I just realized that I never posted an update to the NHComp. After the whole system crashed around me on registration day, the American Homebrewers Association stopped the registration. You can read about it and the apology from the AHA at the AHA website.
After they sorted everything out, I got an e-mail that since I had logged in but didn't get beers registered that I would have a 2nd chance to do so. Which I did. I ended up putting two beers forward. The two beers were our 2012 Barley Wine (extract recipe) as an English Style BW, and our 2013 Barley Wine (all grain recipe) as an American BW. I don't necessarily think that these are really contenders to go all the way, I just want to get feedback on them to support or re-align my thoughts on them. I figure that they will score between 28-33 points, not bad, but not likely high enough to get into the top three and a chance to move on to the finals.
The beers themselves are nice, but not assertive. I don't necessarily believe that Barely Wines should be assertive (especially the English variety). Some might disagree, but I believe that due to aging and strength that strong flavors should age out and be a more rounded "soft" beer. Sharp hop bitterness and high roast character shouldn't be the mainstay of a Barley Wine. I think of some casserole type dishes that taste better as leftovers (such as lasagna or chili) as the flavors meld and begin to compliment or work together. This is (in my opionion) is the differentiation between the Barely Wine and the Imperial IPA or Imperial Stout that take one or two elements and elevates them. I think of the scene in the 1980's movie Risky Business where Tom Cruise's character is admonished by his father that the stereo's equilizer is not a toy. The settings his father had set is the barleywine. The Imperials are what Cruise's character does in the beginning of the Old Time Rock n' Roll Scene.
Our BW's are not assertive, it is just if they are percieved to not have the alcholic strength, hoppiness, etc., or if I get a judge that thinks the assertiveness of certain attributes should be present to an offensive level, we will be on the lower end of the spectrum. If I get a set of judges that think like I do, we might surprise....other flaws notwithstanding.
At any rate, I know that I won't be judging the Barleywines at the 1st round here in Denver as a result.
The beer that I had hoped to enter in the competition was the 3rd rendition of our award winning Oktoberfest/Marzen. The windowell was probably both our downfall and our saving grace. Our windowell lager series for last 5 or so years had us putting our beer outside in my brother's basement windowell to ferment. This year, it proved to be too cold, and the yeast fell out of suspention before they even got started. I think we pitched the yeast a little cooler than we had in years past, so that the beer was cold and getting colder while the yeast were trying to get going. That and the yeast weren't raging yet as we pitched. But, the cold probably had the effect of keeping our wort (and yeast) in the refridgerator for a few weeks. While that isn't a practice you want to make a habit out of, it stayed well preserved and kept bacteria at bay as well. We warmed the beer to 58F and re-pitched healthy Bavarian Lager yeast (couldn't find more Oktoberfest blend) and it fermented, albeit too late for nationals. Time will tell how it ends up tasting.
Maybe we can find a local competition to put it in.