A Beer Judge’s Diary: Old Forge BIG Beer and Odd Ale, 2017

Best of Show BIG Beer: Evan Rauch’s Baltijes Rasa 9C Baltic Porter
Best of Show Odd Beer: Adam Kugler’s The Great Grape Ape 34C Experimental
2nd Place: Blair Richardson’s and Marti Richardson’s Sour Brown 28C
3rd Place: Luke Esoposki’s Specialty Wood Aged 25C
Honorable Mention: Dean Wiensch’s Dabling a Bit Part Deux 5C German Helles
People’s Choice: Michael ClarkPywar’s Hint O’ Mint 34C

By Ken Carman

Why do I lose track? Nothing to do with high gravity and general weirdness, one hopes. I think this is the 4th OFBBOA, though the first year the name was different. But it could be the 5th. Maybe being stalked by a bear (part one) one year has

devoured some of my memory capacity, competition specific? I’m here, he didn’t eat me because Mr. Bear had more of an interest in a nearby outhouse. A long story where I REALLY don’t want to know the specifics of what he was doing in there.
This year was the biggest OFBBOA yet, and if I can duplicate what happened this year I’ll do it again. Because this year View wanted to do their fest early: September 9th, our first entry date was a few days before that, but I needed to run the competition later. That story was told elsewhere, in the latest edition of my column: A Beer-y Good Story. But, once again, I was amazed that 5 random people chose something complex, not some slight spin (at best) off of Bud or Miller/Coors. It says something really positive about how craft beer has slipped itself onto the expanding palates of Americans. Congrats to Michael ClarkPywar who won People’s Choice with his Hint O’ Mint.
Michael was our steward by the way, and did an incredible job. He judged too… more on that later.
Usually we judge at The Back Door, but two unrelated problems actually gave me the opportunity to have more judges and more entries. Albert couldn’t be at The Back Door: his sister was getting married. While not BJCP, owner and master brewer Justin Staskiewicz could judge and his business partner; brewer assistant, Rich Mathy too. Usually only one would have been able to. And I learned Rich is also looking into Cicerone. YES! The great thing about this arrangement is we not only had 3 teams of two each, but BJCP judges judged with pro-brewers. Even Mark qualifies, in that he has had his brews on tap here in Old Forge and elsewhere.
Did I mention Mark can be a bit of a prankster when he enters? I can’t comment because; knowing what he had entered, I couldn’t judge them.
Due to the Fest the entry date was extended. That brought in 10 more entries, and more than we ever have had. Considering People’s Choice too: some just went into PC, we had 46 entries.

Master brewer and beer judge for the day, Justin.

We started at Fulton Chain Craft Brewery, owned by Justin and Rich, but really managed by Teddy: Justin’s and Becky’s newborn. Teddy is a harsh taskmaster: like how he’s promised not to pay them until his daily feeding is served at the proper temp. That involves everyone in the brewery rubbing their hands together until hot, then… OK, I’ll stop. Small: very small, but growing, jokes aside Teddy was fine. Rich also solved one problem. For half of the entries I was working off of freezer packs and our cool fall temps and like my lame Teddy mother’s milk joke they were rapidly warming. Rich had Michael bring all the entries back to a cooler.

Richard on the left, assistant, general grand guy and life of the judging session Saturday morning. The lampshade incident will NEVER be mentioned. Oops. Just did.

Three teams: two teams at the bar: Justin and John Lee, Brent Blanchard and Richard, Mark Franey and moi’ pulled up to a shelf near the brewery. Richard locked the front door and a few thirsty souls had to be turned aside towards the end: told they’d be open in a few minutes.
I want to stop and thank all, but especially Albert Kiss, who has helped me log in entries and kept entries every
year, Brent Blanchard who has judged almost every year: once in a rainstorm under a leaky roof over a poorly lit porch in Utica, John Lee who, with just a little help from others, soldiered through well over 30 entries of mostly high octane goodness last year, and Mark Franey who was our steward and designated driver. I’m sure by the time we left last year we were, like a few entries, toasted. He has helped every year.
After Fulton opened we moved next door: The Pickle Boat, and I bought them nachos and wonton tacos. Then we went to Eagle Bay: judging the rest at my place. Now we had two teams: Mark and moi’, Brent and John. Part way through Mark had to leave. You know where he had to go? He had to do an absinthe demonstration: after judging many high gravity brews most of the day. One hopes Mr. Headache didn’t visit him the next morning at home in Number Four.
So last year’s winner of Odd: Michael Clarkpywar, or MCP as he prefers, sat down in the big judge chair. He did an incredible job.

Big BOS with Brent again. This was a few years ago we stared each other down over “best of.”

Finally it came down to Big BOS. Face to face with the great Brent Blanchard, whose distant French relatives used to pick wild farks and mooseberries to help brew that great French quaff called, “Berry Farking Good…” OK, I just made that up… Brent and I went over all that was forwarded by the teams. I was glad that some high score brews were included too, not just what each team forwarded.
Let it be typed that I seem to get a lot of non-big or odd entries, and the honorable mention everyone agreed was an incredible Helles, but because it was neither big nor odd couldn’t win. I remember when judging it I encouraged the brewer to enter it in other competitions. And I’m grateful for all entries. If you’re simply looking for feedback, you’re welcome. Feel at home. Let your entry pull up a chair at the judging table.
I need to talk with my competition website server guru to see what we can do to have what’s unique about entries listed in some way: a reoccurring problem is judges don’t know what makes the brew unique if the brewer entered to go for the odd side to my competition.
After Big BOS we shared two brews from my fridge. In Nashville, Yazoo Brewing’s Brandon Jones has become a master of brett, lacto and barrel aging. And, a personal fav; a Hoppin Frog coffee infused Porter. Climbed onto our warlock brooms we flew over the hill to Screamen Eagle for Taco Pizza and Peanut wings. We all also enjoyed the 50 tap selection. As usual I focused on high gravity: kind of a thing with me.
I didn’t take many pictures because I kind of serve as on site organizer and beer judge guru. We did get to take the picture I knew Cara Spataro at Saranac would have wanted: some of the judges with schwag. More thanks due to Cara and Fred Matt from Saranac/Matt Brewing. Just to let you know, the guys are telling me I should have an entrance fee. I LIKE the fact it’s free, but I’ll think about it. I do this for the craft: not for me. Yeah, it’s expensive.
The trickster deity: Loki, must have been on vacation this year. Everything went as smooth as possible, though Loki may have stopped by for a second: the cap on one entry popped and soaked several bottles.
On to 2018.

Just 3 of our judges with Saranac’s gifts in front of Fulton Chain Craft Brewing. Brent, John and MCP (Michael)

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 once upon a time thought he didn’t care all that much for beer. Then he discovered brews beyond the standard fare’ available on the east coast in the early 70s. Thus the adventure began.

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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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