Spirit of Free Beer 2016 Wrap-Up

The 24th annual Spirit of Free Beer is now in the history books! It was a very successful competition with 355 total entries (beer, cider, and mead) evaluated over two days by 48 judges with the assistance of 28 stewards. Entry numbers were down a bit from last year, reflecting on a general downturn in the homebrewing hobby (as noted by reports from several of our drop-off locations). Full results of the competition (and a list of our many generous sponsors) can be viewed on the SOFB website at http://sofb.brewcomp.com/. The competition was held for the 2nd time at Old Line Bistro in Beltsville, MD (which consists of a large beer, wine, and liquor store, a restaurant with excellent food and a good craft beer tap list, and a large event space for activities like SOFB). Many thanks go to co-owner Larry Pendleton and activities coordinator Ronnie Pendleton (nephew of the owner) for working with the SOFB team to provide an optimal environment for this year’s competition. The Old Line ownership is also kindly allowing us once again to store all of the leftover entries in their walk-in cooler for the week, so the beers should be in peak condition for the “drink the leftovers” portion of the BURP meeting scheduled for this Saturday.

We had an excellent team of individuals who contributed to the success of the Spirit of Free Beer. I’d like to take the opportunity in particular to thank these great folks for their contributions:

* Co-Registrars Bob & Nicholas Andres – Our father and son registration team once again (for the 3rd year in a row) put a huge amount of work into this event. Registrar is by far the most important job in the competition and requires long hours sitting in front of the keyboard making sure every entry is properly accounted for and scores are entered correctly (and in a timely manner) and scoresheets are e-mailed to all participants after the competition is completed. We could not have accomplished this event without them.

* Judge Coordinator Mike Reinitz – Mike also served for the 3rd year in a row and did a great job pulling together the judges for SOFB, not a simple task. He made sure there was a good balance of credentialed BJCP judges and apprentice/provisional judges (who all picked up some great experience working at the competition). Mike also did a great job creating the medal categories for the competition using the new 2015 BJCP style guidelines.

* Steward Coordinator Mark Raker – Mark did his usual great job of lining up volunteers to serve beers at the competition, especially matching up more experienced stewards with newer volunteers, including some first timers.

* Prize Coordinator Pam Leifer – Pam, with the help of some hard working volunteers, put a huge amount of effort into obtaining prizes for this year’s competition from a nationwide group of generous sponsors. We had over 50 sponsors this year, and the total value of prizes easily exceeded $4,000. Many thanks also go to last year’s prize coordinator Trish Koch for helping Pam divvy up the prizes for handout at the meeting on Saturday.

* Entry Logistics and Cooler Coordinators Webster Anderson, Matt Bockneck, and Mitch Pilchuk – These guys did more physical labor than any other persons on the SOFB team, and we could not have successfully run the competition without them. They helped sort and organize the 1,000+ bottles after check-in at the competition venue. During the competition, they were totally dedicated to making sure each entry was in the best condition possible and available when needed by the competition judges. I can’t thank them enough for their efforts.

I can’t finish this without giving a shout out and thanks to all who entered beers in this competition. We had entrants from all over the country, but the support of BURP members is what makes this club such a great organization. Thanks for helping make *your* club competition one of the biggest and best homebrew events in the country!

Cheers, Bill Ridgely (SOFB 2016 Organizer)