Written by Ken Carman for The Professor
Normally I use this column to talk about competitions, judging issues and such. Well, “competition” counts here, I suppose: chili. And the 2015 Mid-State Brew Crew’s Chili Cookoff did feature a lot of beer. I even brought three of my braggots.
I suppose my main reasoning for covering this grand affair is to suggest other clubs consider a chili event like this. And, for those competition oriented, with some tweaking this could become something that educates on the basics of judging, whether beer or chili.
I was delighted with how well this annual affair was organized. Tom Gentry, Music City Brewer and owner of Rebel Brewing, had a small chili judging affair a few years back, but Mid State Brew Crew, out of Murfreesboro, TN really puts on a great shebang.
There were 19 entries on Sunday, February 7th, 2015. Prizes were awarded for best chili, chili with the most unique ingredients and the hottest entry. I loved the variety. One had a nice deep, yet subtle, tomato sense, probably my favorite was one with a rich, meaty base that reminded me of venison. I found out Adrian Oldham was the chef and had used lamb. I use lamb in my gumbo: the most underrated meat in America, in my opinion. Another entry was a rich white bean chili, and another offered zucchini, okra, green peppers. I can’t mention them all, but there wasn’t a bad chili in the bunch.
Murfreesboro and Rutherford Wine Lovers Network also attended and offered some samples of wine as well. This chili off was held at Let’s Make Wine, just off the historic square in Murfreesboro. Cheryl and Jack were gracious hosts for sure, and even let us lock up.
Art Whitaker ran the meeting, and did a grand job bouncing between beer and chili sampling.
Jason Farley won for Best Overall and Most Unique Ingredient. Lisa Wadzinski won Hottest Chili.
The award was what they call a “traveling trophy.” For those unfamiliar with the term it’s a trophy that passes from winner to winner. Hey, I was never into sports, what do I know of “traveling trophies?”
I contacted Jason Farley. Art Whitaker had suggested he would know more about the history of this chili event.
“Last weekend was the 8th annual. We started it in 2008. It was an idea formed by a handful of the original founding members including Michael Semich, Matt Warise, Harry Watson and myself. (Also Jeremy Taylor and Allan Burk.) Originally we only had one award. Several years ago, probably 3 or 4 now, we added â€œMost Uniqueâ€ and â€œHottest Chiliâ€ awards into the mix. Our clubâ€¦ (like many homebrewers and homebrew clubs) â€¦has a close relationship with food. All of our big events like the Christmas party are as much about the gourmet eats as they are about the beer. â€
I have noticed that. There was a time when Music City Brewers would hold their Christmas Party where folks would be making gumbo, chili and other fareâ€™ outside and inside. The Christmas Party for Escambia Bay Brewers had plenty of brewer-chef wannabes. And usually when I visit a club thereâ€™s lots of food. I mean, after all, many pro-brewers Iâ€™ve met started imagining their most creative brews by dabbling in the culinary arts
According to Jason the trophy is a growler with the club logo. It’s filled with grain. The winner signs the growler. The year they won is also listed,
You may remember my suggestion that this might serve as a fun opportunity for potential judges, and actual judges. What about having a form similar to the BJCP judging form and chefs could get feedback? I suppose looking into actual chili judging might help, but I would think a simple form where tasters could offer suggestions and positive feedback for at least one entry might be an interesting add. I think, with a little pre-direction the usual BJCP judging form might even work. It would be especially great for those who have yet to judge, and those who have entered but not judged. Kind of a mini-learning experience wrapped in a lot of spicy fun.
Expect forms back to have a chili stain or two. It would be a badge of honor, a sign of a well loved entry.
Probably once the tasting is done, and everyone votes, there could be a brief time to fill out short sheet while sampling beer? Judges could be anonymously assigned to each chili, or they pick one to judge.
No judging your own chili! Tut, tut, tut!
Turning it into a major part of the event might not be a good idea, however. This was fun, and should be kept that way.
Here are some past winners…
Jeremy Taylor 2008
Matt Warise 2009
Mike Semich 2010
Scott Beavers 2011
Phil Vacca 2012
Jeff Weidner 2013
Jeremy Taylor 2014
Jason Farley 2015
Certainly judging isn’t a necessary add. It’s grand as is. But, either way, what a great idea for spicing up regular club meetings!
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.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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