A Beer Judge’s Diary: HAZtoberfest


Written by Ken Carman

bjd-265x300 I have never, ever, canned out on a homebrew competition, and I am glad to have made this one. The original set up was simple: I had drop off points in Erie and Buffalo for The Old Forge BIG Beer and I would use that as an excuse to do what I really love to do: judge. Immediately it started to fall apart: no entries in Erie and, at the same time, I found out my friend Dave, near Rochester, couldn’t let me crash on his couch.
 Thankfully my friend, ex-captain of the Starship Quandary in the Wort galaxy and fellow judge, Tim Belczak, plus his, oh, so patient wife Cheryl, allowed me to crash there two nights. They even introduced me to their two in house gremlins: Dax and Drew… who look a lot better, and nothing like, the picture to your right from Gremlins 2. But they were as entertaining, as energetic: in far better, and nicer, ways. We didn’t even have to get those gremlins wet, or wait until after midnight, for them to be entertaining.
 If you haven’t seen the movies, never mind. But if you haven’t seen the sequel do gremlins-2track it down. Nothing like a herd (Herd? Bunch? A… MURDER???) of gremlins doing a Busby Berkeley routine while singing New York, New York in Grand Central Station.
 Drew and Dax were the life of the party. Smart kids. Soon mom and dad will go, “Huh? What?” I’m betting Dax, or Drew, will be a Grand Master before you, or me, Tim. (Safe bet with me!)
 So, bright and early we headed out of Buffalo to pick up another fellow judge and former gerbil dentist Terry Felton… I kid about “dentist,” no, I wasn’t telling the… TOOTH… and off we went to Erie. I find it ironic that our friend, Terry, looks a bit like the original brewer at The Brewerie, Gary, only Terry’s more handsome than the guy you see on the right.
 I have been to Erie many times. It’s a picturesque town with Presque Isle dangling atop like a big finger sticking into Lake Erie. During the Revolutionary War patriots hid their ships from the Brits by dragging them across the thin peninsula to the other side.
  I have also been to the The Brewerie many times. It’s in a grand, old, train station, and long after it stopped being a train station it was the home to Erie Brewing… before they built their own facility in Erie. After it became The Brewerie I interviewed their brewer, Gary, not long after they opened. You can find that interview by clicking here.
 We judged upstairs. There were 163 entries and 88 total participants. Results can be found here.
 I was on a collapsed category in the morning that included so many I don’t remember what the actual collapse was, and to be honest I can’t find my E on it. IPAs in the afternoon. Two teams, one including the noted Tom Barnes.
 Sandwiches for lunch, then a slow start in the pm. Did you know that alcohol can significantly lower blood sugar? Makes you very sleepy. Try a jelly filled donut. TRUST ME. It works.


 I was surprised to be invited to do big BOS, and it was fun. We had several AWOG and Upstate NY judges at the table, but “surprisingly” only one from Tennessee. Bet you have NO idea who that was.
 As with all judging events Niagara Association and Upstate related I am almost always surprised by innovative judging methods they develop. This time, once we got down to a few entries, we voted instead of discussed how we wanted them placed. I can see how that helps when judges are still passionately defending certain entries, though I do miss the joy of trying to ninja my fellow judges into agreeing with me.
 A joke, of course, but I was amazed at the fact Tom Barnes and I voted for the same placement. I assure you we’re not clones, besides: he’s smarter than I am.
 We left early: long drive. I was delighted that my judge’s gift was a bottle of Voodoo Brewing’s Grand Met. Some of you may remember my article on Voodoo.
 A very well run competition, and well worth the adventure.

Organizer Brian Salapek and the competition staff.

Donald MedicineMan Dombrowski took a 2nd place Amber and Dark Lagers and an Honorable Mention for English Pale, Scottish, German Wheat/Rye.
Chris Page took a 3rd place in the IPAs.
Jillian Orr took a 3rd place in the Light and Amber Hybrids
Brian Salapek took a 1st in American Ales and a 2nd in IPAs
Bill Temple Jr and Sara Temple took home a 1st in Belgian Ales
Sam Weaver took a 1st in English Pale, Scottish, German Wheat/Rye ales.
Congratulations everyone and good job representing our clubs so well!

Ken A Beer Judge’s Diary is one of many columns by Ken Carman: Certified BJCP beer judge, homebrewer since 1979 and seeker of both simple and complex quaffs who, until the very early 70s, thought he didn’t care all that much for beer. Then he discovered brews beyond the standard fare’ available on the east coast.
©Copyright 2015
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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