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Monday, April 08, 2013

NHC Round I

Nancy objected when someone tried to shoot her with their phone while we were judging English Pale Ales. So I said, I have a fix for that. I don't take bad pictures.

Well, that's bullshit, I take lots of lousy pictures, but there's a lot of weeding out that happens in Lobsterland. If you think my blog is photo heavy, let me just say that if I put twenty pics in a post, there's a good chance that 300 shots were on my SD cards from that event.

This was a big deal weekend for me, we hosted first rounds for the National Homebrewers Conference competition. Back in the late 90s when I got into BJCP judging, we were a first round site every year, and then about eight or ten years ago we weren't, and it stayed that way until this year. When my kiddos are grown maybe I'll have more time to travel for these things, but these days I try to keep it local.

When I got into judging, I remember a curmudgeonly judge who had a slogan that all entries were poison until proven otherwise. I think that's a terrible way to approach it, but at the time, I have to admit he had a point. I grabbed a bunch of leftover entries one year thinking, 'Yay! Six cases of free beer.' A few weeks later it was, 'Uh...Yay, sixes cases of free bottles.' It's gotten a lot better since then, and especially when you get to NHC first rounds, you're talking a generally high level of craft. I judged a flight where my own judge-pair (half the flight) had four 40+ point assigned scores, beers that would have won a blue ribbon in any competition fifteen years ago. Still, there is the occasional gusher. I think it would be great if the score sheet could retain the foamy puddle of beer so the entrant knows.

They did a brilliant thing for the after-party. Anything that didn't score at least 30 points, pop it and pour it. There's two bottles for each entry, and if they are real contenders, both bottles get used because there's the initial flight judging and then there's a mini-BOS where it gets narrowed down from anywhere from 20 to 70 beers to a first-second-third. So those magnificent 45 point beers aren't really there in the leftover cases, but by having the stewards 86 the stinkers, what is in the leftover pile is at least decent beer.

I took a case of the leftovers to the guys who live under the bridge I got married on. I didn't have to ring my bell twice, Corinna had told them I was coming.

Well, that gets into a complicated area. I had some leftover pizza from the competition Friday night, and I took the Riverfront Trail to get out of the wind and at the elevator by the Town of Kansas bridge overlook, there was a wino passed out in the elevator. Wino is maybe the wrong term, he couldn't have been over 25, and when I think 'wino' I picture someone much older. The elevator had a nursing home stench of urine, and I suspect that was his. I rode the elevator thinking I should leave some money for him or something, but I didn't have any folding money on me and change seemed both insulting and likely to wake him.

I thought of the pizza before I got off the elevator, but I didn't act on it. Then, after I'd ridden up the bridge to the River Market, God talked to me. That scripture, Jesus telling the disciples about how they'd refused him food, water, etc. And they were like, 'Not me!' And he said if you refused the least, you refused me. It wasn't an auditory hallucination, more like a vivid memory of a conversation.

Okay, God. I can't fix the whole situation, but I rode back down the bridge and put the pizza in foil by his hand while he snored away on the elevator floor. For all I know someone else took it before he came to. I don't know how his life got so far out of hand at such an early age, and I hope the beers I delivered to the older versions (I suppose) of him weren't actually the opposite of a kind gesture.

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