2009 Spooky Brew Review Homebrew Competition

October 31, 2009
9:00 amto5:00 pm

Hard to believe, but our wacky annual Spooky Brew Review homebrew competition is celebrating its 18th consecutive year!

Emmett's LogoOur host this year will Emmett’s Ale House at 110 North Brockway Street in Palatine, IL (conveniently located virtually adjacent to Metra’s Union Pacific Northwest Line station). As usual, SBR will feature judging in all categories of the BJCP Style Guidelines. But the highlight is always the judging of the special Spooky (scariest) and Smashed Pumpkin (Worst of Show) categories, which definitely should not be missed. For the third year in a row, we’ll also include Witches’ Brew, an open category for beer, mead, and cider brewed only by women.

NOTE: All entries for the Spooky and Smashed Pumpkin categories must be drinkable. Anything deemed otherwise by the Competition Committee will be DISQUALIFIED, and that’s very hard to do.

So, please plan on entering, judging, stewarding, or just attending Spooky Brew Review 2009 — it definitely doesn’t get any crazier than this!

The competition package (including rules & regulations, entry forms, bottle labels, and a style chart) is now available for download here in PDF format.

Judges and Stewards – we need you! If you are interesting in serving as a judge or steward on October 31, please contact competition organizers Joe Preiser (joe @ chibeer.org, 630-759-4569) or Steve Hamburg (stevie @ chibeer.org, 773-878-0177). All general questions can also be directed to the organizers.

29 thoughts on “2009 Spooky Brew Review Homebrew Competition

  1. Joe


    There is no fee to attend the competition but bear in mind this isn’t really a spectator event.

    The judges and stewards have their respective tasks and cannot not be disturbed. Also, food will only be provided to judges and stewards.

    It you’re at all interested in learning how homebrew competitions work, I’d suggest volunteering as a steward. No prior experience is necessary, it’s not hard work, and you get a chance to listen in the judges’ comments.

    If you really just want to see what’s going on, I’d suggest planning to arrive later in the afternoon – say around 3:00. That would give you a chance to see part of the “regular” judging as well as the entertainment portion (Spooky Brew & Smashed Pumpkin category judging) of the competition.

  2. Michael Sears

    Is this competition for CBS members only?

    I think some of our members of the Forest City Brewers of Rockford IL might be interested.


  3. Joe


    Are there any restrictions on markings on bottles or bottle caps? Some competitions I’ve seen require that all entries contain no markings of any kind…. I’m asking because I have several brews I’d like to enter but I’ve marked the bottle caps with a sharpie so that I can tell the beers apart. Would these be disqualified?


  4. Joe

    another question – are tasting notes from the judges returned to all entries, only winning entries, or no entries?


  5. Stevie Post author

    Standard practice is to black out the caps so they can’t be identified. That said, when we register the entries we’ll be putting a sticker on it with the category/subcategory number/letter and the entry number, so judges won’t be able to see read the caps anyway.

  6. Dan

    I’m interested in entering the competition. It doesn’t say anything about the contestants and where they need to be on Spooky Brew Review day. I’m assuming we drop off the beer at the designated locations between Oct. 9 – 24 and simply await the results, but wanted confirm with you. Also, not that I am really concerned, but are there any prizes? What type of recognition is available for those who serve a good…or not so good brew? Just curious. Thanks!

  7. Stevie Post author

    Entrants do not have to be present at Emmett’s and can simply await the results. Some entrants will also be judging (not their own beers!) or stewarding and will also be present, but attendance is not required. Just make sure your beers is dropped off at Emmett’s or one of our drop-off sites before the entry deadline. Prizes will be awarded to the top 3 beers judged in each category. In addition, extra-special prizes will be awarded to the 2nd runner-up, runner-up, and best-in-show, selected by a special panel from among the winners of all the categories. For a “not so good brew” you don’t get a prize, only the judges’ scoresheets (all entrants get these back, win or lose).

  8. Laura

    What does a steward do at the event? Do you have to be a member to volunteer? Do you get to sample the home brews?

  9. Stevie Post author

    Here’s the official description of stewarding duties, courtesy of the BJCP:

    A steward serves to help the judges. Whenever possible, a steward should be assigned to each flight of judges. Most flights have between two and four judges; three is optimal. Stewards ensure that the judges have all of the judging materials they need including judging forms, pencils, cups, bottle openers, water, and bread or crackers. During the judging, they double check all of the competition forms to be sure they have been properly filled out and that the math has been done correctly.

    Judging is an intensive process, and the stewards play a key role in making sure all goes smoothly. Serving as a steward is an excellent means of learning about beer evaluation and is usually the first step in becoming a beer judge.

    You do not have to be a CBS member to volunteer. Stewards generally get to sample the beers after the judges have completed their evaluations. You are also welcome to any leftover beers that do not advance to later rounds.

  10. Michael


    Do you have a contact name to ask for when dropping off entries at Emmett’s?


  11. Ron

    For the judging of Spooky (scariest) entries, is the quality of the homebrew a judging consideration, or, is it only how scary the entry looks?



  12. Stevie Post author

    It’s definitely not “Smashed Pumpkin” (AKA, “Worst in Show”), so the goal is to look as scary as possible. By rule it still must be drinkable and most entries are hardly classics, but we don’t punish you if the beer actually tastes pretty good. It’s just a pretty difficult thing to do with this category. If you manage, kudos to you!

  13. Dave

    I’m a newbie brewer, wondering if entries have to be entirely original recipes. I brewed a beer from a recipe found online and wouldn’t mind entering it. Is that frowned upon? Also, does it matter if it’s extract or partial or all-grain?


  14. Brian

    Hi Stevie, one of your comments above seems to suggest that there are other “drop-off sites” besides Emmett’s… is that true? Anywhere in Chicago, perhaps?

  15. Stevie Post author

    Dave, it doesn’t matter. Everyone typically starts with somebody else’s recipe – that’s why there are homebrewing books and magazines! It also doesn’t matter if it’s extract, partial-mash, or all-grain.

  16. Stevie Post author

    Brian, I live in the city. If you can get them to me by Saturday morning, I’d be happy to take them to Emmett’s myself. You can also bring them to the Map Room this evening during the CBS social night. I’ll also be there to take entries from ~6-9 pm.

  17. Adam

    Will results for the competition be posted online or emailed to the participants or will we have to wait for the results to be mailed?


  18. Bill

    Got my score sheets today in the mail. Great job! Looking forward to next year. Thanks a lot to everyone involved.

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