Rob Qualls

What it Feels Like to Win Our Homebrew Competition


Article by Rob Qualls, winner of our 1st homebrew competition 

I had never entered any of my beers into competition up until the O’Connor’s inaugural contest last Fall. In fact, my Belgian Tripel, the beer that ended up winning, was only the 6th beer that I brewed and my second all grain beer. I knew I had a good beer but had never had any qualified, constructive criticism concerning my brews*. My wife would tell me how good my beer was, but I never knew if she was saying that to keep the peace in the Qualls household.

When I found out that my beer was going on to the final round, needless to say, I was thrilled. Finally, the day came that I would really find out how well it did. I remember sitting at Midtown on Tap listening to all the style winners and watching everyone else walk up there with a huge smile on their face. Then, came the top three. It’s hard to describe how I felt while they were announcing each winner. I didn’t know if I was a top three, I just knew I finished in the top ten. So, there was a possibility that I was there and didn’t win anything. With each announcement there was a feeling of excitement and disappointment at the same time: “Yes! I might finish higher than 3! No! I didn’t even win third!”. Needless to say, Allison was toying playfully with my emotions as she read each winner on the cold and rainy day in October. I should mention that I was battling the flu hard that day, so I was in no mood for being disappointed. Finally, the announcement came. I heard my name, and I swear my wife heard it before I did because she was screaming in my ear before I even knew what happened. I’d won. I could finally feel like “yeah, maybe I do make good beer” as I walked up to the podium to collect my medal. This may sound cheesy but I’ve only had a few truly proud moments in my life: the day I married my wife, the birth of my son, finishing the Riverbank 25k, and winning this medal.

Since that day, things have changed for me. I quit my corporate job and since taken a job here at O’Connor’s were I can “work” all day around something that I love and have a great passion for. It truly was the start of something special for me.

Fast forward to June 10th, the release of my beer at Rockford Brewing. To drink your beer at a real brewery (especially as good as Rockford) and watch others around you smile and tip their glasses to you as they drink the beer you brewed and wrote the recipe for is really special.

To the next winner: I really hope it means as much to you to win as it did to me. It is truly a great honor.

*Rob’s winning beer, Unholy Ale, was one of the best Belgian Tripels that has come through our doors.  If you would like constructive, professional criticism for your brews, feel free to bring them in for the guys to sample and take notes on.  

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