A Beer Judge’s Diary: Salt City Home Brew Competition


By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 Like an out of balance beer, I admit I’m more than a tad unbalanced when it comes to remembering names. Faces? Yup. Names? I have a bottomless pit of forgetfulness. I judged at the NYS State Fair Competition when Salt City ran it. Been to a few meetings. But living in Nashville, and even though I’m in the Adirondacks 2½ months out of the year, it’s a bit embarrassing when so many say “Hi, Ken!” and I have to fudge my way through the conversations.
 So last Saturday, September 17th, I arrived at the Polish Home on Park Ave, ready for the inevitable forgetfulness. It was still fun, and a well run competition. Having seen how Salt City ran the Fair competition; despite snafus they had no control over, I knew they’d do an incredible job.
 Of course, my friend Brent Blanchard running it, along with Peter Woodworth, always helps. Upon entering I joked, “What, we’re only judging POLISH beers?” (Ironic, my first experience judging the new, 2015, BJCP style: Piwo Grodziskie, a traditional; Polish brew, was with Salt City at the Fair.
 Greeted by many, including Sarah, after bagels, donuts and chat, we got down to business.
DSCN0733-300x225 Let me say I LOVED the creative names Brent came up with for flights. My first one was “From Belgium with Foam:” a collapsed category due to a shortfall of entries according to Brent: slightly over 100. Look for my BJD column to see my possible solution to such shortfalls.
 I started judging either 99 or 2000. Back then there always seemed a somewhat high percentage a judge had to grimace and keep assessing. Kind of like being able to visit Eden’s garden of delights only to find a bear, a deer and a possum had invaded in just a few places to do their business.

“What specific aroma is that? Oh, please, let me smell it AGAIN!”

 I seem to get little to nada arriving at the table like that these days, except on a rare occasion at Nationals. Why would National entries have less worthy entries than, say, a 27 entry in a first year, Plattsburgh, competition? Puzzling.
0917160918-00 In the morning I judged with Kita (Lequita Woodward) and Will (William Gardiner), both providing their own unique talents to the mix. This is what I love about judging: what one judge may be too focused on; Band Aid/green rubber hose-like, phenolics in my case… or an acute sensitivity to grassy, hops, whatever… gets balanced out by judges who sense the forest despite that one, perhaps too piney? …”tree.”
 Afternoon was Smoked and Wood which, of course, created an opportunity for frequent, somewhat questionable, humor on my part. “Anything for a joke, right Ken,” doth saith wife Millie Carman. Or, as Ginger Thompson in Beaver River said last week, “Do you have humor Turrets????”
 Um, maybe. &%$#@!*&^%$#!@,,, oh, wait, you said HUMORTurrets. Sorry, Ginger.
 If I remember “rum” part right, one imperial stout aged in a rum barrel stood out. Anyone who has judged with me before will see me subtly tilt my head when something impresses me.
 I judged with Jim Jackson and Ed Valenta. Like the morning, despite my very rare attempts to create a rare chuckle, or two, all were very professional, and quite talented.
 Lunch, by the way, was delicious chicken, pasta, rolls, salad. Very enjoyable.
 Big BOS was set for judges and, to be honest, I had to get back to Eagle Bay via Utica. Supplies to get for my own competition starting two weeks from now in Old Forge, NY.
 A great start. Hope to be able to judge here next year. Here’s a list of the winners.

Stewards never get enough praise, but ours deserved a lot, like our steward in the morning flight. This was Chris Sack.

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 2016
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
all rights reserved

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