2012 was a big year for the Dominion Cup and the James River Homebrewers club that runs the competition. There were a total of 518 entries into the competition this year, which shattered all previous year records. The event was also hosted at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, one of Richmond's newest and more interesting craft breweries. More locally, CAMRA organized and was able to submit more than 80 entries to the Cup, a feat that astounded all of us, given the size of our club.
The actual day of the competition was a great deal of fun. Given the number of entries, the organizers pressed some of us who volunteered to be stewards into service as judges. I judged saisons in the morning, and our mini-team of 3 judges worked our way through 14 entries. In the afternoon, I judged lower gravity stouts (dry stout, sweet stout, and oatmeal stout). In both cases, I judged with some familiar faces and some new ones. I enjoyed the process a great deal, and learned a lot as we discussed the merits of the beers, what we each perceived, and how it related to style. The saison session was the harder of the two, as we had to move through more entries and they were higher in alcohol and more wearing on the palate. By the end of the day, my hand was regularly cramping from writing out all of the judging forms (five sections with lines for perception descriptions on each one) and it reminded me of high school and college essay exams. It was a very enjoyable day.
CAMRA as a whole ended up with 13 medals, including 5 golds, 4 silver, and 4 bronze. We spanned a good number of categories too, including: cider, mead, German lager, Scottish ale, porter, stout, and Belgian ales. I was shut out of medaling this year, but enjoyed the process none-the-less.
I encourage any of you to have the opportunity to volunteer at a homebrewing competition to do so, it is a very rewarding way to spend a day.