" things going on with no comparison. I hoped it would do better since both 1st and 2nd in the same category last year (in NE) were sours.
Fortunately, the Funky Belgian Stout did the best. It got a 41, though frustratingly did not move on to the Nationals. The judges seemed to really enjoy the range of funk and acid coming through with a light roasty background. One called it a black gueuze! Said the roast was lacking but the wild yeast was great. The other said "don't change anything!". It went to mini best of show, but didn't make it past. The one problem I remember from NHC first round last year is you only have 1 sample per beer. It get's really difficult to ration all of the samples especially if it goes to BOS. I wish it was a 2 bottle entry, but I understand with upwards of 800 entries per region, that would be a ton of beer (and what to do with entries that don't need the second bottle for judging).
Overall, I'm pretty happy with the results, though I wish I had an entry move on. The feedback was good, and certainly things I agree with the judges on. As other friends have told me, it's really a crapshoot to do well with beers that are so different, and are not traditional styles (however, the opposite could be just as true). I'm hoping to enter a couple into Spirit of Free Beer this year, though I'm not sure which since it requires a 3 bottle limit per entry.