A Beer Judge’s Diary: Taking the Mead Tasting Test, Bay Shore, Long Island, NY


Andrew Luberto: BJCP Grand Master, mead, Advanced Cicerone

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
Note: Readers will be wondering, “You took a test on Long Island when you live in Nashville?” So this edition will provide a lot of context. Hence why it reads even more like a diary than previous editions.

 This is the 3rd test I have taken since I became Certified BJCP back in the 2000’s. Usually my main purpose is using tests as a self teaching tool. They inspire me to go out of my way and study more, learn more. I don’t want to be a judge who just passes the test, gets his rank, and never does anything to improve, to challenge myself. For me the pressure of an upcoming test is perfect.
 Though these tests can be like an advanced refresher course, with this test I had as strong an incentive to achieve a mead endorsement.

Mead judging at Austin, NHC. Courtesy Beer and Wine Journal
 I have tried to spread the beer tasting tests apart, time-wise, because I understand more new judges is important.
 Bringing at least one more mead judge to the mid-South competitions matters to me. The mid-South is somewhat of a mead judging desert, in my opinion.
 Since we don’t have the mead judges we need there are few (to no) mead entries. Far less than I hope for. So if I pass, dare I hope, dare I dream, dare I imagine, as a mead judge I might become Johnny Apple Mead? (Did that weak attempt at a joke make you Cy… Sir?)
 I will start by reporting the basics of how my beer journey, that started in the 70s, had me arriving at Bay Shore, Long Island, for a mead tasting test all the way from Nashville, TN. Then… specifics of the test itself; as much as I can offer. Third… observations, especially personal analysis. I WILL be quite critical of myself. Last… the big wave goodbye as I headed north, with some personal notes.
 I started brewing in the 70s. Then in the 2000’s I began brewing braggots: kind of a back door to mead at the time. The style appealed to me because I enjoy complex quaffs. When I told fellow brewers at the time what I was brewing I’d get, “What is THAT?” This was when online wasn’t a thing yet and legacy mead tests were even harder to find than Sinclair brand dinosaur era-based fuel on my main route.
 I had to rely on Thruway Sunoco to get here instead.
 Yes, I have a history of doing idiotic things like driving long distances to take BJCP tests. My second Legacy was in Knoxville. My other two, post Certified, were in Atlanta. This year I almost drove to Pittsburgh area from Nashville for a mead test, but it was canceled.
 I took my online mead test just before COVID really hit. Because of COVID the tasting portion of several regular BJCP tests have been canceled for obvious reasons, and I only have a year to get this done. That has been difficult: tasting tests for mead have been even harder to find. There are close to none in the mid-South.
Knickerbocker 2014. Courtesy Chad’z Beer Reviews
 I started judging beer around 1998, became BJCP in the 2000’s, I find it unfortunate; except one mead only competition in Savannah this year, that I always end up head of the table when there is a mead table. There just doesn’t seem to be enough mead judges; especially in the mid-South. And not just the South. One of the first mead tables that I became the head judge for was at Knickerbocker, back when the competition was in Albany. I wanted to learn so I told the organizer if he had a mead judge coming I would love to judge with them so I could learn more. Never guess who had to cancel?
 Through this column I have become an advocate for more mead judges. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Taking the Mead Tasting Test, Bay Shore, Long Island, NY”

From the Bottle Collection

IMG_0483
 Without intent, I have collected well over 2,000 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.

FromBCollection-150x150 I haven’t written an edition of this column for quite a while, but after a few Zoom meetings with various brew clubs, and members asking about the collection, I thought I’d feature some of the collection.
 First, top left, is a defunct brewery from the 90’s Saratoga Thoroughbrews may be familiar with: Lake Titus Brewery in Malone, NY: a town I used to travel through when Millie, now Carman, went to Potsdam, and I went to Plattsburgh. (I also got in a small accident there, but that’s another slippery tale heading down an ice ice coated hill with a streetlight at the bottom in the early 70’s. Pintos dented REAL easy!)
 I really don’t remember the beer: an Amber Ale. Must not have been remarkable. I usually remember. Continue reading “From the Bottle Collection”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Amber

