Old Forge BIG Beer and Odd Ale Competition, Old Forge, NY
It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood! Oh, sorry. I was singing. And the picture above, taken a few days before the competition, shows peak came a tad late this year. So visiting judges got to drive through Adirondack fall splendor, as did BOS (Best of Show) judges, those attending Old Forge BrewFest. Oh, and I didn’t get eaten.
That’s right: in 2014 I was wondering if a bear was going to eat me at about 1am. It was pitch black and I was the only one on Moss Lake the night before Old Forge BIG Beer and Odd Ale… then called Old Forge Old Ale Competition. The second year, due to a judge shortage and drop off locations, I ended up driving over a thousand miles, sleeping on different couches and in my Honda Element, to do all I needed to do. We judge in a rain storm on a leaky porch… while our sponsor: Saranac/Matt Brewing, stared down at us. I was delighted to be entertained by Tim Belczak’s munchkins near Buffalo, not too shabby I must admit, but picked up no entries even though the business told me they had three. Drove to Erie to judge and, again, picked up no entries.
This year, NOW what?
I’m from Nashville, but used to live here in the Old Forge area. And the plan is to live here again when my wife, Millie, retires in a couple of years. So, for two and a half months, I get help entering entries from the superb Albert Kiss who has not only helped me do that every year so I don’t know who entered, but kept the entries in his cooler at The Back Door. He’s gone beyond the call of duty… “call of duty?” What, we’re “in the Army” now? Should I start I start singing “We’re in the Army Now?” Nah.
To your right you’ll see Mr. Kiss. He hosts the first round of judging, though next year it may be BOS and/or second flight. In 2017 the Fest, and therefore the start of this competition, will be in September. Oh, and the staff at the Back Door/Front Door also have to put up with our trips into the kitchen and the cooler. I know from my days at now sadly closed local Knotty Pine that civilians in a kitchen can be like having a moose meander onto a football field during a crucial play.
Due to the magnificent John Lee the initial round of judging almost went down without a hitch. Almost. And one brew Justin from Fulton Chain Craft Brewing, and I, judged that placed was John’s beer. Sweet. He deserves it, especially after leaving a wonderful double IPA and barrel aged Quad in my fridge when he stayed after the comp. at my newest place in Eagle Bay. No need in staying on Moss Lake in a tent or attracting wildlife. No more wandering onto my campsite for you, Mr, Bear, at 1am.
Enough can’t be said in praise of the marvelous Mark Franey who kept us from knowing who entered what, including John, and John from judging his own entries.
John Lee showed up at 8am sharp in Eagle Bay so we could drive together to Old Forge. Mark Franey was one of the most professional stewards I’ve ever seen, but also drove two judges home who had been judging high abv brews all day long. We tested his patience by going beyond where he had to turnto go home. Off to nearby Inlet’s Screamen Eagle where we had so many wings we had to bring some home.
Other judges included Justin Staskiewicz, brewmaster at Fulton Chain… (Sorry, Rich, scheduling missed you this year.) …fellow former Town of Webb student, Chip Kiefer, who judges beer almost as well as he sells souvenirs, piloted a pontoon boat or acts in a school production of Sound of Music. Well, maybe better than one of those, but I won’t say which one! We had fellow homebrewer, Aaron Weber; who was so busy drinking up Justin’s stash so Justin sent him over for us to torment. I’m kidding. Kind of. Sort of. Nah, just kidding.
This year we had to have Big BOS a few weeks latter: our new sponsor, View, wanted us to do People’s Choice at Old Forge BrewFest. I thought it wise to combine the two and get two new judges to assess best of show. My wife, Millie, who is Recognized, and Brent Blanchard who like me is Certified, or is that we’re both certifiable? …stepped up to the plate.
A stupid baseball metaphor and cliche’? REALLY, Ken? You can’t honor them better than that?
Every brew that got over 33 became part of BOS. Out of 31 we had 10. Yeah, due to a Facebook page snafu we were down slightly on entries. Not much.
I liked it because our winner of BIG was there the day my team judged his beer, but he had nothing to do with best of show. Other winners: Michael ClarkPywar, Adam Kugler and Joseph Nance. Two honorable mentions went to, again, Joseph Nance and one went to him in People’s Choice too.
Speaking of People’s Choice. Wait, I’m typing, not speaking. Anywhosie, as the Fest started I spoke with several random people who entered and six of them agreed to do People’s Choice, a bit more of a beauty show where they chose their fav. Between choosing the best two of 5, then moving on, or kicking one out we chose a rather complex brown with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans. Being a beer judge whose palate started adjusting to more complex brews in the early 70s I was happy, and pleasantly surprised
There I go with the cliches again. Is anyone ever “miserably surprised?”I suppose, so why isn’t that also a common cliche’?
Judges for People’s Choice were Kevin Doyle, Lisa Doyle, TJ Doyle, JJ Stone, Matt Isaf and Leslie Anne Bellardine.
On to the brew fest where Millie, my sister-in-law Ellen and Brent were also serving. I made announcements and was punished for it. Apparently the sound is so bad in the rec center no one understood what I had said, or maybe the giant sample glass stuck on my tongue? Nah, having worked with sound many years I should have known all those hard surfaces would make sound bounce like my voice was trapped in some audio version of pinball.
Well, on to reporting the competition, and then the gracious Jim Connerty from View and I will work on sending out prizes, score sheets, and hunting down that dang bear to ask him why he snubbed us this year.
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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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