Written by Ken Carman
One of the more problematic things to really achieve as a judge is decent palate education. You can’t do it by simply drinking more beer. In fact, unless you drink a lot of defective beer, and styles you’re not fond of, and otherwise great beer that’s considered off style: drinking more may be counter-productive when it comes to educating the palate. An occasional defect session run by your homebrew club is great, except these are flavors, aromas and other parameters you need to be very familiar with; time is not your friend: memory fades, can even change.
The summer before I took the BJCP test again, every week I would stop by Yankee Spirits in Sturbridge: or wherever my tour took me, and buy a beer. Then I would pollute it with Butter Buds, corn juice from a can of corn, Chloraseptic: anything that might mimic a beer defect. I started with NAs and worked my way up to Russian Imperials and Double IPAs.
Clubs often have off flavor seminars, or club meetings where polluted beer is served: “polluted” with a defect kit offered by the BJCP containing vials of concentrated defect solution that; if you sniff them straight, really are quite “vile.” Beer could be left out in the sun, beer might be very, very old. You too can drink cardboard beer: yum!
We do whatever nasty thing we need to do to beer to experience the defects we need to be looking for when judging beer.
Note: I also recommend sessions, to provide just one example, where Anchor Porter, in a label-less bottle, is served as an American Amber and participants tell everyone why this is, or isn’t, an American Amber, or a Dry Stout, or…
A few years ago I brought a case of Sam Adams single hop series: where they took their Latitude 48 and made several versions with only one hop each, to a Music City Brewers meeting for all to try. I think we found it educational… so I was already interested in being able to understand how different hops affect beer. This concept seems to have been filtered into something called The Hop Experience, where homebrewers can take a very simple beer, usually a light beer, and put different hops in it.
Enter Clarksville Carboys…
Millie and I are members of Music City Brewers, but we live closer to Clarksville than most Davidson County residents: out towards Ashland City. I used to live even closer in Cheatham County part of Joelton and worked for a while in Clarksville. So when we found out there was a homebrew club in Clarksville, Tennessee, we decided to visit occasionally, when we had a chance. Our first visit was about a year ago, and three weeks ago we got to visit again. That’s when James Visger, president, told us about their plan to do The Hop Experience. We’re into beer education, so we couldn’t resist. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: The Hop Experience”