A Beer Judge’s Diary: Return to Atlanta; Taste Test, Take 2B

It’s mystery beer time!

 I don’t think of myself as some guru or know-it-all answer
By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
guy. A lot of my experience comes from making mistakes and running into dead ends. And I have made a LOT of mistakes. And as this edition of A Beer Judge’s Diary will show I have been greeted by some dead ends.
 I must admit I agree with Andrew Luberto’s comment in his excellent youtube interview that those who score very well to begin with may be missing something. Trial, error and trying again can make better judges, just like it makes better songwriters, better actors, better on air personalities and better almost anything in life. Those additions to “beer judge” are mine, not his, but strike me as truth. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Return to Atlanta; Taste Test, Take 2B”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Return to Atlanta; Taste Test, Take 2


 The first edition will be an overview of that day, Take 2B gets to specifics that might help potential judges before they take the tasting test.

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 If I were to pass on a warning to those who haven’t taken it yet it would be, “Use the few minutes you have per beer well, otherwise time will be your enemy.” 15 minutes per beer: try practicing to get it down to 10 or 12. That’s per completed sheet.
 Unlike my last column on this topic this is not going to be about my score at all, or how I did. Enough of that: whatever the score is it is. Besides, I don’t know the score yet and most likely won’t for up to six months, maybe more. That’s OK. As I told Phil Farrell it’s not about getting a better rank, and only a little about a better score. More than anything it’s about the fact every time I take the test I learn a lot through intense study, including how I know less than I think I do. Even the study involved is a humbling experience, not to mention the review after the test. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Return to Atlanta; Taste Test, Take 2”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Should We Be Eliminating Styles?

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 Millie and I love to stop by McGuire’s in both Pensacola and Destin, especially years ago when Steve Fried had his barleywine; known as I’ll Have what the Gentleman on the Floor is Having. Long but funny name. It actually had a low enough level of bittering to make it finish somewhat sweet, really no hop flavor and the SRM was at least mid to high 20s. Slight bitter: enough to balance.
 All of which would mean I’d be scoring it lower these days if someone entered something like that. Most likely it wouldn’t win in a barleywine only competition. In the 90s I remember a lot of barelywines were like this; the few brewpubs that served them and the few bottled examples on the shelf. Not all. However the profile has been shifted, from what I remember when I first started judging in the 90s, to reflect the higher hop usage/ibus trend.
 Are we so significantly changing profiles sometimes we eliminate older, still worthy, subcategories? Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Should We Be Eliminating Styles?”

A Beer Judge’s Diary- Trusting Your Senses

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I think perhaps one of the first personal lessons that I learned as a judge, and have to keep learning because there are almost an infinite number of variables, is problems I might have when identifying aromas, mouthfeel, etc. Sometimes it just takes more experience, but sometimes it is caused by relying too much on those who insist everyone visualizes smells and other perceptions the same. And when someone doesn’t sense the same the second biggest (perhaps just as important or more) mistake we make is automatically blaming it all on them for having a different perception.
 How easy and self aggrandizing is that?
 When it comes to judging beer I think one time one of these ongoing lessons was emphasized, reinforced, had to do with the ‘pine’ descriptor. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary- Trusting Your Senses”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Pensacola Battle of the Brews and New Breweries

Blue Wahoos Stadium
By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I won’t be able to do as complete a job as I would like on this competition because it all came down pretty fast, so I’m adding a brief report on three new Pensacola breweries: more profiles than anything else.
 It started out as the trip from hell: blown tire, nuts for the spare didn’t fit quite right, no new tire until the next day and the dog was sick all weekend long. This was the first year for Brewery Battle in the Square: a pro brewer competition somewhat based around Irish beer. We had three categories: Irish Stout, Irish Red and Pilsner. It was done in tandem with a competition of area offerings from chefs. We have no comments about the food competition because we got there late: the BJCP competition was after the food was judged. We did have a Boston Butt from one of the competitors after the competition and it was excellent. The food trucks obviously arrived in a swarm earlier, stinging visitor’s palates with pleasure. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Pensacola Battle of the Brews and New Breweries”

Beer Profiles: Uinita Detour IPA and Crooked Stave’s Trellis Buster

Profiled by Ken Carman

It’s a profile off! I thought these so similar that it would be fun to do this.

