Selected for the 2019 competition, the three categories of "brews" were be Pale Ales, Sours, and returning for a second time by popular demand, Ciders. Brewers could choose to enter up to two of the three categories.
Pale ale is essentially the beer that launched the modern brewing revolution in America.
The English and American approaches to pale ale make an interesting contrast in basic brewing ingredients. British pale ale malt is nutty and robust, American malt is softer and crisper. Classic English hops are refined, earthy and floral; whereas American hops tend to evoke wildness, with a brash citrus and pine profile.
Balance is a feature of English pales, while Americans proudly show off a full hop character, with particular attention to aroma. And American yeast tends to be more neutral, while classic English ale yeast leave a note of fruitiness and faint butterscotch.
In either case, expect an amber-gold beer with fruity, fresh citrus aromas. With relatively low alcohol, and a flavor in which no one element dominates, pale ale is a sociable beer, easy to drink with food or over the course of an evening. For good reason, this easy-going style remains one of the most popular among craft beers.
Oud bruin, Flanders red ale, lambic, gueuze, gose, saison and Berliner weisse are styles that have been around for centuries. The thing about these beers is they provide an intense sensory experience that is something other than hops. That “sensory experience” emerges in the form of an acidic sourness that comes from a spontaneous source of fermentation that in most beers would be considered a major defect. Under normal circumstances the presence of Lactobacillus, Brettanomyces or Pediococcus in a brewhouse is a cause for concern. But for makers of oud bruin and Flanders red ale these organisms are welcome guests.
The sour styles described below range from the lightly tart to the vinegary sour, and some vary in range even within the individual styles. All of them have some fruit character to them, and oftentimes sweetness is used to cut the sourness as well.
By the simplest definition, hard cider is fermented apple juice. Apples naturally have a sugar content between 10 and 20%, which produces ciders with a final ABV between 4 and 9%.
There is a large range of cider styles, from those with high sugar content to ciders that are dry to semi-dry with little to no residual or added sugar. Briefly, fruit is crushed, the pulp is pressed to extract the juice, and then the juice is fermented by yeast that converts sugar to alcohol. Post-fermentation sugar and acid adjustments might be made to finished ciders in order to maintain flavor profiles and product consistency.
Ciders can be made from specialized cider apple varieties, dessert varieties, and/or crabapples. Ciders may be made with a mix of fresh apple juice, apple juice concentrate, and/or water.