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”

ABJD: On the 24th Music City Brew Off and Judge Decision Making


 As per my decision to change the nature of this column I am taking an angle that may interest ALL judges, brewers who enter competitions and stewards. Hence “Judge Decision Making.”
 It’s long, so I split it into 3 parts, one covering the process of judging, one the competition, and the last one offers a few conclusions. This way it’s easier to pick and choose what you want to read.
 You can find many of the winners mentioned and other information in Tara Mitchell’s video blogs. Just click on the part you want to watch: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5
If you are reading the Music City Brewer-Score a more comprehensive list is provide as well.

Part One: Judge decision making

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I spent most of MCBO judging with Joseph Nance, known throughout the club as a quiet introvert who rarely speaks. He is like the shadow in the corner rarely seen or heard, a subtle demeanor, judging in utter silence…
 OK, I can’t continue typing. The laughter is making me miss keys on the keyboard. He’s fun to judge with, but when it comes to beer “introvert?” Not so much. Continue reading “ABJD: On the 24th Music City Brew Off and Judge Decision Making”

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?”