A Beer Judge’s Diary: New York State Fair Homebrew Competition

Written by Ken Carman

Here’s a quote from an E the judges received…

 There were 279 entries judged and 174 registered participants, judges, and stewards. Winners can be found HERE.

nysfair and 026

bjd-265x300   Shhh! Don’t disturb their natural habitat! Early in the morning the wild, some native: some not so, beer judges flock to see how well the beers floc’d, or not. They start with coffee, donuts, bagels and conversation, then the clarion call comes as the rulers of the roost tell them time to sit and judge. Then they cautiously, carefully prod, poke the entries with eyes and noses, and take a careful sip…. all to assess how this year’s “crop” of entries did.
  While I live in Tennessee, Millie and I have a retirement shack in the Adirondacks: Beaver River, NY… not far from where I partially grew up. Plus we’re both from New York State originally. For years I have wanted to judge beer at Salt City Homebrewers run NYS Fair Competition. Two problems: I’m a thousand miles away, and when I’m not my other home… Beaver River… has no roads going to it. This means getting in and out is sometimes not all that different from, well, coming up from Tennessee: difficult and awkward.
  We’re hoping to fix that with a second place in the Old Forge area when we retire and return home.
 Kind of like those birds I mentioned, eh?
  This year this entertainer’s schedule allowed for judging at the Fair, plus I had to leave Beaver River about the same time for the New England part of my tour. Having been by many times when I was younger I was curious what the grounds were like.
 Up at 4am because old man wakeup-itis had hit me: my cousin’s place near Ithaca, I slowly drove to Syracuse…

nysfair and 021
Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: New York State Fair Homebrew Competition”

Beer Reviews by Tom Becham, Esq.: Black Butte XXV

Courtesy thefullpint.com
Courtesy thefullpint.com

Courtesy constructiveconsumption.wordpress.com
Courtesy constructiveconsumption.wordpress.com
Any craft beer geek has to respect Deschutes Brewery. They’ve been around since 1988, and produce the biggest selling domestically-produced dark beer, Black Butte Porter. To be sure, Deschutes has had a noticeable decline in quality as they’ve drastically increased their production in recent years, but that seems inevitable with any expanding brewery.

Still, Deschutes produces some very good special edition brews. So, when I first saw Black Butte XXV on the shelves about a year ago, I had to pick one up. This is their 25th Anniversary commemorative, and a celebration of their biggest seller.

In looking at the label, I discovered a couple of interesting things. First, the Black Butte XXV is literally twice the strength of normal Black Butte Porter (11.3% ABV). Second, almost alone among breweries, Deschutes will include a “best AFTER” date for beers that it suggests you cellar. In this case, the “best after” date is 06/10/2014.

Also, the beer was brewed with cocoa nibs, figs, dates, and blackcurrants, and part of it was aged in bourbon barrels.

On pouring, Black Butte XXV is black as Louie Gohmert’s heart, with a very small head (again like Gohmert), and short-lived lacing. Not surprising for a beer of its strength.

The aroma is a mild chocolate and vanilla (from the bourbon barrels), with a basic underlying coffee/roasty smell.

The taste is complex and multi-layered, and changes with temperature.

When colder, Black Butte XXV is all baking chocolate, with subtle dark fruits forming a base note. The individual fig, date and blackcurrant seem to simply meld together, along with the same notes one might find on their own in a porter without actual fruit added. The alcohol at colder temps is almost undetectable.

On warming, Black Butte XXV is a completely different beast. While the cocoa and fruit are still present, vanilla is more prominent, along with a huge blast of bourbon, and a virtual assault on the throat by the alcohol burn.

The finish is long, boozy, and redolent of the cocoa again.

Black Butte XXV has the potential to cellar and develop into a truly amazing beer. However, I believe that Deschutes underestimated the “best after” date, and should’ve pushed it out another year or so. In short, if you manage to find any of this still on the shelves or in the cooler anywhere, buy it, and don’t open it for at least another year, maybe more.

Suggested pairings would be beef or lamb dishes with rich, hearty sauces, or with desserts such as crème brulee, English sticky toffee pudding, or flour-less chocolate cake.
TomBThat’s Tom Becham.

What, you want to know more?


He lives in California.

Is that enough?


Gee, you’re demanding.

OK he’s a great writer who has contributed many times to PGA. And he lives in Oxnard.

Thanks for OXING.

We Want Beer: Prohibition And The Will To Imbibe

Nobody could hazard a guess at how many thousands of mugs of beer had been served over the old mahogany bar at Weis Brothers Saloon. Bartender John Mich, who had manned the beer taps at the Milwaukee watering hole since the 1890s, probably could have come closest in his estimate if he had tried. But it seemed only a matter of trivia now for the 20 or so patrons gathered in the back room of the establishment. After all, there was a funeral at hand. They had come together to pay their final respects to their beloved old friend, John Barleycorn.

None in attendance was consoled by the fact that the dearly departed was a mere character of fiction, immortalized in song as the mythical personification of beer. On the contrary, as the ceremony began, some stifled tears, including Mich, whose moans and gurgles were loudest. With hands folded and heads bowed, the somber group encircled the casket, which was artfully decorated with floral tributes placed inside beer mugs and lit candles stuck in liquor bottles.

Saloon employee William Graf delivered the eulogy. “John Barleycorn was foully murdered,” thundered Graf, “and his body found in the back yard of legislation!”

The black-dressed pallbearers then carried John Barleycorn’s earthly remains out of the saloon to the nearby banks of the Milwaukee River. Accompanied by a soft chorus of “Sweet Adeline,” they lowered the casket into the water. (That his final resting place be eternally wet seemed only fitting.) Empty beer bottles, for lack of roses, were tossed in after the sinking casket. The loud splash of the saloon’s cash register being hurled into the river punctuated the ceremony’s conclusion.

The passing of John Barleycorn, of course, meant the demise of Weis Brothers Saloon and thousands just like it all over America. For beer drinkers everywhere, the taps would soon run dry. The year was 1919 and the nation had just ratified what later historians would call “the noble experiment.” Within one year, National Prohibition would officially be under way.

Dry Roots Run Deep

Want to read more? Please click…