ABJD: On the 24th Music City Brew Off and Judge Decision Making

 As per my decision to change the nature of this column I am taking an angle that may interest ALL judges, brewers who enter competitions and stewards. Hence “Judge Decision Making.”
 It’s long, so I split it into 3 parts, one covering the process of judging, one the competition, and the last one offers a few conclusions. This way it’s easier to pick and choose what you want to read.
 You can find many of the winners mentioned and other information in Tara Mitchell’s video blogs. Just click on the part you want to watch: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5
If you are reading the Music City Brewer-Score a more comprehensive list is provide as well.

Part One: Judge decision making

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I spent most of MCBO judging with Joseph Nance, known throughout the club as a quiet introvert who rarely speaks. He is like the shadow in the corner rarely seen or heard, a subtle demeanor, judging in utter silence…
 OK, I can’t continue typing. The laughter is making me miss keys on the keyboard. He’s fun to judge with, but when it comes to beer “introvert?” Not so much.
 When your bouncing from flight to flight with different judges it’s not as easy to study the process. Different personalities: different judging styles, at least a little. Since Joseph and I know each other’s judging styles it was a great time to study how this often comes down.
 You usually have three situations…

1. Not as common as one would think: the judges sense the same things, no discrepancies.
2. Judges score close to each other but their descriptions of what they sense are different, one senses more, one less, the descriptions varying from slight to very different. This is more common.
3. Less common than #1. Judges vary a lot in what they sense and so do their scores. During these rare moments I’ll put what I call a “consensus” sticker on my sheet designed to indicate we adjusted scores a lot after much discussion. Gives the brewer a sense as to why feedback might be contradict the scores. Not that frequent, but I almost never have been at a competition where it hasn’t happen at least once.

Pre-judging at Czanns, in the brewery.
 Sometimes I wonder if it might make more sense just to leave scores as they are instead of adjusting to have a minimum difference so scores reflect actual feedback. Personally I’d rather see that difference reflected in the scores too, but I do have mixed feelings about that as well. I can see a value in the process of judges doing what they must to find common ground and scores not very far apart. Among the better judges it also encourages us to try to sense what we may not have sensed, or question whether the problem we sensed is as bad as we think it is, or if it could be something other than we think it is.
  Our scores were almost always close, but often we would describe what we sensed differently. Example: one entry had that medicinal/green rubber hose/Band Aid that I AM sensitive to. Joseph described it as “metallic.” Regardless of who was right, could there be a connection between the two descriptions?
  I can see how someone might describe it as that. There’s a harsh brash brass or aluminum sense to some brews I’ve had, whether they may have been over boiled in an aluminum pot that hasn’t been treated, exacerbated by over boiling some hops, especially fresh, green hops that can produce a medicinal-like sense. Medicinal also seems somewhat brash and brassy to me.
 So metallic? Yes: similar: though not the same.
 Point being don’t get too stuck on specific descriptors when judging. To get more on the same track descriptor-wise off flavor seminars can help, but I tend to think for most folks temporarily. As a quality control engineer for the record industry years ago I only found out what clicks, pops and non-fill sounded like when my supervisor sat me down to stacks of records with these defects and I listened all day long, then I checked records constantly for the same problems. Same may be true here: repetition is better. One time seminars are good, but there may need to be more that a one time sit down.
#8194;Maybe do what I plan to do: buy a kit and use it for myself over and over again, or there are possible substitutes, like butter spray for diacetyl. Those have their limitations too.
 Finding such connections helps move the judging table forward. If you can identify the defect as something other than the usual, like to me “piney” is more resin combined with an odd fruit sense and not like pine at all, that’s OK. Identifying comes first. Besides, agreeing exactly on what caused the problem is important, but if we disagree on the exact nature of what we sense but agree the entry is problematic couldn’t that give the brewer more options to consider to help improve their beer?

An example of one of the many meeting rooms at Opreyland Convention Center/Hotel. This is the Delta room which I think is where WSM used to hold their Christmas parties when I was employed by them.

Part 2: The Competition
 Almost 400 entries and yet with prejudging, Friday afternoon and all day Saturday we blew through the entries. We were at the opulent Opryland Hotel: Millie Carman, who has been stalking me for 42 years, plus 3 years hunting me down… or was I hunting her? …used to be a liaison between long gone Opryland Park performers, Wardrobe, and of course the Hotel: which has one of the largest indoor gardens in the world. I worked there, briefly, and then later part of programming for the Grand Ole Opry station: WSM. We would have our Christmas parties in some of the rooms just like we had our competition.
 It’s a hell of a lot bigger than it was when we were here. We did stay Friday night with a special rate. A hell of a lot better than almost $400 a night, with parking starting at $32 for self parking. More for valet, and I’m sure you should tip.
 REALLY? Self parking used to be free. If I had to pay almost $400 to stay I would not be happy at those exorbitant parking prices.
 By the way, Opryland Hotel staff did well and offered incredible dinners, lunches and breakfast.

One of the many Music City Brewers winners, silver and gold: Brian Sommers.
 I judged Scottish and Irish, IPA Specialty and I think Raffle prizes[/caption]Belgian Strong. Honestly? After all this it gets hard to remember: and that has little to do with alcohol. No, not a joke. Afterwards it kind of blurs in together. Oh, and cider which was fun. Plus the big winner was the same brewer/cider maker who won Odd #1 in Old Forge Big Beer and Odd Ale a few weeks ago, a competition Millie, John Lee and I run. I didn’t judge that entry in either competition, but I did help with mini-BOS and big BOS at OFBB.
 Kudos to Shane Denslow.
 After the winners were applauded, medals handed out to those who were there, it was time for the raffle that we rarely win. That’s OK. It helps fund the club.
 We went home to our collie who wondered where we had been, another MCBO over.

Part 3: Conclusions
 On a personal brewer/judge level I noticed Andrew Weaver also had a few entries. None of his at OFBB quite made it. I was glad to see he did well at MCBO. Differences in judges, judging conditions, number of winning spots made the difference. MCBO has its own winning cider category. If we wish to honor cider or mead at OFBB 3, 2, Best Odd, Best Big are all we have available.
 Competition-wise, for 24 years, MCBO has gone from a busy brewpub to hotels, to a clubhouse at a swank development, to the biggest, most famous, most luxurious hotel in town. I call that a success.
 Judging table-wise at MCBO I find judging tables have developed a rhythm to them, and a lot of that is thanks to the stewards. We get better every year. And of course the staff has a lot to do with that, listed here.
 On to 2021 and our 25th MCBO anniversary.

Thanks to…
2019 MCBO Staff
Tom Vista – competition coordinator (aka: Hop God or Hop Tyrant)
John Lawless – judge coordinator
Steve Johnson – finance and hotel logistics (The MCB MONEY MAN!!!)
Jack Buttress! – raffle guru
Phil “Philsner” Snyder – cellar master
Tara Mitchell – communications and raffle (And beautiful “Santa’s helper” hostess for award ceremony)
Joseph Nance – promotions and awards (Mr. Quiet and Shy?)
Frank Clements (former Grand Poo-bah at Clarksville Carboys)- head steward


 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 60s. Thus the adventure began.

©Copyright 2019
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
all rights reserved

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