I first started homebrewing in late 2002. My first few batches of beer were less than stellar and I might have given up if not for the patient support of Robert Arzoo at North Corner Brewing Supply. When he suggested that I enter a beer in a local homebrew competition called Best of the Bay in 2003, I thought that I surely wouldn’t win anything but it would be good to get some feedback from more experienced brewers. I entered my fourth batch of beer which was an imperial stout that had erupted all over the house, I called it Mt.Vesuvius Imperial Stout and it was voted best beer in the porter/stout category.
After repainting the walls and recovering from the mess, I was surprised at how good that beer turned out. This experience gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to make good beer and ultimately led me to pursue my career in brewing at Boundary Bay.
There wasn’t a club for homebrewers in Bellingham at the time in 2003, and Best of the Bay hasn’t happened since. When I saw that the Bellingham Homebrewers Guild (BHG) was being formed and that some of the members had taken the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) tests to be beer judges, I thought it was time to revive Best of the Bay. I wanted our local brewers both old and new to have the same kind of confidence building experience I had in 2003.
I started out in Feburary by contacting Jesse Nickerson who was organizing the club at the time. We met and discussed what kind of event we wanted Best of the Bay 2011 to be. We set a date and registered with the national BJCP program and with the National Homebrewers Association. Jesse and I then formed a steering committee and met every two weeks for months planning the event. Ian Harper handled all of the website/internet stuff and as he was elected President of the BHG he helped co-ordinate with the club. Justin Bajema became our judge director and spent many hours contacting, organizing, and running the judging sessions. Alex Cleanthous painted the bung awards and was always willing to handle the loose ends. Robert Arzoo was a great mentor sharing his experience with running the Best of the Bay in the past. Chris McClanahan handled our promotion and gathered prizes donated by many sponsors including Boundary Bay Brewery, Chuckanut Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing, North Corner Brewing Supply, Northern Brewer, Avenue Bread, Artisan Alloys and others.
Our event became two separate events as we held the judging on a Friday and Saturday; then Sunday we had an awards ceremony/ homebrew rally in the Boundary Bay beer garden. It was a tremendous success all around. We had 196 beers get registered with a final 184 official entries from throughout the state and even some sent from California. Winners received prizes and a Gold/Silver/ or Bronze bung. The best of show got a $50 gift card from Northern Brewer plus a free entry into the National Homebrew Competition which will be held in Seattle in 2012. Our event in the garden was saturated with great beer and people. We had homebrew to taste, judges on hand to taste the beer and give feedback and homebrew set-ups to look at. Robert also made a series of hop teas so that you could taste hop flavors individually.
We plan on making this an annual event and hopefully it will get bigger and better each year. For next year, in particular, we need more beer judges. So if you are interested, join the Bellingham Homebrewers Guild and take the BJCP test this year. Thank you to everyone who supported us behind the scenes. I may have forgot to mention some of you specifically and I’m sorry if I did. I especially have to give a huge thank you to Ed Bennett and Janet Lightner of Boundary Bay Brewery. We could not have pulled off this event without their generous support. I also want to thank Ilana for catering the food for the judges and Brian for grilling all our burgers. See you at Best of the Bay 2012. Cheers! Anthony Stone