If you're currently kegging your beer you probably experience a spasm of tourettes when the keg blows foam into your half full (empty?) pint glass. An empty keg causes me sadness, followed by a guarded surprise at how quickly I was able to consume essentially forty pints of beer. Then, a real regret overcomes me for not having bottled up some of what was possibly an award winning beer before it expired.
Well, after enough disappointments, like a Pavlovian dog, I have finally learned to draw off some bottles of beer from what I would consider those exceptional kegs of homebrew to be submitted later at local contests. Halfway through the keg, the beer has come of age and will have good clarity and I will fill and cap four bottles and set them aside. I place a label on the cap with the beer style and the date I originally kegged the beer. These will then go into the refer or the shelf in my kegerator.
Later, prior to submitting the three beers that most completions require, I will have one to evaluate and judge whether it is worthy of consideration. I open the sample beer to make sure it still has the proper carbonation first. I fill from the tap so the level of carbonation is always suspect. Did it hiss as I pop the cap? I pour into a glass and examine the head. Then of course I evaluate the beer to determine if it still has the qualities that I think it needs to score well in the competition. If yes, I have the three remaining samples for the event. If not, well, hopefully it has at least fared well enough to quaff.
One of the good things about this process is that many of the beers have had a good amount of time to lager in the bottle, giving the beer a greater chance of clarifying and the flavors to integrate.
Do you have a procedure for entering contests?