A Beer Judge’s Diary: Purpose

The "quiet" before the "storm" began.
The “quiet” before the “storm” began.

Written by Ken Carman

The Topic: Finding My Purpose in Beer @ King of the Mountain

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
  As a visiting judge you know there’s a better than even chance you’ll wind up on Specialty, or Spice, Herb and Vegetable. Especially if you do what I do and declare I will judge whatever, wherever, I’m needed. Can’t remember ever checking a category I wouldn’t judge for any competition.
  A masochist? No, I actually enjoy Specialty, even SH&V. They’re both a challenge, and certainly better than bad taste bud burn out. More on that in a moment.
  I judged at King of the Mountain last year when I was on tour, and this year I had to head up to empty out my former tour bus. Not sure about next year. The problem is by no means KOM: it’s a grand competition. It’s because King is over 500 miles away, and without the tour bus we no longer have an easy place to stay.
  This year Millie judged too.
  So, in the morning I was on, never guess what? Yup: collapsed categories, Herb, Vegetable and Specialty. Gee, howja guess?
  It was well worth the effort: part way through, between what had become three teams, a Grodziskie arrived at the table among three entries for each team. I specifically asked for it.
  No, not more evidence of some innate, latent, masochism. I judged a Grodziskie at the New York State Fair this past summer. In the mad dash to find out whatever we could I got a sense of the brew, and as an added plus: it’s in the 2015 guidelines that I had with me.
  From the 2014 Guidelines, which are now called “2015…”

  Overall Impression: A low gravity, highly carbonated, light bodied ale combining an oak smoked flavor with a clean hop bitterness. Highly sessionable.

  It didn’t win, but it did well, and I have to credit my fellow judge, Brent McGrady I think it was, who brought up the missing characteristic… not quite enough hop bitter as per style. If not, it was Brian Koptis, according to Mike Yingling, via E-mail.
  One of the more interesting brews had curry in it. I didn’t judge it originally, but it ended up in mini-BOS and I was suitably impressed. Too often such brews suffer from balance issues, not always the brewer’s fault. I have a jalapeño braggot that I asked a mead judge there to check during lunch. When I bottled it, and even weeks later, it was well balanced. But I had to agree with her, the jalapeños had started to express themselves a tad too much.
  Sometimes spices do that, herbs and some veggies might do that, I suspect: especially spicy peppers. Now I have to figure out some time frame to add in on this braggot so my otherwise successful beer/mead/pepper balancing act isn’t thwarted.
  Remember I wrote Specialty can be better than some regular categories?
  In the afternoon I was on IPAs with 3 teams, including (but not limited to) Joe Koss, Alexander Maggetti and Henry Neilson.
 Usually I would love this kind of assignment, but let’s just say our team of two forwarded nothing, and had the overwhelming desire to rinse our palates several times. Nothing “bad,” just not quite right. Entry after entry seems similar, uninteresting, never quite right. Hop usage never quite to style, or more pale ale-ish: at best. This can make can make any flight seem to last forever.
  A brief break, then back for big BOS, which went quite smoothly.
  Afterwards we settled in to wait for awards, but my feet were killing me. My left foot went through an operation in March, and because I’ve had to put more pressure on my heel spur laden right foot, both feet were killing me. Walking became awkward to hard. I tried to sit but it only got worse. Ibuprofen taken to quell the pain made me sleepy. So, apologies, but we couldn’t stay for awards.
  Little Mountain is one of those competitions where people go for the love of judging and stewarding. There’s no pub crawl I know of, no club crawl, no big party for all I know after.
  My kind of competition, where judges and stewards love the process and discovering what homebrewers are doing, helping them when we can, and applauding, lauding, their success.

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
all rights reserved

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