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”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: New Judging Forms


2019 OFBB Judging formA

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
  My apologies for the images. Yes, they’re blurry. I also understand the protosheet at the bottom is smaller. I tried to also include another way to access either one which should be more clear. So since there’s an image problem in this column I’ll try to walk you through this.
  I think I first became fascinated with alternate versions of the BJCP judging form when I judged for Amber Waves of Grain in Niagara Falls: one of the best large competitions I’ve ever judged. Most of my regular readers know I like, and have started, small competitions. It’s a personal preference. But I have a LOT of respect for, and still judge, large competitions. Running big competitions is tough and requires a lot of cooperation and volunteers, not to mention location issues, and AWOG is impressive: a lot of thought and steady improvement has gone into AWOG. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: New Judging Forms”

Judge Counterpoints: Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing


 I am hoping to have at least a few editions of this. I already did this under one of my other 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, and if other judges wish to join in on this please contact me. You can summarize the differences between the two judges or I can. Different beers will be judged: mostly commercial, however I am open to homebrews. This is raw judging not consensus because the point is missed if we adjust.
 For this edition we chose Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing. Nothing on the can tells us what style IPA it is, but we both agreed New England IPA.
 Millie and I are both Certified. Continue reading “Judge Counterpoints: Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing”

Brew Biz: Werts and All (Hopkinsville Brewing Company)

Image courtesy kentuckynewera.com

Written by Ken Carman

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay, Clarksville Carboys and Music City Homebrewers, who has been writing on beer-related topics and interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast, for over 20 years.

 We knew this was going to be a brief stop because we were on our way to a Clarksville Carboy’s Christmas gathering. We slipped right by Clarksville, knowing we’d have to back track, because we wanted to check out Hopkinsville Brewing Company.
 Be aware if you use a GPS you may find yourself face to face with some confusing directions due to one way streets Ms. GPS tells you to go down anyway. Could have been an update thing with Mrs. Garmin, but we figured it out.
 Hopkinsville Brewing Company is in a cute little brick building with a small parking lot. This is indeed the definition of a small brewing operation: 2.5 barrels. We’ve seen smaller, like Community in Buffalo a few years ago which was 1.5 at the time. The servers told me they have to brew when they’re not open, not only due to inconvenience but by law. Not surprised: you can see the tightly squeezed together, bright, shiny brewing equipment when you walk in on your right. There really wouldn’t be enough room to brew without the place being closed.
 We had a sample of everything they had on tap at the time: Watermelon Wit, Watermelon Sour, Gose with hibiscus and orange, Smoked Apple Rauch, Cream Ale, Amber, Stout (sweet), IPA. Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All (Hopkinsville Brewing Company)”