A Beer Judge’s Diary: Good People

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 Any competition is an adventure: the unpredictable happens, the entries provide even more of an adventure and interaction between judges is almost always, well, interesting…
 Millie, my wife, and I are somewhat unfamiliar with Birmingham, Alabama. I promoted this city a few times with my own shows I do for kids but never got any bookings. To be honest I didn’t do much promotion because I was staying at Coast to Coast resorts in my gas guzzling tour bus. To make the touring affordable there needed to be one close enough to make morning commutes rational and affordable. There weren’t any.
 So most of my contact with Birmingham was incidental: driving through to serve clients in the Gulf Coast, or going to Big Bob’s Barleywine Bash in Pensacola Beach. But when we were contacted by Lauren McCurdy about Good People Brewing’s Heart of Dixie Open we decided to go and judge.
 This was also Millie’s first competition judging as a Certified judge. She did well, but she always does.
 We didn’t have to be there until 12:30 to start judging at 1, so we left Nashville at about 6am.
 Remember what I said about “unpredictable?” The GPS sent us out to a project in west Birmingham. So we called the hotel: Highland, and they gave us more info. Apparently there are many 14th Streets in Birmingham.
 We arrived at about 11:15 and parking was, well, confusing. Money into the meter and then we went inside. But, first in, many judges checked in before us. We waited well over an hour and they acted surprised we were told we could check in early even though this was confirmed later by those who ran the competition. But let’s leave it at that and not get into the gruesome details, OK? You know, the bandana wrapped around my head, the squirt gun, the possum and raccoon we released who had a merry time chasing each other up and down the elevator shafts. Besides, none of that happened. We just wait: none too patiently I must admit, until wrinkles were ironed out by the bulldozer I hired.
  OK, I’m joking again. Let’s just say that after this snafu passed the stay at Highland was OK, the staff was kind, and other than the guy knocking on all the doors but ours at almost 3am, it went off without a hitch. And that’s NOT a joke. Seriously Dude?
 On to the main attraction!

 Since we were, by necessity, late, Millie and I judged together, something they admitted they had wanted to avoid. Usually it’s advisable but, as BJCP’S Dave Housemann told me once, “Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.” We judged what they called “Small Beers.” No, not the classic definition. This was a list of styles/subcategories where there were maybe one or two entries each.
 I know we had two cream ales and I think we had a dark lager, among others. We cruised through them with relative ease, took a break and went out to the serving room and bought Good People’s Double IPA: Snake Handler. When we got back into the brewery; where we were all judging, at first I was going to do Experimental. But when I heard Millie was going to big beers I switched with her. I started a big beer competition, have a passion for them and knew Millie would want to drive. Unfortunately that meant I knew I’d have to sacrifice our almost full glass of Good People’s DIPA. I gave it to Millie. No need it adding fuel to the high abv fire I was headed into.
 One of those magical moments happened where an entry I had a passion for placed despite me having some reservations. I told the brewer I would push it into mini-BOS despite some misgivings. It was that good. I admit: I was the Borg when it came to it any high placement in mini-BOS because of some style issues, but the other judge’s resistance wasn’t futile. It did well. One of those times I’m glad to have my occasional nitpicky nature countered.
 By now, if you’re reading this, Mr. or Ms. Brewer, you know who you are even though I avoided some specifics. And, as I type this, I still don’t know who you are because final results have yet to be released. So, “Nuff said.”
 Can’t wait to find out how Big BOS ended up. They’re waiting a couple weeks to have an event celebrating the winners.
 Lauren McCurdy said they had 154 beer entries from 57 people, that came as far as Texas, Kansas and Virginia. There were 20 judges and 4 stewards. Lauren was the organizer and Danny Reid was the head judge.
 We found it very well organized, generally went like clockwork for the judges. And after the judging they had barbecue pork and chicken with an optional spicy saucew. Glad they waited until after.
 Then we went into the tasting room and had Urban Farmer, a farmhouse ale and their Russian Imperial: Fatso, before heading back to Highland. Despite the morning snafu it was an enjoyable, wondrous day.

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.
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