Crooked Stave Trellis Buster

For all the promo on the can this is NOT a double taste abv mouthfeel wise, or hop-wise. It IS a well balanced IPA with a very interesting hopping, if you accept the caramel. There is some significant caramel malt-like sense in this. I like it, but not the point. The body is low side medium, but the malt makes it seem higher. Carbonation is medium. The caramel malt sense on this heads out of style, really, as it warms.

I like it, but I would think traditionalists would be annoyed by all the caramel. Aroma is caramel and a very fresh hop sense. The hops are quite fruity in a tangerine/orange way. Reminds me of using those fruits instead of apple for a caramel apple one might get at a carnival. As it warms bitter comes out, but it’s still background. Finishes moderate: not quite sweet, not quite dry.

Head retention poor. Head color off white. Almost no head.
Continue reading “Beer Profiles: Uinita Detour IPA and Crooked Stave’s Trellis Buster”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Tasting Test

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 Years ago Millie, my wife, was the first of the two of us to judge with a BJCP Master: Judy. I won’t offer her last name because my point here is not to drag anyone into this unwillingly. Judy was one of the first BJCP Masters and Millie told me she said if she had to take the test today she’s not sure if she’d do as well. There’s little arguing that the test has gotten harder, the style guidelines more complex. Somewhere I have one of the Guidelines from the 90s. It’s a short pamphlet less than half the width and less than half the depth of the current one, the categories quite simple in comparison, the descriptions the same.
 Yes, it’s all gotten more complex, for obvious reasons. The tasting test: now given separate up to Certified, should be about proving your judging abilities, or if already ranked your judging skills. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Tasting Test”

Judge Counter Points: New Belgium Tripel

Our judges: Jerry Wood, Certified BJCP and Ken Carman, Certified BJCP

  Let’s beginning, as us judges so often do, with AROMA. I noticed Jerry commented on a sweet aroma. I did not comment on sweetness either way even though I frequently do: Jerry did and I should have. Jerry found it very sweet in the aroma: honey-like, and slightly sweet in flavor. I don’t remember it that way: now I wish I had that second bottle Millie and I finished off to reassess for my own sake.
 This is why I write notes to myself on top of judging sheet when I’m practicing filling them out. I try to catch what I missed once I review what I did.
  Jerry found a mild solvent sense (“almost”) and perfume-y hop. We agreed on perfume-y but I didn’t get any sense of solvent. In fact I found the alcohol level a tad low. More on this in a moment.
 I also identified that the hops could be contributing to the pepper sense, which to me was overwhelming in the balance. Indeed my major issue was balance. We both had an 8 for AROMA. Continue reading “Judge Counter Points: New Belgium Tripel”

Beer Judging Counter Points: Abita Turbo


Our judges: John Lee, Saratoga Springs, NY, Millie Carman, Nashville, TN. Both are BJCP Certified. (Summary by Ken Carman.)

 The similarities here are remarkable. They are 2 points apart on score: John 41, Millie 39. Both had a 3 on Appearance, 16 on Flavor, 4 Mouthfeel, 8 on flavor. The difference was in Aroma: Millie 8, John 10. I (Ken) remember Millie saying she was having a problem catching the aroma.
 Both sensed chocolate and caramel. Millie got nutty and toasty. Only John got coffee and pome fruit, some yeast notes, a little musty and some oxidation. In was interesting that sell by date on John’s bottle was better than Millie’s, but Millie didn’t get oxidation. (Neither did I-Ken) John’s was 1/29/19; ours was 11/27/18. I suspect the difference may be transportation and storage. Abita is a lot closer to Tennessee than Saratoga, NY, area and there may be more stops on the way. Continue reading “Beer Judging Counter Points: Abita Turbo”