ABJD: Knickerbocker, 2019

Racing City Brewery, 250 Excelsior Ave, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Side topic for this edition of A Beer Judge’s Diary: location, location, location

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 The one consistent thing I have found that’s a frequent challenge in any competition is the search for “the place.” I would have typed “the perfect place:” but of course there is no such thing. Every place has some downside. I’ve judged where there are jack hammers breaking up an old floor below me and a plank to walk downstairs once beer does what beer does: turn into Budweiser. I kid. Just think of the color.
The 23rd Knickerbocker Competition: proudly brought to you by Saratoga Thoroughbrews homebrew club
 Sometimes the location is a matter of cost and you end up with less than desirable conditions.
 Knickerbocker, run by Saratoga Thoroughbrews (Saratoga Springs, NY) has had their changes. The first two times I judged this competition it was The Pump Station in Albany: fine in the morning but a busy brewpub can have problematic noise and other situations, as Music City Brewers found out with Boscos: a now extinct (mostly: one in Memphis) brewpub.
 Excessive noise doth not serve competitions well. Neither do jack hammers fixing a floor below and having to walk the plank to get to the bathroom, as in one competition I judged many years ago. How about high winds off Lake Champlain judging outdoors as beerfest patrons walk by?
 Yes, location, location is important, and Saratoga Thoroughbrews are on the right path to better.
 After The Pump Station we ended up at Artisanal: to get to the judging location you climbed stairs, walked by a secondary serving bar, then down a spiral staircase. Again: beer being beer that was leak-age problematic.
John Lee, host in his role of MC for the competition. This is just before his yearly competition striptease. Unfortunately the writer searched but no one has EVER taken a picture of that. Like if the writer did it, everyone probably ran screaming.
 The past two times we’ve been at Racing City Brewery, also in Saratoga. Basically, instead of climbing stairs, or facing a busy restaurant during lunch and beyond, it’s straight through the comfortable tasting room. The only real downside I noticed was this one time when they had to drop the light level because of a special sports event. We adjusted, but the light level was a little tough at times.
 After arriving the day before for prejudging at John’s: a nice old house with a fabulous barn where his brewery will be eventually, the next day his wife Melinda, John and I were off to Racing City where I judged Dark and Hefe in the morning, Porters and Stouts in the afternoon. There were 3 of us in the morning and I judged with some creep named John Lee in the afternoon who keeps showing up at my house for my competition pestering my collie, Payson. This time it was three basset hounds clacking their nails on wooden floors and cuddling up to me. The true bosses of the Lee/Nelson house: Maggie, Knuckles and Smedley. (Yes, named after THAT famous historical figure.)
 I loved it.
 After big BOS with the Nationals judging we had the usual raffle competitions have and the announcement of the winners. I did notice we had, once again, John Spinella who won the most at my competition and a lot at Music City Brewers, and Andrew Weaver who missed winning at mine but won at the other two.
 My incredibly kind hostess: John’s wife, Melinda, swept ciders. I’m still looking for the broom she did it with so I might sweep ciders too some year.
 Afterwards some of us went out to Henry Street Taproom. Henry was a madhouse: super busy multitap with interesting offerings like Yum, Yum by Dogfish, as well as locals and some I had never heard of. Then we went to a small brewery called R.S. Taylor. Getting into the plaza was an ADVENTURE! There was Dave Moore doing some Irish songs. I know I commented about how many places in Saratoga seemed to offer an Irish motif, places I know weren’t here when I used to bounce around doing kid shows and visiting a brother.
 All in all a very well organized competition and, as always, enjoyable.

Here is a list of the winners

Best of Show: Dave Williams, You Can’t Handle The Truth, 33A: Wood-Aged Beer, Boston Wort Processors

If I counted it right it was 132 entries.

“Oh, where, oh, where, did my Ken bed go, oh where, oh where, can he be?”


 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.

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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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