Ildar Sagdejev via Wikipedia
Wort is the liquid, drained from mash, that eventually becomes beer. Credit: Ildar Sagdejev via Wikipedia

The craft-beer industry is no stranger to collaboration: Many craft brewers embody not only an entrepreneurial spirit, but a basic human kindness toward his or her fellow brewer—as well as an infatuation with the art of brewing, and a respect for craft-brew consumers.

The American Homebrewers Association’s National Homebrew Competition, which is currently under way for 2014, embodies this ethos. It’s the world’s largest international beer competition that recognizes outstanding homebrewed beer, and it has been going on since 1974.

But the National Homebrew Competition isn’t the only contest; growing in popularity are smaller competitions that celebrate the craft of homebrewing—and one such contest is taking place here, starting in May.

Coachella Valley Brewing Company and the Beer Culture Webshow are joining forces to present The Wort Challenge, a beer competition that celebrates the roots of American craft beer—homebrewing.

Coachella Valley Brewing Company will provide entrants 5 gallons of golden ale wort (6 percent alcohol by volume, 25 IBUs), professionally brewed on the High Efficiency Brewing System—there are only 10 such systems in the world. On Saturday, May 10, between 2 and 4 p.m., entrants will bring a sanitized carboy to the CVB tasting room. Homebrewers will go on to add yeast, other ingredients and a copious amount of creativity to create collaborative concoctions that will become the first entries in what’s intended to become an annual event. The tasting room will open at noon with specially priced beer.

So, what can a homebrewer do? Age a brew with oak cubes and vanilla beans? Go hot and add peppers? Or add some hazelnuts for a rich, brown ale? Fruit-infused beers are popular in the warmer months; perhaps a brewer can add some blackberries and raspberries, as well as some cocoa nibs, to create a slightly tart, yet velvety feel. Feeling super-adventurous? Add some sugar, and ferment with Belgian yeast.  Another refreshing option for the sizzling desert summers are saisons: Add some saison yeast, orange zest and coriander, and dry-hop with some Amarillo or Citra hops.

On Thursday, June 12, participants must submit nine bottles of their wort collaboration homebrew. Four inspired entries will win prizes.

The “Best in Show” will be determined by the judging panel (yours truly will be one of the lucky judges) on Friday, June 13. The winners will receive a trophy and a day with Coachella Valley Brewing Co.’s head brewer, Chris Anderson. Winners will also be interviewed by Beer Culture Webshow and will receive a special prize from Beer, Beer and More Beer.

The “People’s Choice” award will be decided by Coachella Valley Brewing Co’s patrons at the Grand Tasting, on Saturday, June 14, from noon to 4 p.m. “Best to Style” will be determined by the judging panel, as will the recipient of the “Most Creative” award.

It costs $25 to enter (with a cash or check made payable to the Coachella Valley Brewing Co.). If entrants want to split the wort into a second entry, submit an additional $10. Make sure to use the recipe form found at, and specify the details. Email to enter.

This is the first time Coachella Valley Brewing is making wort with no intention of fermenting it in-house. So, challenge your brewing skills; get objective feedback from knowledgeable judges; and taste the fruits of your labors, and well as those of your fellow brewers’ labors.

Some tips:

  • Know your style and what you want to brew.
  • Use extracts and yeasts that are fresh.
  • Water matters! Use quality water.
  • Keep everything clean, at every phase.
  • Allow enough time for the beer to condition and carbonate properly.
  • Take copious notes on how you brew your beer. It may be a winner!

With a mission to grow, advance, educate and advocate regarding the industry of craft beer, homebrewers are the brewmasters of tomorrow. Join the club!