I was wondering if it's possible to make a beer worthy of entering a competition that stands a chance of doing well. I'm still pretty new to brewing but wanted to know if I need to make the jump to all-grain before making a beer that's competition worthy.
Most of what makes a great beer great is fermentation, not necessarily where the wort came from. Todays extracts are very high quality. And many extracts are becoming available to make wort you could only get as an all grainer. For example 100% Munich or Pilsner or English extracts.
Focus on a great fermentation and you will make great beer. Then if you move to all grain someday with a mastery of fermentation...man you'll be making unbelievable beer then!
Sure, you can make a great tasting beer with malt extract alone... but you will be unable to make that beer stand out in competition, as it will lack originality and complexity. If you don't want to make the jump to all-grain just yet, you could try a couple partial mash batches. This will give you greater control over the final product, without going all out on all grain equipment.