Counterpoint: Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing

Our Judges: Ken and Millie Carman

 I am hoping to have at least a few editions of this. I already did this once using one of my regular columns. What I am hoping for here is to display just how different judge palates can be: even day to day and referring to one judge. However most editions will be two BJCP judges. Different beers will be judged: mostly commercial, however I may be able to sneak in at least a few homebrews. And I will endeavor to contact judges who might be interested in this project. Unlike a competition scores are NOT consensus, since the purpose is to show differences.
 For this edition we chose Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Things. Nothing on the can tells us what style IPA it is, but we both agreed New England IPA.
 Millie and I are both Certified.
 Our scores were 10 points apart and I kept it that way to examine the differences in palates: what we sense at any given moment, or not. I got a 38, Millie got a 28. Minor differences include Millie felt the aroma was lemon-like whereas I thought it more grapefruit. I didn’t identify the hops, mostly because I find naming specific hops rather, fruitless? If I write “Cascade,” as she did, I can be relatively sure it will be Amarillo, or essence or squeezed armadillo, or who knows. She also noted “spicy.”
 The appearance descriptors were about the same, but the main difference was Millie found the flavor very astringent, and admitted IPAs tend to effect her this way. To me I found relatively no astringency, but the product being somewhat out of balance. While the aroma screamed the fruity delightfulness of an NEIPA, the flavor was close to nothing but bitter: malt way in the background, as we both described. I found it less a great NEIPA, more a better than good IPA, despite appearance being spot on. Carbonation just a hint low for the style.
 A couple notes here: I did find more fruit in the flavor as it warmed, but still lacking. Millie found some pepper sense in the hopping.
 I gave it a 15 for flavor, Millie a 10. We were only one point apart on mouthfeel and overall, four points on aroma and appearance where Millie gave it a perfect 3, I gave it a 2. I felt the head faded very fast, a minor point it’s true. Perhaps when the BJCP includes NEIPA in 2015 these scores could change. I know on the net there is an addendum, however: like competition, we used what we had once we assessed what style it was for sure.
 Another reason, while Millie judged with Guidelines, I didn’t because I am heading towards improving my tasting score in the future. Kind of a “I know I have to use the Force so I’d better get used to it” concept. So I judged as if it was a tasting test. Since we relied on standard descriptors and what little we knew of NEIPA it having Guidelines, or not, probably doesn’t account for score differences.

When you receive you scoresheets, please remember that judge’s palates vary not only person to person, but daily, moment to moment. Pay attention more to consistencies between sheets and especially consistent commentary received after entering the same brew in more than one competition. Also remember that some judges are more sensitive to specific defects, flavors, and their noses to certain aromas. Hopefully Beer Judging Counter Points may help you understand the differences.