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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sitting in Judgement

I've been judging beer about twenty years now. I don't remember exactly, but I think February of 1996 the first time I volunteered to steward and got drafted to judge. Judged meads, which I honestly knew little about at that time, but the other two judges that made of the panel balanced me out: Steve Ford and Jackie Rager. Essentially they were teaching me how to judge.

So here I was judging the Kansas City Bier Meister's 34th annual homebrew competition, and I'm judging with a first time judge. If I hadn't been late getting there from work, so there could have been introductions, I might have gotten it off to a better start. I think the second entry we judged, (we were doing herb, spice & vegetable beers), I finished my initial evaluation and looked up and he hadn't written anything down. At all. He was like, I don't know how to judge this.

It wasn't that bewildering, but for a first time judge I can see it. I'm like, okay, here are the specialty ingredients they're claiming and they say it's an Old Ale. So read the style guidelines for an 8C, that's your base style and go through the score sheet making notes about what you're smelling, seeing and tasting as it relates to the style. Then go through and describe what your'e perceiving in terms of the special ingredients, and then think about whether they work well together, because a jalapeño Cream Ale needs to be both obviously a Cream Ale and obviously laced with jalapeños, and it needs to be something a person wold want to drink.

It's a lot less about personal preferences than you'd think. The winners in that herb, spice & vegetable flight included two jalapeño beers. I generally think chili beers are a mistake, but these were both excellent (and yes, one was a Cream Ale, which got edged out by of all things an IPA with jalapeño, which to me sounds more like a dare than a winner, but this one was done with finesse).

I really need to study up myself, actually. I've been saying this for a few years, but I took my BJCP exam in 1999. The style guidelines have been rewritten a few times since then, with some of them becoming huge targets that cover an incredibly wide range of expressions, and others becoming extremely specific. The bifurcations of IPA styles in the American craft beer movement, not to mention the profusion of sour ales and whatnot, I haven't done a great job of keeping up with this stuff. Plus, if I can re-test and get a 90, I have enough experience points to move up to Master rank (I'm National now). You're pretty deep in the Dork Forest when you're either one of those ranks, but I enjoy judging and it's a chance to improve myself and learn new things. They've added a mead certification, too, and given how much my own homebrewing activities have migrated to the mead side, that's something I should pursue as well.

Actually, speaking of sour ales, Crane Brewing that hosted us this year, that's one of their specialties and there was a panel on sour beer with a brewer from The Bruery in California, a couple of Crane's brewers and I think his name was Ryan from Milk the Funk.

I'm not sure I'm brave enough to set up brettanomyces, lactobacillus and pediococcus in my brewhouse. Though the failed Belgian Quad I brewed last spring that's impossibly sweet would benefit from a souring I'll bet. Maybe I'll rack it back out of the kegs and experiment with the bugs I normally leave to the pickle/kraut crock.

I didn't do the banquet, I usually don't. They feed us like Hobbits all weekend long and by Saturday night I'm usually too full to really enjoy such a thing. I'm always partly tempted because I love the people, the scene, but I was still digesting Second Breakfast and Elevensies when I lit out for home.

Mo's 20th

We were about a week late celebrating, which turned out to be just as well. Mo had the flu with a 101º fever on the actual day. But I made the usual chocolate mayonnaise cake with cream cheese frosting, pink this time, and we had a pizza party at my Dad's house (we have six animals at our house these days and relatives with allergies).

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Big Grin Memorial Ride

Joel Dyke died two years ago, and right off the bat we started having these memorial rides in his memory. In the winter, both because Joel loved winter riding and because he pulled a dick move and died on December 27. Well, dying in December wasn't really the offensive part, it was dying so young with so many people attached to and counting on him. He left behind an awesome wife and two (well, Lydia was still in the oven) kiddos.

Last year, the ride was like five degrees. We still had I think upwards of fifty riders. Lots of layers, a few Carharts, but people rode.

This year's ride was supposed to be a couple weeks earlier than it ended up happening. There was an ice storm warning and between Michelle and the Trek Store (his widow and his last employer) it was decided not to goad people into harm's way. The ice didn't end up materializing but it's fair, only a few of us have steel studded snow tires.

So the reschedule was on a relatively balmy day, above freezing by the end. It was also up against Street Cred is Dead, an alleycat which definitely drew more than zero of the Big Grin riders.

But a good time was had by all. Some of the people who showed were doing Street Cred too, they just peeled off early.

It's such a fun group of people. I really love them all, and before I met Corinna and then by default this whole sick crew, I didn't know anyone who would ride bikes when it was this cold. Let alone as cold as it was last year.

And this children, so beautiful, so sweet. Thorvall Stonecrusher III and Lydia, they're going to make a mark. Jofess' name was supposed to be Thorvall Stonecrusher III according to Joel, who cruelly changed his name to a conventional one after getting everyone (me anyway) to believe his kid was really going to have to deal with a Boy Named Sue world.

But anyway, we all had fun, we ate vegetarian chili, beers were consumed in quantity, and I got a few snaps of the guilty, beautiful parties involved.

And I got some good photos of the kiddos. Michelle is super camera-aware, thinks she's not photogenic. She's plenty photogenic, but when someone objects to being photographed and is really aware when a camera is raised, they flinch. And nobody takes a good picture while flinching.

Except I"ve done it. I've taken good pictures of Michelle, and I might not be much of a photographer compared to some people I know, but good pictures of someone who tries not to be photographed, that's a pretty sound trophy.

And of course I got some of my other friends who are really fun to shoot too.

Like Ricky Fitts said in American Beauty, sometimes there's so much beauty in the world...

Friday, February 03, 2017

Em's 21st

So my eldest turned 21. And fortunately has better sense than to observe it with a 'power hour.'

Actually we ended up delaying the celebration because of an ice storm that turned out to be a false alarm.

But good times. And my Mom gave her the diamond from her own wedding ring, which I think had also been in my Grandma's ring.