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Sunday, February 22, 2015

KCBM 32: Getting Judgmental Again

I haven't entered a beer in competition in at least 15 years. But I love judging.

I love brewing, too, but I found I enjoy a sort of freestyle brewing, a focus on what sounds fun and what I can't run out to the liquor store and buy, as opposed to trying to fit an established style guideline. My improvisations are informed by my knowledge of classic beer styles, of course.

But evaluating beers as a BJCP judge at homebrew competitions, I do it every chance I get. Which isn't much given my other life commitments, once or twice a year is the best I can usually manage. But the next year or two, I might try and wrangle a few out of town competitions. I'm National rank, which means I can pretty much always find a place as a judge in a sanctioned competition. I've been National for a long time, twelve years or so now, and I just checked my BJCP points and it's long past time I re-test. Which means I need to bone up on the latest style guidelines first (they've been revised in big ways a couple of times since I tested in the late 1990s). I have almost 50 experience points, and 40 is the threshold for Master rank but I need to score a 90 on the test, too.

People hear you're 'judging beer' and they think, yeah, I do that all the time. I know the exact score the beers all get, too. But it's more like competitive barbecue, there's style guidelines and the entries are evaluated not on the basis of what a judge likes, but on whether the beer in the glass is what it's supposed to be.

Case in point, I had a beer this weekend I gave a 20 to. This is a 50 point scale, and I might have given something in the teens at some point, but a Diet Coke would score at least a 17 in some categories if you're honest about what its characteristics are. Wet, bubbly, blackish-brown, it's not going to medal but it's not getting a zero.

A 20 is pretty harsh, really. And honest, I really liked the beer I gave that 20 to. It was wildly inappropriate for the style it was entered in, but it was very enjoyable beverage. Entered in another category, it might pick up twenty points.

There are some styles I wouldn't really want to sit down and drink for that matter, but if I'm judging, a good example still has to score high. I'm not a fan of Miller's Lite, but if I'm judging a flight of 1A's, I think I could score it at least 45. I hope I could anyway.

The usual raffle was held and everyone seemed to have their sights set on Snoop. That and a Billy Dee Williams Colt 45 neon light. It's hard to figure how Colt 45 (let alone Blast) is even here in the room. This is the People's Republic of Beer Snobs, mostly homebrewers themselves. A lot of us started making beer in the first place because we weren't interested in stuff like Colt 45, which while lacking in flavor, is actually a fairly technical project if you wanted to make it yourself.

Well, and Blast doesn't even fit that criteria. The temperature control, precise recipe, timing and whatnot that goes to making a hyper-consistent light beer (or a malt liquor which is the same thing with a lot more alcohol in it), that's art compared to Blast. Blast is, as far as I can tell, Hi-C, vodka and CO2. At least I think it's bubbly, I've never cracked open a can of it personally.

Anyway, the Founders neon, the Pilsner Urquell neon, these are things I'd have rather had. I won, instead, a couple of tin Boulevard signs which are cool enough. The Bully Porter one would have been an absolute keeper as I think that's my favorite of their beers. But I won a smokestack logo tin and a Pop-Up Session IPA, and I'd have taken them home but when Amanda won the Snoop...

This thing, it's the modern equivalent of a Velvet Elvis and while I can't imagine who'd really want the thing I found it's kitchy-ness irresistible. I offered her a trade, my Boulevard tin signs for Snoop and I think she was actually relieved. I think Snoop is so horrible she didn't even want him in her house. Which I can understand.

Because what Blast is to beer, Snoop is to music, at least in my humble opinion. I YouTubed some Snoop when I got the prize home and it's even worse than I expected. I like me some Flobots, The Urge, maybe some Blackeyed Peas, but Snoop is the lord of a musical wasteland, making his millions off messages that are the last thing his audience needs to hear as far as I can tell. He really seems to me to have gone down the crossroads, met up with Old Scratch and said, Okay, I can hawk terrible booze and glorify weed for that much money. Oh, and my soul? Sure, I'm not using it for anything.

So now I own this thing and I can't decide whether I want to let Snoop ironically lurk over my brewing area, sell the thing on eBay, use it as a gag gift or wait 20 years and then sell it on eBay for a fortune (it seems like the kind of thing that would be rare and obscure enough after a decade or two to really drive collectors nuts).

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