Different colors of actual amber

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 This comes from an argument I had quite a while ago with another BJCP judge about how we talk about colors: specifically amber. If you look at the picture at the top of the column you may note that actual amber is certainly not just one color, and definitely not always lighter than what we think of as copper, though copper is not a singular color. It does vary… somewhat.
 If you look into the colors of honey there are variations on amber honey too in mead judging. So why do we stick to one hue? One variation? Shouldn’t we have gradations to more accurately reflect the actual color? I might even consider dropping copper if considering light to dark, because copper is more a hue variation with the addition of a red tint to it. Copper, when it comes to light to dark, could be covered by amber.
 I do believe in standards, but standards that reflect the nature of the color, not one singular nature. I have read the argument that everyone is familiar with the standard color due to amber the substance that is commonly used in jewelry. My father made jewelry out with amber setting all the time, but that practice seems to have faded with better fake gems. That one version may have gotten a slight kick from Jurassic Park, but how long ago was that? Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Amber”

Profile: Southern Grist’s Blueberry Pancake Breakfast Brown

Profiled by Ken Carman

Deep tan head headed towards brown that doesn’t hold long. Quaff brown almost black, so dark clarity very hard to assess. SRM in 30s. Head clings to side of glass in ring. Tipped glass provides just a little clarity. No “floaties.”

The aroma is brown malt mixed with a whiff of blueberries behind that. Maple syrup-like sweetness way behind that: barely tingles the nose. What blueberry sense there is is more blueberry syrup-like. Slightly sweet in aroma: pancakes a definite sense to that. No alcohol in aroma, no hops.
Continue reading “Profile: Southern Grist’s Blueberry Pancake Breakfast Brown”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Zoom!!!!!! to Great Meetings

Picture courtesy Russell Scott

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 Yeah, ya’ll have to know: best to meet via the internet these days due to COVID. I downloaded Zoom on my laptop and the home computer just before the first one we attended with Music City Brewers: a version of what we used to call Thirsty Thursday.Thirsty Thursday tends to be a little chaotic anyway, so that wasn’t a surpise. The net made it a little worse, but not much.
 It’s still a good idea even if it’s the more social gatherings people used to have way, way, WAY back in time. You know a month, more or less?
 I’ve already found a microphone, now I have to find a camera for the home PC. I swore it had one. These days it’s no humongous surprise that stores are sold out. Onward to the net.
  I felt Zoom shined the next day during this month’s regular meeting for Clarksville Carboys, Clarksville, TN. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Zoom!!!!!! to Great Meetings”

Inspection- COVID and Beer Yeast


By Ken Carman
 The analogy is by all means imperfect. I will point out some of the ways it is imperfect. But I do believe it will help folks who might not understand yet some thing about the nature of COVID.
 We keep talking about flattening the curve and how once it starts going back down things can open back up. I think when it comes to basic biology that’s a mistake. And I am open to you, dear readers, pointing out
Inspection
any errors here. Hey, I was the Education/English major who ended up in Communications/Mass Media for my BA, then to Music Business and Recording. Science was NOT my strongest field in school. (However I have always had a vast interest in it, if only it they didn’t insist on turning it into a foreign language. But that’s another topic.)
 I am also a homebrewer who has written about beer for many years. But I admit I am a generalist in almost all fields, including brewing. I think that’s why some analogies I use can work well helping others understand. Not all. Ask my wife.
 How is beer yeast like COVID? Continue reading “Inspection- COVID and Beer Yeast”

A Beer-y Good Story: How Studebaker Might Help Craft Beer in the Days of COVID-19

“Really, Ken, a failed company?” Actually Studebaker survived, now part of Worthington Industries. They simply don’t make cars anymore, which hooks right back into my main point here…

 Yes, Brew-ginia, there IS Studebaker Beer! And it’s in Tippecanoe Mansion, former home to the Studebaker family!

