Friday, June 8, 2012

Iron Brewer - Batch 3

This year's Iron Brewer competition, labeled Batch 3, began last night.  The Iron Brewer competition has been discussed here in the past and is one of my favorite events that has spun out of the recent spike of interest in homebrewing.  The competition organizer,  Peter Kennedy, selects three, somewhat atypical, ingredients to challenge the brewers for a given round (the ingredients for the first round are: rosemary, strisselspalt hops, and medium toast American oak chips).  Upon announcing the ingredients, the selected brewers have 8 weeks to produce a beer that highlights the ingredients while being drinkable and well-received.

Several months ago, Peter sent a survey around to those of us who had participated in Iron Brewer in the past to gauge responses for potential changes to the system.  Based on the questions he asked, I surmised that there were three main areas for potential improvement with the system:

  • Expand participation - Iron Brewer has grown in popularity since its inception.  Consequently, under the current format, rounds fill up in a matter of minutes and leave many brewers out of the competition.  However, if the current system remains the same, increasing the number of people per round also increases each participant's costs (see below).  The other option would be to increase the number of rounds, which has logistical concerns.
  • Cost of shipping - Under the current system, Iron Brewer participants ship two bottles of beer to each of the round's other participants and to the judges.  In the round I participated in last year, that meant shipping eight packages of beer, which resulted in shipping costs around $100.  These costs could be decreased by lowering the number of round participants, which is in contrast to Iron Brewer's increasing popularity, or to change how the program is structured.  Potential changes could include sending samples into one location like a normal homebrewing competition or eliminating the group tasting activity.
  • Increased prize distribution - Iron Brewer has some generous sponsors that provide prizes to be given out to the competition winners.  Under the current system, those prizes are provided to the winner of the championship round only.  Providing prizes to the winners of the normal rounds, while still keeping a substantial grand prize, would be more difficult, given the number of rounds.
The email to participate in the first round of Batch 3 went out last night and closed within minutes, based on the Iron Brewer Twitter feed.  It looks like there will be six normal rounds in Batch 3 and there were seven selected participants in the first round.  When combined with the rules listed on the Iron Brewer website, it looks like the competition remains the same as last year.  Personally, I feel this is for the best, as it leaves in place the group tasting event and keeps the rounds small.  I loved the tasting event last year and felt that it brought a lot to experience to taste my competitors' beers and hear what other people thought about them.  While this means fewer can participate and the costs are higher, I think the experience is worth it.

If you want to participate in Iron Brewer, make sure that you register with the email list.  Also, be prepared to reply almost instantly to the email invitation for a round, as it fills up very quickly.




  1. THanks for the write up Tom. You touched on a couple of points that really are the heart of this competition, The interaction of the homebrewers, the number of competitors, and the cost. It has been a struggle to find a balance between the three. In the end I decided to keep it small and keep it the way it was in Batch 2.

    looking forward to seeing you in one of the 5 remaining rounds.

  2. Thanks for replying, Peter. I am glad you kept it the same because it was very enjoyable participating last year. I hope to get into one of the later rounds. Good luck with the competition this year.


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