A Beer Judge’s Diary: War of the Worts and Judging Innovations

I’ve done at least two articles on Mississippi competitions, so I thought I’d try a different angle…
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  Millie and I just came back from the ever well run War of the Worts, and the worts did “run well.”
  I never mentioned it, but I will now: I was honored that the folks who organized War of the Worts in Starkville, Mississippi took my idea from last year and gave every judge team a touch light to check the entries

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
for clarity and color. I want them to know no insult was intended by bringing, and using, my own flashlight I had altered also to shine through each entry.
  Why did I do that? Well, at another competition a fellow judge pointed out that LEDs give a bluish tint to whatever is in the glass. Now, since then, I’ve learned that there are different types of LEDs and the cooler ones, if I understand right, are more neutral. But where would I find one, and one that would work in a way I can put a sample glass on it? From WalMart, to Home Depot, to Lowes and many other haunts I found nothing that satisfied both criteria: something you could put a sample glass on safely and had cooler LEDs.
  So I bought a regular flashlight: lantern style.
  Getting away from LEDs these days is tough, seems all lights are going LED.
  Before I leave the topic let me say I feel honored that the folks at War of the Worts did what they did, and encourage them to continue to innovate.
Josh kept us happy despite the brew ghost who kept entering the room and surprising him. NAH, just a blurred shot!
Josh kept us happy despite the brew ghost who kept entering the room and surprising him. NAH, just a blurred shot!
  One thing I mentioned when I first judged in Mississippi was covers for sample glasses. A few years ago one competition I judged at offered them. I think it may have been Knickerbocker in Albany, NY: run by the Saratoga Thoroughbrews. Unfortunately that competition stopped, then started again, and the covers got lost in the mix. Again: if I have the right competition.
  I have sought those out too: with little luck.
  This year I started looking for the ultimate sniffer glass I can bring with me: defined, in this case, as a glass with a cover. My first was some kind of hillbilly concoction I bought at Cracker Barrel or someplace like that: essentially a Mason jar on a stem. I use it when I need more room for the shake if aroma is really, really hard to ascertain. Later I bought a plastic sip cup from WalMart, but the plastic takes on aromas. Finally I found wine in small glasses with covers. These work quite well. Probably your local big box liquor store carries them. Be sure to empty and clean well with a neutral cleaner.
  (“Hey, why does every beer smell like Strawberry Hill today?”)
  Here’s the problem I was trying to solve: once you pour a sample of the entry every moment you inspect for appearance aroma wafts away. Shake and I never get as much aroma as I should unless a top holds it in. On the other hand head and legs and such also fade while assessing aroma. The appearance should be assessed, in my opinion, right after the sample is poured, not after shook.
 I could just pour more but I’m trying to conserve and judge: not drink. This may go to mini-BOS and, if the only bottle. BOS. Capping it isn’t a solution for making sure there’s enough. Plus a pour should be natural, not a pour then shake. Plus, if I judge appearance first, carbonation slips away too, just like it would if you let the glass in a pub sit for a while.
Judging with Brad in the morning, what a Joy, a Love??? (His last name is "Lovejoy.")
Judging with Brad in the morning, what a Joy, a Love??? (His last name is “Lovejoy.”)

  Back to War of the Worts: they took the BJCP guidelines and printed out the categories per table. That means judges without them on the Nooks and Kindles don’t have to leaf through a whole bloody book. A handy dandy pamphlet is right there tailored to their needs.
  One judge, by the way, had a Mac tablet and I really want one. Nice big screen that fits onto a stand and holds a whole subcategory on one page: I’m pretty sure you can adjust that. The leprechaun I hired to do the five finger discount bit couldn’t do it because he chewed one of his fingers off. Not sure what he did that… 4.
  Maybe, in anticipation, he confused it with one of those great breakfast burritos the next day?
  The meals are well worth the visit. These folks know how to treat a judge.
  The one thing they’ve done here is something all competitions need: and one hopes there’s some place like this near you and your competition. Instead of a hotel, or Knights’ of Columbus or a brew pub, they found a small community where they teach about gardening and self reliance. You can rent the house and what a great place to do a competition! Most judges who want to stay get a bed or even a room. There’s a patio one side where they put taps for the judges, and iced downed bottled beer. A small lake is behind the building and in from… pigs. This year the pot belly-like pigs had been moved to one side: another pen, while the cutest little black piglets in the world played and ran after mom in the big pen.
  Not to mention the giant, deep, tub upstairs I tried to take a bath in when I couldn’t sleep at 3am. Haven’t done that since I was a teen and staying with my grandmother and I found out getting out at 60, a bad back and a “tad” heavier is more of an “adventure” than I remember.
  Stop laughing!
  This is a topic I’ll return to, for I think: like innovations in equipment, innovations in judging are something to be admired. Any innovation certainly should be critically, yet also kindly, assessed. Certainly not overly so, because encouragement is the key, and to continue to try to improve: make it better… not discouragement.
 Kind of like the advice and comments judges should make when judging entries?

                                                           -30-

 A Beer Judge’s Diary is a column that follows the judging adventures of BJCP judge Ken Carman and his wife, Millie; a column that celebrates both homebrewers and professionalism in beer judging.
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