Search Lobsterland

Friday, February 25, 2011


Okay, it's that time of year again. That time of year when I get to trot out my credentials as a BJCP National Rank beer judge.

It's probably a lot like judging barbecue competitions from what I hear: anyone can eat burnt ends and say whether they like them or not; anyone can tell you what their favorite sauce is or whether they want it on the side.

"I'm going to judge a few beers this weekend," a coworker once said to me. "And I know what score I'm going to give them."

It's not about what you like, it's about whether the brewer hit his target. Characteristics that are desirable in a Trappist ale would be reason to dump a batch of Pils. The color of a stout is all well and good, but not in a Kolsh.

In fact, if you're a good beer judge, you should be able to give a very high score to a beer you hate, provided that beer is an excellent example of the style it was entered in (assuming, of course, that you detest the style in question).

While the styles generally have commercial examples to relate to, i.e. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale for an 'American Pale Ale,' the commercial brewer cares less about style than whether you want another beer.

In any case, since these are homebrewers, the judge's first job is to provide feedback that can help the brewer improve. A flawed beer may have been entered specifically because the brewer wondered what might have gone wrong.

That was truer when I started judging back in 1996. There was a bit of a homebrew fad going, and dilettantes were everywhere, even Drew Carey's fictional character.

These days, some categories are scary in how well made a lot of the entries are. I judged English Bitters on Friday night and the low score was, if memory serves, in the high 20s (on a 50 point scale). And this was with a gusher in the flight.

See also the Brown Ales on Saturday morning prior to the flight of my pet, Cider.

And this also provided an opportunity for me to introduce Corinna to some of my oldest and favoritest friends.

And she seemed to hit it off with them just fine.

Originally, me and the Poet Laureate where supposed to ride from her house to the competition at Holyfield and then tour on to Lawrence to camp.

That plan relied on a 4:45 a.m. alarm that turned out to have a union contract for Monday through Friday only. We woke up in time to get to Holyfield via millstone, but not to ride.

Which is how we ended up going to Smithville...

No comments: