A Beer Judge’s Diary: How I Studied for 6 Months, Drove 600 Miles and STILL Botched the Exam

  I asked to wait for this to be published until after I got the results because I didn’t want there to be even the slightest chance I’d influence scoring. I want to thank the graders. They have a tough job and I, unintentionally, may have made it tougher. (See my grader comments at the end of the column.) I got a 72. Considering my experience I am by no means proud of that, but I do think they did well.
 Do I have a problem with writing about moments in my life that some may think I should be embarrassed about? Apparently, in this case at least, not. And hopefully this might help those who haven’t taken it yet understand more about the tasting portion of the test.

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 This is partially a story of a beer judge sleuth trying to figure out what went wrong. Kudos to my personal Holmes who outsmarted her not as clever as Sherlock husband. Millie set me on the right path: as always. (Sometimes? Maybe? Or “maybe” I should stop digging a hole for myself and get on with the story?)
  I’m BJCP legacy Certified, but I have never been happy with my tasting score. Both times I took it I focused way too much on defects so my final score was in the 60s. On the written exam I did better, obviously.
 When I came home from the Adirondacks in November I found out I had a chance to retake in December, so every day I studied the 2015 Guidelines and judged beer at home. I did this for many reasons. Without the Guidelines my memory is what it is. It’s always been weird what sticks in my head and what doesn’t. And because my writing sucks I wanted to work on that. My elementary teachers passed me because they could see how hard I was trying. I have Gene Wilder’s Blazing Saddles writing hand. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: How I Studied for 6 Months, Drove 600 Miles and STILL Botched the Exam”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: What Do We Mean by “Clean?”

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I’ve seen the word used so many times in judging. I thought I knew what it means and that includes what, to me, is only one contradiction. I had thought “clean” meant no fermentation by products that stand out and interfere with the malt, the hops and whatever else defines a style that has no yeast funk. The contradiction? Well, it’s the Germans who, as the cliché’ goes, must have everything precise, exact, just so. OK, I know that’s stereotyping but I’m only mentioning the perception, I have known plenty of Germans who are definitely not that way.
 To be clean and be German in this sense seems to be defined as no fruity, funky, significant DMS or buttery/diacetyl-like esters. Unfortunately that often doesn’t seem to be include a light sulfur-sense to some Germans, which I find their much treasured lager yeast sometimes provides. Not all the time, but a lot.
 OK, I admit: like some are sensitive to butter maybe I’m sensitive to sulfur? Possibly because a little butter bothers me not, but I REALLY dislike sulfur? Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: What Do We Mean by “Clean?””

A Beer Judge’s Diary: New Scoresheet Anyone?

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 My regular readers may remember my column on AHA scoresheets. I admit: I wasn’t too kind when it came to the check off judging sheet used mostly at Nationals. My opinion hasn’t changed. Now there’s a new BJCP/AHA score sheet. I like it, but…
 One change they never seem to consider is to scoring: drop the top aroma point value from 12 to at least 10 and maybe add it to mouthfeel?
 Oh, I understand aroma contributes a lot to beer. How many entries have I judged with almost no aroma that otherwise are to style and phenomenal? Yes, the link between the two is substantial, but is it so important that the range be so wide that might punish an otherwise great entry? Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: New Scoresheet Anyone?”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Erie County Fair Home Brew Competition

This ABJD is even more “diary” in nature than some because the story behind the adventure is as interesting as the event itself, and admittedly I know less event specifics than I should. For a complete list of winners please keep checking Erie County Fair’s Facebook Page. According to a recent post the first in show was Kevin DiTondo of Cheektowaga, NY with his Vienna Lager. Part of his winnings are having his beer brewed at Flying Bison Brewery in Buffalo.

By Ken Carman
  It’s April and I have a situation. I have lots of situations: story of my life, but I’m already veering off course. It’s Ken writing this, right?
 Anywhosie, like some fool writer who makes up his own words, Ken tends to make his own “situations,” and is good one. We have a boat to tow up north and, this year, a car too. The somewhat obscene sounding two ball rule means I can’t do the more dangerous thing and tow both. And for many unmentioned reasons that would extend this tale towards tedious, some of a somewhat self sabotaging nature, I need to tow the boat first.
 On the bright side, with my increasingly buff 64 year old body I’ll be able to fulfill my not so wet dream fantasy of flipping the 90 horse Evinrude upside down, use it like a propeller, and slide across the ice of Stillwater ten miles to Beaver River. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Erie County Fair Home Brew Competition”

A Beer Judge’s Diary- Peach State Brew Off

By Ken Carman
 This edition will be short. Stay tuned: I will explain why.
 I have never judged at this competition before for various reasons. I used to tour through Atlanta with my kid shows and educational activities. I stopped touring because of Atlanta traffic is wild and crazy, rush hour traffic amounting to parking lots and many of the places hiring me kept shifting ownership almost weekly. I’d book a program and three weeks later I’d walk in to new owners and, “Who are you?”
 Atlanta is a crazy busy, exploding outward town. The closer you get to Atlanta the harder it is to find reasonable motels more than questionable quality. There are plenty of great places, but very pricey. Why? Demand is high.
 The resorts I used to stay at were far out of town. There used to be free camping on Allatoona Lake to the north, but to save money the state shut them down. The short but simple face was, business-wise, it started to make less and less sense. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary- Peach State Brew Off”

From the Bottle Collection: Silverback Gorilla #9

 Without intent, I have collected well over 1,000 beer bottles since the early 70s. When something finally had to be done about the cheap paneling in this old modular, I had a choice: tear down the walls while, oh, so carefully, replacing the often rotted 1X3s; OR, cover them with…

The Bottle Collection.

Written by Ken Carman

 I know, I haven’t written for a while. I have no excuses. And this hasn’t been brewed for quite a while. I’m sure they have plenty of “excuses;” better known as “reasons:” formerly brewed in Dubuque, Iowa, like they went out of business in 2006? This has been on my best of shelf for a long time. Continue reading “From the Bottle Collection: Silverback Gorilla #9”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: 17? When the ‘Logic’ I Use Bites Me in the… Beer Judge!

By Ken Carman
 No, I won’t tell you where I heard this.
 No, I won’t tell you when I heard this.
 No, I won’t tell you who said it.
 And I must ask, is this some change somehow I’ve missed, or just hasn’t reached the many places I judge? I suspect the last.
 This not a commentary on any competition I’ve judged, any fellow judge, or any organizer. These days I find competitions almost always run quite well, and having started two myself: it’s hard work you do for the love of competitions and judging. No, it’s about how someone can find themselves suddenly considering arguments they once dismissed. It’s about how scoring ‘logic’ can spin around and bite someone in the… beer judge. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: 17? When the ‘Logic’ I Use Bites Me in the… Beer Judge!”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Balance?

By Ken Carman

 Oh, God: if I answer this wrong David Houseman might excommunicate me from the church of the holy beer judges: the BJCP. Would Mike Dixon prematurely desecrate my grave? Gordon Strong stop taking my obscene phone calls? (And he enjoyed them SO much.)
 But I must ask, “Is balance over rated?” Like when the winter slumber-er who hibernates is rudely awaken, don’t bite my digital head off yet… bear… with me.

Courtesy Wide Open Spaces
Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Balance?”

Beer Profile: 2017 Anchor Christmas Ale

Profiled by Ken Carman

I am so disappointed,and not just with this.Last Anchor I got was Foghorn and each and every bottle’s contents were phenol-laced: rubber hose. This quaff might be called phenolic too, but I actually think the balance may be off: ginger and/or clove in a fairly light old ale base that’snot all that “old.”

Not sure aging would help.

I believe it to be ginger and reminds me of ginger ale with a dark color. it could almost be food coloring as much as it contributes to taste. High side medium carbonation with a definite carbonic bite.

Deep tan pillow head, black as hell with some deep red highlights peeking through, this has alight aroma of spices.

We bought a magnum for Christmas and had so much it became somewhat annoying. We usedhalf of it for cooking. We have better quaffs we have brewed ourselves. A simplistic quaff for a season that cries out for fireplace sipping complexity.

3.84 on BA,



Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”


___________________________Beer HERE


A Beer Judge’s Diary: Music City Brew Off

No pictures this time, more just a review of the first competition we judged at, probably 1999. It’s been said and done before in this case. Let’s have a break. Next year back to more traditional coverage, maybe?

By Ken Carman

Millie and I started judging at Music City Brew Off. I think it was 99. I still have the 98 guidelines, somewhere. Since then we’ve judged all over the east coast, due in part to the fact we’re from upstate NY originally, and I spent close to 30 years on tour doing kid shows and educational activities.
I thought this year went well, with at least one problem that seems to be increasing: the unavailability of judges. The easy thing to do is blame other clubs for not helping out, but it goes both ways. Clarksville’s August competition had one MCB judge there: Millie, she who apparently has just enough masochism to her nature that she and I have been together since 74.
When will you ever learn, young lady? Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Music City Brew Off”