Brew Slam 2017 - Wrap Up

Brew Slam 2017 is finally wrapped up after almost a whole year of planning, and a ton of execution. What a year! The last of the prizes made their way into the hands of our winners this week, so it's finally time to write my annual wrap up post. With 806 entries judged, I'm very proud to say that we met and exceeded our goal for 2017 of becoming Canada's largest homebrew competition (by almost 300 entries)!
Saturday morning judging

The judging and awards for Brew Slam 2017 happened back in November, but we've been hard at work since then making sure that everyone got their prizes as fast as we could. Don't stop reading now because some pretty amazing things happened this year that I want to share.

Competition Stats 2017:

  • Largest Canadian homebrew competition, ever!
    • 806 entries judged
    • 831 registered entries
    • 8/10 provinces represented
  • 235 participants with entries
  • 123 volunteers: 73 judges, 42 stewards, 13 sorters
    • Likely the most judges in any Canadian beer competition, ever!
  • 30 award categories
  • 7 judging sessions, avg 7.89 entries/pair per session
  • Over $11,000 in prizes!!

Local Participation:

  • 296 GTA Brews entries
    • 36% of entries
    • 3x the 2nd medals/club
  • 586 Ontario entries
    • 71% of entries
    • 61% of medals

Eric with Mike Vandervoort, winner of the Toronto Brewer of the Year Award and Henderson Cup

Changes from 2016:

  • Introduced a per entrant cap of 15 entries
  • Focused on the "volunteer experience" with swag, social events, and our special guest Gordon Strong
  • Published the medal categories before entry registration opened
  • Ran three BJCP Tasting Exams in 2017 to train as many new judges as possible
  • Bigger and better prizes
    • Including Grainfather for BOS!
  • Improved Logistics:
    • Massively improved cellaring and sorting processes
    • Stored entries cold at the judging table
    • Streamlined judging process with templates
    • No bottle caps at the judging table
Best of Show judging underway

Brew Slam Committee

This competition wouldn't be possible without the tireless work of everyone on the committee. Please join me in thanking them for their hard work to make this all happen.
Organizer: Eric Cousineau
Head Judge: Jesse Reynolds
Head Stewards: Jon Mains & Steve Bryson
Cellar Master: Jim Bruce
Registrar: Clayton Hoy
Social Media: Matt Cowan & Kristofer Mohr
Sponsorship: Mike Vandervoort

Thank You Volunteers!

I was blown away with the support shown by all our judges, stewards, and sorters. With 123 volunteers donating their time to help make this happen this year was certainly a larger operation than last year. Judges, you showed tremendous dedication and professionalism, there were tons of amazing scoresheets, thank you! Stewards, your tireless efforts to keep things moving was very much appreciated, thank you! Thank you to the scoresheet and bottle sorters, I know the job was tedious, but you each played an instrumental role!
Special thank you to Mark Verok of Katalyst Brewing Company who spent dozens of hours handcrafting our volunteer gift. Cody at Amsterdam Brewery kindly donated a decommissioned Double Tempest barrel that Mark turned into the sweetest bottle openers known to mankind.

Thank you Sponsors!

Click Here to see our full list of Sponsors and Prizes

We have some pretty incredible sponsors that donated over $11,000 in prizes, so I want to take a moment to call them all out. Please support those that support Brew Slam by shopping with them, or buying their products! This list is long, but each one of them is key to making this competition as awesome as it is.
  • Title Sponsor
  • Platinum Sponsors
    • Amsterdam Brewery
    • Henderson Brewing Company
    • Noble Grape
    • The Grainfather
    • Five Star Chemicals
    • Nordic Malz
    • White Labs
    • Fast Brewing & WineMaking
  • Gold Sponsors
    • BSG Canada
    • Craft Meister
    • Beer Grains Supply co
    • Barn Owl Malt
    • Blichman Engineering
    • Everwood Ave Brew Shop
    • Katalyst Brewing Company
    • The Brew Bag
    • Escarpment Laboratories
    • Junction Craft Brewing
    • Folly Brewpub
    • 5 Paddles Brewing Co
  • Silver Sponsors
    • Brew North
    • Left Field Brewery
    • Rainhard Brewing Co
    • MASH Magazine
    • Hops Connect
  • Bronze Sponsors
    • Spike Brewing
    • Wyeast
    • Granite Brewery & Tied House
    • Great Lakes Brewing Company
    • Burdock Brewpub
    • Rhythm & Brews Brewing Company
    • People's Pint Brewing Company
    • Beersmith
    • Side Launch Brewing Co
    • Rouge River Brewing
    • Grog Tag
    • American Homebrewers Association
    • Little Beasts Brewing Co
    • Rorschach Brewing Co
Prize table at the award ceremony

Big Winners

Click here for the full List of Winners

Congratulations to the all the winners of Brew Slam 2017! There were some absolutely fantastic beers that didn’t even win medals this year, so winning a medal is truly a testament to the quality of your homebrew.

Best of Show

Pl. Brewer(s) Entry Name Style Club
1st Alvaro Reyes Key Lime Pie 34C: Experimental Beer


2nd Cory Day Coal Stoker 27A8: Pre-Prohibition Porter


3rd Mike Vandervoort Hurricane Nat IIPA 22A: Double IPA

GTA Brews

HM Martin Williams Miserable Fat Belgian Bastard 24B: Belgian Pale Ale

Toronto Brewer of the Year

This award is given to the GTA Brews member with the most medal points in the competition. This year's winner was Mike Vandervoort!

Henderson Cup

Henderson Cup Details

The Henderson Cup is an award sponsored by Henderson Brewing Company. The top 10 GTA Brews entries from the competition are invited to re-submit a bottle to be judged by Henderson. The winning entry got $1000 and to brew their beer on the big system for one of their monthly Ides releases. This year's winner was Mike Vandervoort!

2016 Henderson Cup winner (Ed Hitchcock) passing the trophy onto 2017 winner (Mike Vandervoort)

Closing Thoughts

We started Brew Slam 3 years ago with the goal of giving Toronto an awesome homebrew competition, with visibility on the national BOTY circuit. Back then I didn't expect it to grow as quickly as it did, but we were determined to build the best competition we could. We traveled to Buffalo to judge AWOG several times and were inspired by their passion and well refined processes. We took all we learned and applied it to our own competitions, then kept looking for places to improve. Every single aspect of our judging process is always open for critique, if there's a better way do something we try to adopt it. When we hit 690 entries in 2016 we knew we had something special on our hands. We spent the next year planning, networking, and working to make 2017 even better.

I'm very grateful to everyone that helped make this competition what it is today. I never imagined we'd be in a position to fly someone like Gordon Strong in to participate in something we were working on. We have our work cut out for us to make 2018 even better, but we'll find a way. See you all at Brew Slam 2018!

Eric Cousineau
Organizer, Brew Slam 2017

Bonus Pictures

Entry sorting at Toronto Brewing