A Beer Judge’s Diary: Pawtucket!

Before I retired I used to tour through Rhode Island in the 90’s and 2000’s as an entertainer and educational service provider. Of all the things I miss, I miss spinach pies the most. I was determined to find one if I ever came back. Millie was skeptical regarding how good they were, and how the pies in Rhode Island were quite different.

Millie and I missed this competition last year because of snow. It’s a long drive for us out of Eagle Bay, NY; a tiny, tiny town set deep in the southwestern Adirondacks. We almost missed it this year. The plan was to stay in Johnstown, NY, for the night then in the morning drive to Pawtucket for OSHC. We got there and Ellen (Millie’s sister.) and Bill Hunt warned us about an incoming storm. So we drove into Massachusetts and crashed in our Sequoia at a Turnpike rest area.

Over $200 for the hotel we had already booked, and expenses pending the next week, we thought it best.

We checked out the hotel on arrival in one hell of a rainstorm, then headed out to The Guild, location for OSHC… Ocean State Homebrew Competition. STILL one hell of a rainstorm.

They had needed Cider and Mead judges, and since I’m endorsed for both, that was my task for the day. Millie judged Mead and Irish.

The Guild is impressive. HUUGGGEEE!!!! The complex itself looks quite old, I wonder what it was before?

Pouring rain, sometimes eventually closing in on hurricane proportions once we got back to the hotel later, had us walking as quick as we could all day. First we walked to and through the serving room: located in what one might call a vast beer hall, then back outside through the drench to The Barn, also a large facility.

Breakfast! Coffee!

They were doing electronic scoring, which we had never done. Apologies to Jennifer who I slammed with messages before getting here, my only defense being we didn’t have laptops or tablets we could bring and didn’t know if they’d have scoresheets for us backward old style judges. (I kid, I was told this was their first effort at digital scoring.) Luckily Judy Pardee told me via Facebook they would still have paper forms. We were both offered laptops and tablets but for some reason they couldn’t get them online and working for us. Probably because service kept going in and out: too many online. The morning Specialty Cider flight became problematic because every time my fellow judge went back to the digital pull list it messed up what had been entered: a navigation nightmare. So I asked for a print out of the pull sheet. After that it went well, but made us one of the last teams to finish.

I judged in the morning with Mark Gryska. After the pull list problem was solved “smooth” would be a good descriptor for how it went.

After lunch I judged with Lyn Howard. We were scheduled for Specialty and Spiced Mead. Two interesting entries; both with lemon, ginger and candied ginger. Balance-wise they couldn’t be more opposite. One the ginger dominated everything and made it quite sweeet. The other: more subtle. Yet, as far as we knew, it had been different mead makers. Of course we don’t know when we judge, as it should be. But afterwards I was asked my an entrant if we had judged a mead like that he said only one was his.

Years ago I judged a Mead only comp in Savannah: Domras Cup Mead Competition. They had a big table filled with the oddest meads I have ever had. This competition confirmed just how creative mead makers are. As creative, maybe more so, than beer brewers. My compliments to mead makers everywhere, and of course those who entered. It was an honor to judge each and every entry.

We were wasted, and I don’t mean alcohol-wise, after the drive and sleeping in the car bit the night before, so we didn’t stay for the after event.

An odd, not comp-based comment, to end the story. We stayed at Pawtucket’s Hampton Inn. Great hotel, but tis pricey. However, if you ever decide to try the great Irish Restaurant next door better hurry. They’re turning it Mexican. And as several people commented, “Why? It’s not like there are too few Mexican places in Providence area!”

487 entries.
Best of Show Beer #1: Matt Paiva.
Best of Show #1 Cider: Daniel Kukuk
Best of Show #1 Mead: Bill Boyer (Who also won #2 and #3!

On the way home we took my regular route home past where I used to stay with my tour bus before I retired. They’re open!!! Before passing into CT I snagged a spinach pie at Famous Pizza on 101. Millie was impressed. Oh, Rhode Island pie miss you!

NOT the Famous spinach pie,. Theirs is bigger. But close enough.


“A Beer Judge’s Diary” is a column written by Ken Carman, a Certified BJCP judge with both mead an cider endorsements. Ken has been judging since the late 90’s. He also makes mead, cider and brews beer. He started brewing beer in 1979, when incidentally Jimmy Carter signed the bill to legalize making beer. He didn’t know, he was just tired of the limited beer selection there was at the time.

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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions.
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