Well I'm here to help you with that just follow these steps:
Step 1 - Brew a Beer
This step seems simple enough but to make a beer worthy of entering a competition you need to understand the BJCP guidelines. There are 23 recognized categorizes of beer styles, 3 mead styles, and 2 cider styles. Each category has subcategories. Decide what type of you beer you want to make and figure out what subcategory it falls under. Once you figure out the subcategory read the guidelines for the style. The guideline will include all the vital information to make a competition worthy beer such as, ABV and IBU ranges, ingredients typically used, commercial examples, and the five areas judges will be evaluating (aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthful, overall impression).
Use those guidelines to put together your recipe. This is where I love brewing software. I personally use brewersfriend.com but other software will do the same. The BJCP guidelines are built into the software so as you build your recipe you can see if your recipe is with in guidelines and can adjust as necessary. Once your recipe is ready follow your normal brew process, pitch the right amount of yeast, ferment at the ideal temp, and carbonate at the appropriate level.
Brewing a beer outside the guidelines will put your beer at a disadvantage and most likely won't do well.
Step 2 - Evaluate your Beer
Once your final beer is complete, taste it and refer to the BJCP guidelines to see if it meets them. Go try one of the commercial examples of the style and decide if you beer is on par. One of the best way to evaluate your beer is take it to one of the home brew clubs. They can help you determine if your beer is within guidelines and is competition worthy. I here a lot of people say, "I'm just entering to get feedback." If you want feedback take it to a club meeting you will get way better feedback. If the feedback isn't positive, save your money and try to go back over your recipe and brew day notes to see what went wrong and try to improve for next time. If you get positive feedback that's a good sign your beer is competition worthy.
Step 3 - Register and enter your Beer
Now you have a beer that you believe is competition worthy, time to find a competition! There are typically a few BJCP competitions going on almost every weekend throughout the country. You can find upcoming competitions here. Once you find a competition that looks interesting first thing to do is read and understand the rules and entry info. What categories are accepted? When is the deadline to enter? What are the bottle requirements? What are the entry fees? Every competition will be a little different so take the time to read all the information. Typically most competitions will have a website to register your beer entry. Fill out the initial registration, name, address, etc. Then you will be able to enter your beer in the appropriate category. Its important to understand that some categories require extra information such as Specialty. These categories require you to list the base beer style and description. For example you might have tried my Tootsie Roll Ale at the KC Nanobrew Festival. I entered that beer as an American Brown Ale with Tootsie Rolls. Keep it simple when describing for these categories that require them. You will also see optional information about your recipe this isn't typically required unless defined in the rules.
Step 4 - Drop off / Ship your Beer
Once you have filled out the appropriate registration its time to prepare your bottles. Most competitions require 12oz brown bottles for entries. Take the time to clean your bottles well. If you can't take the time to have a nice shinny bottle, what will that say about your beer? Each bottle should have a bottle label that can be printed off from the competition website. Attach each label with a rubber band. Bottle caps should be clear of any markings. You can use a black marker to cover markings if necessary. All competitions will have a drop off location and/or shipping location. If the competition is local try to drop of your beers in a 4 or 6 pack carrier so its easier on the organizers. If you need to ship, pack your bottles carefully with bubble wrap and make sure your box is stuffed so the bottles can't move around. I like to put my bottles in a plastic bag in case of damage. DO NOT SHIP USPS. IT IS ILLEGAL. Give yourself enough days to make the entry deadline. Include a print out of your entry form and your entry fee with your beer.
You have done it!!! You have entered a home brew competition
If you have any questions please let me know
For info on the BJCP
I'll be doing another post about what happens to your beer entry once it gets to the competition
To Be Continued.......