Written by Ken Carman for The Professor
I knew I was in trouble when I got the E-mail that claimed, “I know you like high gravity,” so I wasn’t surprised when the morning was filled with Belgian Strongs. Hey, it’s what I do. Who’s da man who started an all high gravity competition and used to be one of the biggest suppliers for Big Bob’s Barley Wine Bash in Pensacola Beach, Florida?
This edition of A Beer Judge’s Diary will be a little different. If I repeat a competition I try to mix things up a tad. This will be more about the beer, my method of judging, stewards and my fellow judge… since Jake Evers and I partnered for the day.
Jake and I patiently worked through every entry we judged. Jake is semi-new to judging and I gave him the option (A) of silence until after (or just before) scoring, or (B) laying out our cards and discussing as we went along. I prefer this with new judges: it’s like teaching someone how to play pinocle or rummy with all the cards out on the table. But instead of learning how to play a game, how to achieve a winning hand, it’s all about putting a great judging team together. When the other judge chooses option “B” I always tell them to stand up for what they believe and I never push for them to agree if they really feel they sense something I don’t, or don’t sense what I do.
The title of this edition came from a discussion that happened as I started to set up. I put out my modified lantern: non-led with white duct tape to focus down to just the contents of the glass, a special AWOG competition opener that doesn’t bend the cap and several aroma glasses that seal so I can do appearance first and wait to judge that all too easy to escape item: aroma.
It’s always been an “A” or “B,” thing with me. Either the head fades, or the aroma leaks into the room. Shaking with a palm over a glass gets my hand wet, or spills if not careful. So an aroma glass that seals helps.
Jake used the aroma glass a lot.
We worked well together.
As I set up one judge says, “Boy, you come with all the tools, don’t you?”
Without even thinking I snapped back, “Yeah, I’m the Batman of beer judges.”
“You just need the utility belt.”
Let’s petition the BJCP. Think they give grants for that? Maybe Doc Brown might take time off from his DeLorean to make one for me?
Some of the brews we judged.
We had a hazy Belgian Pale, a Dubbel with a slight sour sense, a Tripel that seemed to have an apple sense, an incredible Belgian Dark Strong that ended up #1 and another that had the abv but not the malt to back it up.
I think we forwarded two to mini-BOS which I did too.
Fugetabout it had several split categories. They got so many pumpkins they split that off of Herb, Veggie… Millie did Big Stouts in the morning, I did Small Stouts in the afternoon. Well, that’s what they called them, how they split them. We forwarded one, if I remember right. It was a tough one when it came to Sweet from our side because it was either, “Where’s the sweet?” or “Yeah, you got the sweet, but where’s the rest?”
This is one of the more recent problems, yet the pleasures, of judging the past few years. Mostly gone are the days when half, or more, beers judged are defective: praise the beer Gods. I have no fond memories of Dirty Diaper or Fruit Puke… no specifics as to when and where these were judged. But it’s more difficult now, either you get balance issues or, worse in one sense, separating the phenomenal from the superb.
It’s a tough, yet heavenly, dilemma.
I have to praise our stewards: Cindy and Ken. I think the second session it was Allen. Apologies if I got it wrong. I don’t have a picture of Ken, but he was my steward last year too. He’s really good at it. Even if he has a terrible name.
Yes, Ken, that was a Ken joke from another Ken.
Cindy seemed to enjoy the table banter, and Ken was great with helping with the snark. Our afternoon steward was more the quiet, but very there when you need him type.
Stewarding is a job that gets no where near the credit it should, and seems to be in the shadow of the judges. I consider them at least equals and frequently ask them their opinions, as well as offer samples when we’re not low. All three did not disappoint in this sense, or any sense.
We have judged Fugetaboutit every year since it started and have seen it grow, improve. With about 260 entries and operating smoothly now out of the Knights of Columbus I think they’ve found a home.
On to 2015.
“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.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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