A Beer Judge’s Diary: Music City Brew Off

No pictures this time, more just a review of the first competition we judged at, probably 1999. It’s been said and done before in this case. Let’s have a break. Next year back to more traditional coverage, maybe?

By Ken Carman

Millie and I started judging at Music City Brew Off. I think it was 99. I still have the 98 guidelines, somewhere. Since then we’ve judged all over the east coast, due in part to the fact we’re from upstate NY originally, and I spent close to 30 years on tour doing kid shows and educational activities.
I thought this year went well, with at least one problem that seems to be increasing: the unavailability of judges. The easy thing to do is blame other clubs for not helping out, but it goes both ways. Clarksville’s August competition had one MCB judge there: Millie, she who apparently has just enough masochism to her nature that she and I have been together since 74.
When will you ever learn, young lady?
We are members there too. I would have judged but I’m always away in August.
There has been a decrease in cross club participation, and I would love to see more efforts to encourage that. I am trying to create an interclub event to honor achievements and those who have passed on. The jury is still out as to if it will happen.
Where you do competitions is crucial. No location is perfect. Boscos; a former brewpub, was noisy and busy in the afternoon. Parking was a problem sometimes. Boscos helped us out a lot, but the venue was an acoustical nightmare. Not unlike a school gym filled with half the school playing verbal dodge ball. Prejudging was often upstairs and like judging in Oklahoma during the dust bowl.
Is that in the beer I’m judging or the old floors, spider webs in the corners or something close to the name of an old song, “Dust in the… BIN?”
Then we started doing hotels. Always make sure your hotel understands the nature of a homebrew competition. They may try to control everything. As bad as that sounds, at least they didn’t tell us a handful of days before the competition that we couldn’t bring in entries and we should just judge the beer they have on tap. That’s what happened in another competition I’ve judged in this year. You can bet there was a lot of fast footwork to find a new location.
Past few years club member Mike Woods has supplied a grand location: a clubhouse where he lives. The only real problem with this location is distance and not having the convenience of onsite rooms, but it’s a minor inconvenience compared to other inconvenient situations we’ve been in before, in my opinion.
It does cut back on some interclub participation, from what I have been told by members of other clubs. And those coming a great distance would rather judge or steward where they are going to lay their heads for the night.
Part of the problem is the local beer board for years took a bill that was supposed to facilitate such events and interpreted it to mean that we couldn’t serve our beer at festivals or bring it into commercial establishments to judge, or just get feedback from club members. “Interpreted it to mean” that even though we’re competing with no one and we can’t sell beer.
I also miss the pub crawl, but the changes in the breweries around here made it problematic: the biz is changing. Gone are the days past club member Doug Williams would be our designated and drive us to Blackstone, Market Street, Big River, Boscos after the competition left there and Flying Saucer. I suspect driving a group of quaffers around might have been a risk the club wanted to avoid. The drivers did a great job, but herding tipsy cats is still risky biz.
There was great camaraderie. Plus, where else are you going to meet someone who calls themselves “Assman?” Yes, Phil Kane, “I’m a talkin to u!”
The club crawls seem to be getting smaller, and less significant. The Friday night lecture has varied over the years, some years better, some not.
Yet we have survived, even thrived, since the mid 90s. Year after year the true success story is we have adjusted, shifted and adapted to all the curves thrown at us. It’s never perfect: nothing ever is. It can be improved. It always can be. But it’s fun and professional. Plus, as the Memphis competition gave birth to our competition, from Chattanooga to Clarksville and beyond we have helped give birth to other competitions.
Tis something to be proud of.

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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