Spirit of Free Beer 2017 Wrap Up

The 25th annual BURP Spirit of Free Beer homebrew competition is now history! The gala Silver Anniversary edition was very successful with 406 total entries (beer, cider, and mead) evaluated over two days by 60 judges with the assistance of 25 stewards. 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 3rd 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 Bistro Manager Tad Peel 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, so the beers should be in peak condition for the “drink the leftovers” portion of the BURP meeting scheduled for Saturday, Apr 22.

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 4rd 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 individually scanned and uploaded to the competition website after the competition is completed. We could not have accomplished this event without them.

* Judge Coordinator Mike Reinitz – Mike also served for the 4th 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 Colleen Cannon – Colleen, 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 close to 50 sponsors this year, and the total value of prizes easily exceeded $4,000. Colleen also takes care of divvying up and distributing the prizes at the awards ceremony and shipping prizes to out-of-town winners. It’s a huge responsibility, and her efforts are greatly appreciated.

* Entry Logistics and Cooler Coordinator Webster Anderson – This guy did more physical labor than any other person on the SOFB team, and we could not have successfully run the competition without him. Most people don’t realize how long Webster has been serving in this role – well over ten years and counting! He helps sort and organize the 1,000+ bottles after check-in at the competition venue. During the competition, he is totally dedicated to making sure each entry is in the best condition possible and available when needed by the competition judges. I can’t thank him enough for his efforts.

I can’t finish this without giving a very special thanks to BURPer Pam Leifer for preparing and serving a totally awesome lunch to our nearly 100 volunteers on Sat, Apr 8. Pam did an incredible amount of work procuring all of the food, grilling Italian sausages and veggie burgers, and making delicious pasta and greek salads for all to enjoy. The time and effort she put into this was exemplary, and everyone who was fortunate enough to be there had a meal to remember. Also, a shout out goes to Nassim Sultan of the Gordon Biersch Rockville location for contributing a keg of his excellent English Brown Ale to Saturday’s lunch.

Finally, I’d like to thank 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!


Bill Ridgely
SOFB 2017 Organizer