For local computer technician Matt Chapman the New Year has not only been about repairing computers, but also preparing for the annual Grafton Brewing Competition, as Chief Steward of the event. Beer brewing has a long association with the Grafton Show, with the existing competition spanning several decades, and with some early records reporting that in 1904 a beer entered by J. G. Kempnich of Maclean Brewery, won best brewed beer in NSW & was awarded £1/1/-. The Grafton Brewing Competition is currently open to amateur or home brewers, with multiple entry classes spanning virtually every style of beer. These beer styles range from Australian Lagers to English Bitters, to less common styles such as vegetable beers, as well as those that are wood aged in barrels. “Some home brewers may be hesitant in entering a brewing competition, fearing that they are not serious enough brewers, or that their beers simply may not measure up”, said Matt. “You really have nothing to lose by having a go regardless, and winners in the past have often been pleasantly surprised to learn that their entries place favourably”. For the first time this year, the competition consists of a general range of beer classes, as well as another more specific range based on Australian Amateur Brewing Competition style guides. The general range is classed based on whether the beer is pale or dark in colour, and is similar to what the competition has used in the past. The specific range spans 18 categories, and within these classes contains 84 detailed styles, which are described using characteristics such as aroma, appearance, flavour, mouth-feel, and overall impression. “It does not matter whether you brew from a kit, or from scratch using processes similar to commercial breweries”, Matt said, “And having your home brewed beer evaluated can assist you in making improvements if required”. Judging will take place at the Grafton show ground in the lead up to the show, with a display including some of the brewing entries taking place in the main pavilion when the show runs on April 15-16. The Grafton Brewing Competition has been sanctioned by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) for the first time this year, but has also retained the traditional beer classes making it a competition that is suitable for all brewers regardless of whether they are experienced or still have their training wheels on. The BJCP certification simply means that the competition is run in accordance with existing standards that have been agreed upon by brewing peers, with these having been adopted worldwide. In recent years, the competition has been attracting entries from not only local brewers, but also those as far away as Tasmania & Brisbane. “The amateur brewing community is full of people that are interested in sharing what they know, as well as learning new procedures and techniques, and they are only too happy to participate in brewing events wherever they may take place”, said Matt. “The enthusiasm of brewers has also been demonstrated through an increasing number of people visiting and staying in Grafton to coincide with the competition”, he said. In additional to beer, other classes in the competition include mead, ginger beer, apple cider, white wine, and red wine. The competition does not end with beverages either. Under the title of ‘Brew Foods’, entries will be accepted for sauerkraut, bretzels (large pretzels), and general ‘beer snacks’. A copy of the 2016 Grafton Brewing Competition programme can be picked up from the Grafton Show office or downloaded from www.graftonbrewingcompetition.com. The programme does not only contain information on the event itself, but also general brewing information with some local brewing history thrown in for good measure. Entries close on April 1. Further enquiries can be directed to the chief steward.