The basic rules of a COC are:
- Only AHA-registered clubs may participate.
- Each club may only submit one entry in the style specified in the COC.
- The club's entry must be received by the COC deadline.
- All COC entries are compared to the style guidelines and each other and medals are awarded based on overall merit.
If a club wants to participate in a COC, it organizes an internal event to select the single "best" homebrewed example of that style that its members can produce. In my club, the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale (CAMRA), this process is organized through an annual calendar. As the date for a specific COC approaches, the club leadership reminds members that they should consider brewing a batch of beer in the specified style and they organize a night for a tasting/evaluation. Any member who wants to participate in the COC brings an entry on the tasting night and a panel of judges select the example that most matches the BJCP style guidelines.
The COC for February 2011 presented a unique opportunity for Jeff and I. Our respective clubs (Jeff's club is the Rhode Island Fermentation Technicians - RIFT) the picked each of our beers to send on to the competition. While Jeff and I have gone head-to-head in competitions before, this would be the first time we represented our homebrewing clubs against each other. The "Battle of the Bitters" COC featured the English pale ale styles (BJCP Category 8), which represent a series of English session ales that were paler than other beers of their day (porter), and had a bracing bitterness. Examples ranged from 3.2% ABV on the low end (standard/ordinary bitter) to 6.2% ABV on the high end (extra special/strong bitter). Commercial examples that readers may have tried include: Fuller's Chiswick Bitter, Boddington's Pub Draught, Fuller's London Pride, Goose Island Honkers Ale, Fuller's ESB, Bass Ale, and Anderson Valley Boont ESB.
Jeff and I are eagerly awaiting feedback on our beer and to see who's club can claim Lug Wrench "bragging rights." Stay tuned for the results.