Apologies: my camera messed up in my phone and then the new system ay the library in Old Forge wouldn’t let me download pictures. The following is all I have
Old Forge BIG Beer and Odd Ale is a competition Millie and I started, and have supported, since 2014. That makes this year our fifth anniversary. We are also supported by Saranac Brewing in Utica who always does a great job with judge gifts. Thanks Fred Matt and Cara!
This year we had a smallest number of entries since 14. We only had about 24 or 25 that year. This year we had 29. We shifted it into September and found ourselves in competing with too many other competitions and events. Next year that will change.
It’s always been tiny compared to most homebrew competitions. Ours is designed to be small so we can afford to support it and running it is as simple as possible. This is mostly a two person operation. Large competitions sometimes have scores and scores of helpers behind the scene, at least one homebrew club organizing it and many breweries and homebrew-related businesses sponsoring them from homebrew equipment, major breweries and homebrew supply companies.
While the Central Adirondacks offer none of that we have gotten lots of support from Albert Kiss at The Back Door: a favorite place for me when I lived in Old Forge. Albert takes in our entries and for three of those years hosted the competition. We only brought it over to a great small local brewery: Fulton Chain Craft Brewery. We get two more judges and one of them is a pro-brewer. Many thanks Justin.
We have to thank John Lee who started helping three years ago and more recently members of his club: Saratoga Thoroughbrews. Getting BJCP judges here is tough.
In the morning I paired myself with Brian Josephson who serves at Fulton because Richard Mathy decided to ‘goof off’ making deliveries. Shame! Speaking; well ‘typing’ of future deliveries, Becky, Justin’s wife, was pregnant so she couldn’t judge: I think it’s something in Justin added to his brew water. Maybe that’s why Millie and I never had kids because he wasn’t around? Wait a minute, what did I just type? NEVER MIND!
Other judging pairs: John Lee and Michael ClarkPywar. (As a judge “MCP” is our “Clark,” as in Clark Kent. When he drops the secret identity “Pywar” is his super duper brewer name; able to un-stick peppermint laden mashes with a single bound.) Pro-brewer Justin Staskewicz and Jim Alexander made up the third team. That last team was told to direct any questions they may have to the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) judges: we were down one BJCP judge.
One of the more interesting entries we had was Phil Slesinski’s from Memphis, TN which had Butterfly pea flowers (So THAT’S what grows out of butterfly p…!), and 20% by weight black rice for hue. It seemed both slightly sour and even less brett-like but was neither. Unfortunately because my fellow judge and I were 5 points apart it didn’t quite make it into BOS or The Fulton Chain Challenge: the winner won a brew package at the brewery.
We still suffer from a software problem. We have no way of knowing what’s in some of our odd entries or what style they are based on. The 2015 BJCP Guidelines give us specifics of styles but entries like “Experimental” also need to have a base style AND what makes them experimental. Another example: Spice, Herb and Vegetable Beers. Think it might be important to know what herb, what spice, what…? You’d be right.
In the last few weeks Millie, my wife: the official Competition Organizer so this judge can remain as ignorant as possible about who brewed what entry, was busy calling and E-mailing those who entered to get specifics, for all the good it did us. A few responded, 80% didn’t. Of those who responded, well most of those entries never showed up. ARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!
Another interesting entry was provided by Michael ClarkPywar; of course that team didn’t know for sure who brewed it. It’s called “blind tasting” for a reason, and not because we poke our eyes out before we judge. Afterwards he showed us how we brewed it with tons of candy canes. “I’ll never do that again.” I was surprised that Brian, who admitted he HATED peppermint, scored it almost the same I did. It got a pretty good score. I told Michael I had felt it just needed some more complex malts to balance it out. I LOVE the name: “Minty McMintface.”
Beer judges always have stories, like this time John mentioned an entry he had once with a spider in it. (“Itsy Bitsy Black Widow?”) A few years ago I had an entries we jokingly named “Dirty Diaper” and “Fruit Puke.” YACK!
You have to judge and score any entry given, types the writer who once felt like fragments of diaper were left on the roof of his mouth.
Sometimes you have entries where judges disagree. I tried pushing Joey Vinciguerra’s Pink Peppercorn mead but half of the judges thought it defective. I think that what they considered “defects” were related to the peppercorn and, YES, I have had plenty of pro-meads before. I didn’t find it the unfinished/nutrient lacking in fermentation others thought they sensed. Jim Alexander and I gleefully polished it off after. I tend to find one column often inspires another. We scored mead on beer sheets only because the competition being so small if it came down to scores we needed similar scores to compare and decide in BOS. I willingly admit I find mead judging lacking in most competitions. More in my next column.
After thanking Justin and Brian and giving them their Saranac gifts we went next door to The Pickle Boat to let all that settle and eat a decent lunch. Yes, I paid for that. We finished the few we had left then Best of Show. In this case two judges sit and discuss and decide who wins. John said he couldn’t judge because one of the entries was his.
Lee Mahony from Odenton, MD with his Imperial Stout on Cognac and French Oak
Traci Kugler from East Syracuse, NY with an Experimental IPA called “Spruce Juice” (Never guess what was in that!)
John Lee from Queensbury, NY with his barrel aged Russian Imperial.
Adam Kugler from East Syracuse, NY with his American Strong
Joe Vincigeurra from Rochester, NY with a Pink Peppercorn Mead (I wanted this to place higher, but I was over ruled. I have had great pro-meds and: unlike John, I didn’t find it had any unfermented characteristics. It was just sweet.)
The Fulton Craft Brewery Challenge
Brian Hondorf from OLD FORGE (Yeah!!!!) with Brady Edward, a New England IPA (NEIPA)
One competition I judged in Charlotte, NC years ago had a “worst beer of the competition” award. I don’t have that for ours though maybe I should award it to myself. I had the worst score of all the entries. I rarely enter my own brews in any competition I judge or run, but I needed feedback on a London Brown Braggot and, boy, did I get it. Yeah! I’m the BEST at something!
When you least expect it Jim and Justin. When you least expect it. I’m JOKING. (I had nothing to do with Old Glue disappearing from some horse stable and the horse head that appeared on Mike’s motel room bed. So did that really happen? The horse says, “Neigh!”)
I have to thank everyone again.
On to 2019!
A Beer Judge’s Diary is one of many columns by Ken Carman, Certified BJCP beer judge, homebrewer since 1979 and seeker of both simple and complex quaffs who once upon a time thought he didn’t care all that much for beer. Then he discovered brews beyond the standard fare’ available on the east coast in the 60s. Thus the adventure began.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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