 I know Studebaker no longer makes cars, a fact I have never been happy with. However, I may never have met my first love on 4 wheels: a 61 Studebaker car I bought for $25 and took me 100,000 miles before rust and burning oil issues took Harvey away, if they had stayed in the car business. A 7 year old car for $25? Eventually Harvey went to automotive heaven where oil changes happen every day and no rust dare enter those chrome hubcap gates.
 I didn’t name the car. My ex-girlfriend’s friend did.
 Studebaker as a car and truck builder survived, often barely, though tough times, like craft brewing will be going through now. Yes, there are Studebaker-related lessons for tough times, like during Corona, for the small professional brewer to heed. I will bring it back around to just beer.

Studebaker Mansion and Studebaker beer.
Continue reading “A Beer-y Good Story: How Studebaker Might Help Craft Beer in the Days of COVID-19”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Savannah

Picture judging glasses courtesy Sandy Cockerham
By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I have headed a few mead tables. The fact I have headed every mead table I’ve been at up until now says something important: we need more actual mead judges in the BJCP. In fact at the first few I headed, well over ten years ago; closer to twenty, I got the sense mead was, like Harry Potter, the poor stepchild of BJCP world: living under the stairs; only because the favored son (beer) was the star of the family. Not cruel, as in Harry Potter, more an anomaly in an organization started around beer.
 There were reasons for so few mead judges. Back in the legacy days you had to find a sit down write test for beer that included tasting. I drove to Knoxville for my second legacy test out of Nashville, beer-wise. Tests local enough to drive to were tough to find, sometimes. Mead was worse. Has that improved? Yes. But even now finding a mead tasting test in the southeast is tough. Thankfully, like beer, they went online with the questions. Tasting, so far, has been long drive to out of Nashville, and there are so few… in comparison.
 I certainly would love to give mead tests, but first I need endorsement, obviously.
 As I started to study again for an upcoming test, I decided judging a mead only competition might be helpful. I chose Domras because I entered a Dunkelwiezen Braggot a while back and the comments I got back were quite interesting and helpful. The fact it did well was secondary, at best. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Savannah”

Brew Biz: Werts and All- Trends


Zima. According to Wiki it was brought back in 2017 and 2018 but, “It did not return in 2019.”

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.

           The TopicTrends: The Good, the Bad, the Yucky

 Remember Zima? Don’t you wish you could forget? Some dare called it a MALT beverage.
 There have been all kinds of trends over the years. I suppose Billy Beer might have been called “a trend.” When they vended out the brewing for Billy Beer the name became a curse. But it really depended on who brewed it. For the time the one brewed by FX Matt out of Utica, NY, was actually sort of an IPA for its time. Not bad. Not incredible, but better than a lot of the Bud clones that dominated the market in the mid 70s. Who knows, if some of the others had been better maybe the hop trend might have had an earlier start.
 But I’m really writing about trends that have homebrewer and pro-brewers going hop crazy, hazy hop crazy, sour crazy, brett crazy (While calling it all sour: really?) and lactobacillus crazy. (The short list.)
 Lacto is a good example of one of the negative sides to trends. Many I have had aren’t really definable by any style, except a non-existent one called “lacto soup.” Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All- Trends”

ABJD: Knickerbocker, 2019

Racing City Brewery, 250 Excelsior Ave, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Side topic for this edition of A Beer Judge’s Diary: location, location, location

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 The one consistent thing I have found that’s a frequent challenge in any competition is the search for “the place.” I would have typed “the perfect place:” but of course there is no such thing. Every place has some downside. I’ve judged where there are jack hammers breaking up an old floor below me and a plank to walk downstairs once beer does what beer does: turn into Budweiser. I kid. Just think of the color.
The 23rd Knickerbocker Competition: proudly brought to you by Saratoga Thoroughbrews homebrew club
 Sometimes the location is a matter of cost and you end up with less than desirable conditions.
 Knickerbocker, run by Saratoga Thoroughbrews (Saratoga Springs, NY) has had their changes. The first two times I judged this competition it was The Pump Station in Albany: fine in the morning but a busy brewpub can have problematic noise and other situations, as Music City Brewers found out with Boscos: a now extinct (mostly: one in Memphis) brewpub. Continue reading “ABJD: Knickerbocker, 2019”