Brew in a bag.
No chill.
Olive Oil aeration substitute.
Overnight mashing.
Batch Sparging.

The list continues. These types of techniques are great and frequent areas of discussion in the home brewing forums and the like. I also have no doubt that these techniques are making good drinkable beer. I am sure brewers who use these types of techniques really enjoy their beer. Otherwise, they wouldn't really make it to daylight discussions.

But is anyone REALLY making world class beer? I mean, has anyone seen or heard of competitions being WON by brewers using these techniques. Or for that matter, even probrewers going these routes where possible.

For example, in Zymurgy magazine they publish the recipes and results of the National Homebrew Competition each year. I find it interesting that in the years where they have included "fermenter type" in the recipe description, no one ever has "in plastic bucket" as a fermenter. Either winning brewers are afraid to admit they use buckets or everyone making top notch beer really is using glass or stainless.

I'm not trying to take away from these techniques, just trying to make sense of the observation that by competition measures, I don't seem to see non-traditional techniques overtaking the more tradition 'time honored' brewing techniques.

This is a wiki, so what say you????

  • For what it's worth, techniques like brew in a bag and no chill seem to be unfeasible at a commercial level. However, it doesn't mean they don't have great homebrew.
    – GHP
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 19:42

6 Answers 6


With regard to the issue about using plastic. I would say that the reason that 'plastic' brewers are not winning competitions is simply a matter of the process of sophistication. What I mean by this is that when you start brewing you more than likely are going to use plastic buckets and better bottles, at this stage in your brewing 'career' you are not thinking of entering competitions you are simply worried about making drinkable beer. As you progress through your brewing 'career' logical steps happen, one of these is to upgrade your technique (Kit to extract to AG) and your equipment (boiler, fermenter, carboys) so it is probably reasonable to argue that the guys who win compeitions are those who have brewed for a good many years, if this is the case then they have probably made the leap to SS and glass by the time they come to competition brewing, or at least by the time they get to a standard whereby they are winning competitions.

  • 1
    Great answer! I hadn't thought it that way, but it's quite realistic! Commented Apr 21, 2010 at 17:23
  • This is a really good point Mark. But do people just naturally progress to stainless and plastic you think, despite whether or not the beer is getting better. Is it possible to brew consistent award winning beer with concentrated boils and plastic fermentors????
    – brewchez
    Commented Apr 22, 2010 at 12:48
  • I'm pretty sure I heard Papazian mention still using bucket fermenters in one of the many interviews I've heard. That dude makes good beer, but I don't know if he's into the competition circuit. Commented Jul 9, 2010 at 17:14
  • 1
    I downvoted. I batch sparge and ferment in buckets and I've got a wall full of ribbons for beers I've brewed. I started with glass and moved to buckets and never looked back.
    – Denny Conn
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 15:55

I have won three ribbons using the no-chill method at 2 local AHA/BJCP events. There are some guides out there on how to do it properly and if they are followed the beer can be just as good as chilled. I do not use no-chill for IPA's or other beers with a lot of late hop additions, but others do no-chill IPAs and are happy with their results.

  • I think lagers are BETTER as No Chills. Being able to drop the wort down to your exact pitching temp before you open the No Chill tank is fantastic. I'm a lazy brewer, but my lagers are better than my ales, and I think this is the primary reason. Flavor and clarity are spot on.
    – GHP
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 19:46

The owner of our lhbs informed me that he has always used batch sparging. According to the medals on his wall and his website he's won the following awards:

  • National Champion 1999 American Homebrewers Contest in the Strong Ale category
  • 1st place Eastern Regional AHA competition 1997 Rauchbier category
  • 3rd place Eastern Regional AHA competition 1998 German Bock category
  • 1st place Dominion Cup Belgian Ale category 1996
  • 2nd place Great Arizona Beer Festival 2000 Classic Pilsner category

I'll double check with him next time I'm in there to make sure I have my facts straight.

EDIT: He also just won the High Seas Brewing Letter of Marque Homebrew Contest so his beer will be brewed and served throughout 2011 at High Seas.


The following is just my own opinion, so many errors may be included:

-Plastic absorbs some smell each time you use it, so using a plastic bucket for a fermenter makes your next beer taste sliiiiightly like your previous one. I'm not saying one can tell what my previous batch was, but, since this problem exists, it affects the flavour clarity for sure.

-BIAB is a quite new technique, still not fully designed, so if someone had won a competition using BIAB, it would be a revolution. The main disadvantage, imho, in this technique, is that most BIABrewers use the "no-chill" method, which may not cause contamination problems, but the wort gets in touch with plastic as well, and ,combined with the really high temperatures, make me concerned even for cancer hazard.

-Concerning the batch sparge method, if we are talking about exactly the same technique, I guess the main disadvantage is that it is "single infusion", so the enzymes are not developed ideally.

  • Fullers brewery in London does sort of a batch sparge/partigyle brew. Look it up on recent episodes of the Brewing Network's Can You Brew It Commented Jul 9, 2010 at 17:16
  • 1
    So much speculation and misinformation! Even if buckets do retain odor, it has no effect on the next batch. And the whole thing about batch sparging and enzymes makes no sense. A batch sparge doesn't necessarily mean a single infusion mash. And even it is is a single infusion, you can get the same kind of enzyme activity that you would otherwise.
    – Denny Conn
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 16:01
  • The cancer side of No Chilling scared me too, but there a lot of research regarding food in contact with the same types of food grade plastics, and they appear to be very safe. Pretty much anything you've eaten from a chain restaurant came in plastic when they unwrapped it to cook it for you.
    – GHP
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 19:41

On the plus (sort of), although lots of these methods are known, they are not used very much (at least by folks who I've watched brew). Which means (to me), they have a reduced chance of winning anything. In other words, the number of entries is reduced, so the number of winners is likewise reduced.

On the minus, a friend of mine just decided it was late, didn't want to chill, and the next day decided to throw-out the batch because it stunk. So no-chill, for instance, scares me.

  • What your friend did is NOT No Chill brewing. For No chill to work, you must seal the vessel completely while the liquid is still above pasteurization temps so that no bacteria can start working on it. I had wort in a No Chill tank for almost a month before pitching yeast, and the resulting brown ale was delicious and did not survive 2 parties.
    – GHP
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 19:38

We have recently started using the olive oil aeration substitute based on an article I read on the Winning Homebrew website. There was a trial of the method conducted by New Belgium brewery (Information for this article was taken from the paper Olive Oil Addition to Yeast as an Alternative to Wort Aeration Grady Hull-New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, CO USA 9/26/05). Other sources are listed. We used the method on an Alt beer and a English Mild. Both were very good. We have an Imperial Stout and a rye IPA in fermentation now, and all is going well. We had a quick start to the fermentation, less than 24 hours, and what seems to me longer fermentations, but I will have to watch and verify that. With only two batches complete, I can't really comment on effects on FG. We were hesitant to add oil to our beer, but the amount is miniscule.

  • New Belgium isn't using OO "aeration" after discovering it decreases the shelf life of their beers.
    – Denny Conn
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 15:57
  • That is good to know and very interesting. Shelf life is not yet an issue for us. We struggle to keep up with what we drink. :) Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 16:36
  • In addition, in homebrew level testing, beers made without OO "aeration" are consistently preferred by tasters.
    – Denny Conn
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 17:17

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