A message from the competition's organizer and head judge. . . . .

So, you've decided to enter Brew-It-Forward and have visions of winning the best-of-show prize. With that in mind, here are some tips that will strongly influence how well your beer scores in our competition. A trained judge will instantly recognize a beer that has been produced with these tips in mind.

Think ahead. We've given you the date when the competition will take place. Plan your brew days accordingly so that each beer you enter will be at its peak of freshness. Allow enough time for each beer to condition and carbonate properly but not to age too much. If the beer is too old and is past its prime, or perhaps even if the ingredients used in the beer were not fresh, the beer can have stale, cardboardy, vegetable, sherry-like flavors and aromas, sometimes even metallic or mineral harshness. Young beer that is racked or packaged before completion of the fermentation cycles will often be cloudy, harsh, overly sweet, out of balance, even overcarbonated. Beer stored and aged too warm may promote the growth of contaminants, accelerate oxidation and staling flavors, and turn your beer to vinegar, in extreme cases. Beer stored and aged too cold may fail to carbonate properly.

Keep it clean. Keep your beer clean at every phase of the brewing process. If you have introduced any kind of contamination or impurity at any point, it will be evident in the final product. It may be something in the flavor. For example, an off-flavor, a sourness, a bitterness, or a harshness. It may be something in the aroma. For example, a skunkiness, dimethyl sulfide, or the fumes of higher alcohols. It may be something in the appearance. For example, a haze, a discoloration, excessive deposits of proteins in the bottle, a ring around the neck of the bottle. Most of these flaws can also be the result of poor handling, either before or after the brewing is done.

The previous advice will help you score well in the first round of the competition. It may even garner you a medal. What will it take to win the best-of-show prize?

Research. Browse the Lonerider website and become familiar with our product portfolio. Your American-style brown ale may be great, but do you think that it is good enough to replace Lonerider's "Sweet Josie", which won a gold medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival?  Some examples of previous beers to win Brew-it-Forward are a pale hoppy lager, a black hoppy ale, and a pale malty ale. None of them had anything in common with existing Lonerider products.

Be creative. This contest is about brewing your best beer. There are no style guidelines to limit your creativity. Try combining the attributes of one or more beers into something new. Also remember that you are responsible for naming the beers, so think of a clever name that fits into the Lonerider "old west" theme.

So, fill out your entry forms, recheck the rules, fees, and drop off locations, and send off your entry. It’s now out of your hands, so stop worrying. You’ve done all you can do. Oh, and be sure to save a bottle to drink when you get the scoresheets back.