400 Beers Compete in Local Homebrew Competition


Story by Jamie Buning. Photo by Steev Hise.

Triangle, NC – Saint Patrick’s Day is a well-liked holiday because it requires very little of us. We don as much green as possible and drink beer all night long. Sometimes, if one feels like a real go-getter, he will go to a parade.

My family’s tradition is to eat a hearty meal of corned beef, cabbage, Irish soda bread and green jello while listening to The Chieftains or some other Irish jam band. The drink of choice is always beer. On occasion, there will be a Guinness lying around; otherwise we drink some of my dad’s homebrew.

CARBOY Boasts Over 70 Homebrewers

For homebrewers in the Triangle like my dad, Dave Buning, there is another St. Patty’s Day tradition: The Annual Shamrock Open Homebrew Competition.  A local homebrew club, the Cary, Apex, Raleigh Brewers of Yore (CARBOY),  hosts the competition each March as a way for primarily North and South Carolina homebrewers to prove they can brew top quality beer.

This year marked the 18th year of The Shamrock Open Homebrew Competition. Over the years, Shamrock has grown significantly due to the increase in homebrewers in the area. CARBOY boasts a dedicated bunch of over 70 homebrewers, many of whom enter and help with the competition. Competition Organizer George Forte explained that each year club members play different roles.

“Last year I was the cellarmaster and this year I was the organizer,” Forte said.  “Both positions that involve a lot of work upfront, but are slow while the actual judging takes place.” While walking around the competition, Forte noted how quiet and intense the participants became. “The judges and stewards put such effort into assessing each entry and providing thorough feedback to the brewer,” said Forte. “It’s quite a sight to see.”

Brewers who wish to enter the competition pay a fee of $6 per entry, and provide two bottles of each style of beer they want to be judged.  Beer can be entered in any of the 23 styles recognized by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), which range from light lagers to stouts to smoke-flavored beer.

Judging Beer Requires Experience

Those chosen for the lucky job of judging the beer are not just picked off the street. Buning, the Judge Director, recruits experienced judges from the area, many of whom are BJCP certified.

This year, 46 judges volunteered to help with Shamrock. The judges had a difficult job, considering that there were over 400 entries and 36 different styles of beer. Due to the number of the competitors, some of the judging had to be done the night before the official Shamrock Competition began.

Beer Drinking Started at 9am

On the day of Shamrock, March 9, there were morning and afternoon sessions for beer judging. Some judges volunteered from 9am to 5pm. The judges suffered when they began drinking at 9am on a Saturday.

There are winners chosen for Best in Show, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for each beer style, such as strong ales. The brewers who win Best in Show receive plaques, and all other winners get ribbons.

“The quality of entries seems to always increase,” Buning said. “We [at CARBOY] also like to think that we are always increasing the quality of our judging. We have more highly experienced BJCP qualified judges in our club and in the area than ever before.

Breweries and companies in the Triangle area donate beer, gift certificates, and other items to be awarded as prizes and used for raffle winners. Almost 50 companies sponsored CARBOY by donating, including Carolina Brewing Company, Triangle Wine Company, Tyler’s Taproom and The Beer Dispensary. Local breweries have always been very supportive of homebrew clubs.

Since CARBOY members only pay $10 per year, the money earned from the raffle is imperative to help supplement costs of entering and attending homebrew festivals and competitions both near and far.

Just as the Triangle is becoming a hotspot for microbreweries, it is also seeing a large an increase in enthusiastic homebrewers. Think you have what it takes? Maybe you can enter your own brew next year.