A Beer Judge’s Diary: Small and Remote Competitions Have BIG Problems Too

Old Forge, NY

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 You would think a very small competition: perhaps the tiniest one that’s still AHA and BJCP, would be easy. Sometimes they are, often not. We just have different problems.
 There’s only so much one can say reporting on the same competition every year. So I thought coming at it from a different angle might be refreshing. Every year we go to Screamen Eagle in Inlet at the end: great multi-tap thanks to the beer picking abilities of part owner, with his mother, Matt Miller. Every year we sit in Old Forge and Eagle Bay to judge. Except this year. Originally we thought we’d mix things up and have a weekend in Beaver River: town with no roads going to it. But when John Lee, who has been my savior for many years now, told me the changed nature of his job meant he might not even be able to make it we opted for the usual. You would think that would been easy. Uh… NO.
Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Small and Remote Competitions Have BIG Problems Too”

A Microscopic Look at Hazy IPAs

In 2018, the Great American Beer Festival saw more entries in the Juicy/Hazy IPA category (391 to be exact), than America-style India Pale Ale category (which came in at 311). While hopping rates and techniques are hot topics of discussion for the hazy IPA style, yeast strain choice and expression are key attributes you also want to keep in mind.

Yeast contributes more than 500 flavor and aroma compounds to beer, so not only does the perfect strain help complement and round out the overall profile of your beer, it can also help it stand out from the rest.

“A great way to differentiate your hazy beer is by using a unique yeast strain,” said White Labs technical laboratory manager Kara Taylor. “Each strain contributes a different mouthfeel, visual, and flavor and aroma compounds.”

Want to read more? Please click… HERE!!!

A Beer-y Good Story: Akron, Ohio

Courtesy Akron Beacon Journal

R. Shea, 1662 Merriman Rd, Akron, OH 44313
Missing Falls, 540 S Main St, Suite 112, Akron, OH 44311
Hoppin Frog 680 E Waterloo Rd, Akron, OH 44306
Akronym Brewing, 58 E. Market Street, Akron, OH 44308

 So I was in the Adirondacks, Millie was in Nashville. This tradition started over 30 years ago, only I was in a different town every week or two, depending on bookings. We’re planning on retiring in the Adirondacks so I needed a small trailer I used to use on the road. It will help build a small storage area and take generators and a bike off to be service.
 We met close to mid-August. What do two married beer judges and craft beer fans do? Look to see what new brews are available via the web and sail forth to explore!
 We decided on four places. Of course NO WAY am I going to Akron and missing Hoppin Frog, the only curse being I couldn’t harass my friend, and owner, Fred Karm. Hoppin does a lot of extreme beers. Maybe it’s more what he brews? I mean I’m the guy who started and runs a BIG and Odd beer competition. You know we’re of a similar mindset when once we were talking about a low gravity, standard style, brew and Fred said, “Hoppin Frog just doesn’t swing that way.”
 Our first visit was to Akronym Brewing in downtown Akron. Luckily the parking garage has free parking Saturdays. Giant entrance with probably 20 offerings on a huge electronic sign. There were 15 listed on the website. I didn’t count but I’d bet there were more, close to 20. Continue reading “A Beer-y Good Story: Akron, Ohio”

Brew Biz: Werts and All: The Grainfather, Final Assessment

 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.

Written by Ken Carman

 I have been looking for the original article on this, but can’t find it. So I wrote it as a Brew Biz because it’s a product review.
 How you brew matters here. If, unlike me, you’re brewing weekly your experience may be different. I would think it should be better. “Should be,” being a big qualifier. I brew 3 or 4 times a year. If the craft scene had been around, as vibrant, when I started brewing in 79 I might have been just like those who hopefully worked out the kinks, and probably went into being a pro-brewer. But that was not me back then: the stage called, my own, odd, stage, and I gleefully went there.
  For ME it’s been a hobby, and occasional obsession. I don’t want it to be my life, especially not at 65. Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All: The Grainfather, Final Assessment”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: 29?

“But hey, it’s not supposed to be dark but it IS American!?”

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I can’t tell you where this happened, or the circumstances, or why more likely than not there HAD TO BE an out of style issue during this judging session. But none of that matters, really. What matters is what would be best, the right, score? I don’t care for exactness: we’re talking that scoring guide on the lower left side of the traditional judging form… Outstanding, Very Good, Good, Fair and Problematic. Since you are unable to assess this beer in person an exact score is obviously out of the question, though I will tell you the score I gave it.
 I have no interest in challenging those who judged this beer with me, or who ran the event. I was impressed with all of them: very professional. This, really, is a matter of perspective in the final analysis. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: 29?”

Beer Profile: Staropolskie Chimielne Beer

Profiled by Ken Carman

Hint of chill haze, otherwise clarity good. Golden gold with yellow highlights. No head except rim of glass: small bubbles. Head fades fast: pure foam. Head fades fast, clings desperately to side of glass.

2.81 Untappd, 2.4 Rate Beer, 3.71 Beer Advocate.

This is called a Dortmunder. Not as grainy as the other, but hint more caramel. This is a little fruity: tad lemon and orange like. Finishes just a hint sweet. No hops sensed. Low side medium body.

Caramel in nose, less taste. Tad sweet, almost sugary: refined sugar. No hops in nose. Malt seems pils-like, mostly

High side low carbonation mouthfeel, tad slick… not much.

This is a Dortmunder but stay tuned for the next profile: they call that a Dortmunder too. By “they” I mean Beer Advocate. The brewery really doesn’t specify. I was expecting something unique to Poland, like a Gratzer However it is excellent and I would recommend it for those who love lagers. I would drink one and move on, but only because I’m an ale lover. I imagine a lager lover would love either of these polish brews. As I typed, “Stay tuned!”



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: 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”