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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Getting Judgemental: KCBM 2016

I've been judging beer a while now. They rewrote the style guidelines again. There's your sign you've been at something more than a day or two.

Nothing changes radically, but as an example, when I took the exam in 1997 or 1998, Imperial Stout's definition did not allow for aroma or flavor hops. There are sound historical reasons for this, but as of 2008, it can be anything from none to high. Since a score depends on how close the brewer got to the stated target, I'm against revisions that change something from a narrow range to anything goes. But I don't care enough to try and insinuate myself into the process for the next style guidelines, and agitate, cajole, recruit and otherwise politic to try and change it. So I play it as it lays, re-reading the guidelines for the given category I'm presented with to find out what the target is these days.

Kind of like with competitive barbecue, it's less about what I like than about what the entry is supposed to present. It's fun, and if I thought I'd found the ultra nerds back in high school when I got introduced to the science fiction fan convention circuit there's less than 10,000 BJCP members worldwide. Only a little over 800 people on earth are ranked National or higher, and I'm included in that number.

You could call this a fringe group, but I say we're an elite. People who don't just love beer, we'll make work out of evaluating it. Including styles you've never heard of, including meads and ciders, we're very deep in the Dork Forest. Actually, I have almost 50 experience points which means it's high time I really re-read and study the current guidelines and take the exam again, if I can score a 90 on the test I'll be a Master rank judge. Which would mean probably always getting to judge Best of Show instead of it being a matter of luck. And I love BOS judging.

I didn't take as many pictures this year, I kinda felt like I'd already taken a lot of these shots a few times. See my blog posts from 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, or last year. And that's not to count first round nationals.

There would probably be stuff from 2004 through 2006 around here as well, but in my late marriage to the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster, there was a dispute about whether the camera was a family owned item or just hers, and back then not everyone had a 13 megapixel camera just sitting there in their freaking phone.

Anyway, such a fun weekend. I judged Tuesday evening as well, and would have Wednesday if not for the Black Sabbath ticket I'd bought back in September. Even more experience points for me, I really need to get those exam scores up so I can redeem them for entry into the inner-inner circle of beer nerds.

I'm also, after the mead panel, thinking I need to study up some more on the making part. I'm not so old school I make meads that take years to get drinkable (if they ever do), but there are some techniques I've not tried (diammonium phosphate and such) I need to try. And I do love the meads, so I need to take the separate test for that (now that there is one), too.

I actually ended up judging meads and ciders about half the flights this weekend, and they're about two thirds of what I've made in the past ten years, so that seems to be a logical area to specialize in and I feel like I've let my knowledge in those areas stagnate.

If you can't tell from all these pics, I also really love the people I get to interact with when I do these things. Now that my kiddos are grown, I need to start branching out and judging in Lincoln, Des Moines, St. Louis, etc. There's lots of competitions around the country and in a lot of cases there's local club members who have spare bedrooms and sofas so you don't even have to pop for a Super 8.

And a National rank BJCP judge, at a homebrew competition, you're as in demand as a guy who knows how to dance at a wedding reception.

And as I was saying, I felt like I was taking fewer pictures than usual but here are 43 more.

Oh, and I said how these are some of my favorite people, that doesn't just include the ones I've been judging alongside for years (and some of them I've known since the late 90s). I meet new people every time, notable this year was Emily. I actually asked her if she was a gymnast, which in hindsight is embarrassing. I knew she had to do a sport of some kind, I'm married to a retired Olympian and you don't get the kind of shoulders Emily has by accident. No, she was like, wrestling. Kinda obvious, the only other woman I know who has shoulders like that is my aforementioned wife, who went to the Olympics in Judo, which is basically wrestling in a gi. And during her career, she did some freestyle wrestling too, and was ranked 2nd in the nation at one point by USA Wrestling.

I had such fun talking to Emily though, and I wished Corinna could have been there to meet her as well. Especially when I saw the look on Emily's face when I said, yeah my wife went to the '96 Olympics in Judo. Later I got to meet Emily's guy, I told him you can do a lot worse than hook up with a girl who knows how to grapple.

I did skip the banquet, I usually do. By the time it comes around I'm tired, overfed, kinda, well, drunk. This is after judging and then consuming quite a few beers. The banquets are great, and bang-for-the-buck they're totally reasonable. But still kinda spendy and like I say my appetite for food and beer has been well sated by this point, so I saddled up my bike and headed out after the raffle.

I hoped to win the steel cylindriconical fermenter in the raffle, not so much because I need another primary fermenter, but because I knew most of the folks there didn't think I could get it home on my bike. I brought a freaking KitchenAid mixer home from DeSoto on my bike, the fermenter would have been a snap.

I love biking to beer judging events because if I just judge what I'm judging I'm fine to drive, but judging really whets your appetite to actually drink some beer. Which is plentiful at these affairs. And since my bicycle is not a motorized vehicle, I don't really have to sweat it. I can drink hearty and know that my impaired judgement may cause me harm, I'm not going to be dialing my wife from a jail cell for bail. You can't get a DUI on a bicycle here (your state may vary on this), and when people tell me you can I'm always like, me and my friends have really tried. If you get arrested on a bicycle for being drunk, it's because you crashed into a parked patrol car and then picked a fight about the officer getting in your way.

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