Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival Homebrew Competition accepting entries |

Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival Homebrew Competition accepting entries

Krista Driscoll
Jill Redding, editor of The New Brewer and zymurgy for the Brewers Association, judges at a past Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Homebrew Competition.
Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines | Special to the Daily |

Competition categories

Fitting with the theme of the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival, only certain beer styles, some with minimum gravities, will be accepted.

• Category 5: Bock

• Category 9E: Strong Scotch Ale

• Category 12C: Baltic Porter

• Category 13F: Russian Imperial Stout

• Category 14C: Imperial IPA

• Category 15C: Weizenbock

• Category 16: Belgian & French Ale

• Category 17: Sour Ale

• Category 18: Belgian Strong Ale

• Category 19: Strong Ale (Old Ale, English Barleywine, and American Barleywine)

• Category 20: Fruit Beers (Minimum Gravity of 1.060)

• Category 21: Spice/Herb/Veg (Minimum Gravity of 1.060)

• Category 22B: Other Smoked Beer (Minimum Gravity of 1.060)

• Category 22C: Other Wood Aged Beer (Minimum Gravity of 1.060)

• Category 23: Specialty Beer (Minimum Gravity of 1.060)

• Category 26B: Braggot

Visit, and click on “Homebrew Competition” to learn more about registration, guidelines and judging.

Each January, Vail’s Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival brings dozens of brewers and hundreds of artfully crafted beers to the valley, but it’s not all about the pros. The festival also hosts an annual Homebrew Competition — with a small twist.

“Our competition is unique to homebrew competitions because we limit it to big beers, Belgians and barleywines — categories that reflect the theme of our event,” said Laura Lodge, event coordinator for Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines.

The competition is open to any amateur brewer with a beer that falls into one of the prescribed categories, and individual homebrewers and clubs from all around the state and country submit their best offerings each year.


Registration for the Homebrew Competition is straightforward, and the festival is accepting submissions through Saturday. All entries must be registered online at the festival website,, under the “Homebrew Competition” link. The entry fee of $7 per beer can be included as a check with the beer (payable to Big Beers Festival) or through PayPal during the registration process.

Three bottles of each entry must be submitted with the appropriate informational labels attached, and 12-ounce brown bottles are preferred. Locally, beer can be dropped off at Bonfire Brewing’s production facility at 936 Chambers Court during the day, or at the brewery’s tap room, 127 W. Second St., after 4 p.m.

Additional drop-off locations for homebrew entries are located across the Front Range at Left Hand Brewing Co. in Longmont, Quirky Homebrew in Northglenn, Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton, Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora, Rockyard Brewing Co. in Castle Rock and Old West Homebrew Shop in Colorado Springs.

If you can’t make it to any of those drop-off locations, then ship your beer to Yeager Sharpe, Breckenridge Brewery, 2920 Brewery Lane, Littleton, CO 80120. Email Sharpe at with questions.


Homebrews will be judged at the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival, which takes place Jan. 7-9 at the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa. Judges are a mix of professional brewers and industry folks, such as journalists, educators and brewing suppliers, and each panel is led by a Beer Judge Certification Program credentialed judge.

“This year, for the first time, we’re creating two different judging sessions, a morning session and an afternoon session, in order to give the judges more time to provide constructive feedback,” Lodge said. “We have also capped the competition at 350 entries. We don’t accept anymore for the same reason: We want the judges to have time to give more feedback.”

Judges give each beer an overall rating — good, fair or poor — as well as providing additional notes for the brewer. The Big Beers website describes this year’s judging panel as “eclectic, constructive and extremely well-educated in the brewing industry.”

Winners are named at a formal awards ceremony held during the Commercial Tasting on Saturday of the Big Beers Festival. Traditionally, the winning brewers have been presented with a bomber of Avery Brewing Co. beer personally signed by founder and brewer Adam Avery as an award, Lodge said.

The grand-prize winner of the 2016 Big Beers Homebrew Competition also will have a commercial batch of his or her recipe brewed at sponsor brewery Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora. The beer will then be kegged and poured at Dry Dock and Falling Rock Tap House on Blake Street in Denver.

Assuming that the annual Pro-Am competition is continued as a part of Denver’s Great American Beer Festival weekend events, Dry Dock will partner with the grand-prize winner and submit the winning recipe as their collaborative entry.

Support Local Journalism