A Beer Judge’s Diary: New South Brew Off

Most pictures courtesy Jackie Lawrence

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 There are a lot of competitions, like AWOG (Amber Waves of Grain) in Buffalo area we’ve always wanted to get back to, but timing and distance have prevented that. We finally did get back to Knickerbocker in the Albany/Saratoga Springs area. When New South Brew Off started Millie got to go, and that’s a good thing because that’s one of the clubs we are members of. But I was always up north helping to run Old Forge BIG Beer and Odd Ale, a competition I started. So I couldn’t judge.
 Of all the things COVID has done the one good thing I can think of is, since I needed to come home to be with Millie, I was able to judge NSBO too. So, after two weeks quarantine were over because I came from Tennessee, mead test on Long Island done, both places drained for the brutal winters, home I sped, boat in tow. And straight into prejudging for New South at Amber and Jerry Wood’s castle in Clarksville, TN.
 Clarksville, Tennessee, of the many great things Clarksville is it’s a military town: Fort Campbell, 101st Airborne.
 I didn’t bring the boat. So no boating around in Jerry’s backyard. But I’ll bet Jerry Wood’s pup: Bear the Saint Bernard, and the puppy edition Roxy, would have enjoyed the trip. Everyone say, “Hi, Bear!”
 Of course, as judges, we don’t get to see most of the preparation, for obvious reasons. We don’t need to know who entered what. Of course one of us just got home so… not possible.
 Judging was all in Jerry’s basement. We could hear echoes of, “The one takes the bottles from the basket…” as lowered… I’M KIDDING! We were pleased, plus none of the noise, the distractions, judging at a commercial location can have.
Jerry’s judging room. Plenty of room

 Certainly NOT like one year in an unnamed competition; unnamed because it has gotten a LOT better, where they were still getting ready to open the place, they were hammering downstairs and to get to the bathroom we walked a plank. Literally.
 We understand. The choices we make don’t always work out the way we think they will.
James and Tanguy
 Tests, competitions and actual meetings have been fewer this year. Our other club: Music City Brewers, cancelled Music City Brew Off. I had been lined up for a mead test near Pittsburgh and that got canceled. Had to cancel the competition I started. The one in Syracuse I do every year was a no go, Saratoga gone. So I was glad to take my mead tasting test on Long Island and judge in New South.
 A lot smaller competition than previous years. Jerry Wood told me 86 entries. Because it was so small they had to collapse many categories. The judges were us, James Visger, Allen Duvall, Shaun Manhollan, Jerry Wood, Amber Wood (No relation… KIDDING!), Andy Howell, Tanguy Philbert. First time judging: Patrick Woodfin. (YEAH!!!) Stewards were Jackie Lawrence and David Thomack. First time stewards were Jake Honer and Mathew Lawrence.
Millie and Ken

 Our first judging session was the night of Friday the 18th. IPA’s/NEIPA: called “Hoppy American.” Our second judging session (Sunday the 20th) was Strong. We also did Light. Saturday the 3rd was Sours and Belgians. I was on big BOS, Millie and I switched back and forth mini-BOS-wise. Otherwise we judged together. I had requested that because of COVID. Judges who judge together, pretty much by definition, have to be closer. So we’re swapped about every cold, flu back and forth for well over 40 years. Why not a few more?
 Sandwiches and pizza were the main fare’, Donuts in the morning, thanks to the ever helpful and kind Jackie Lawrence; a homebrewer who unfortunately can’t drink anymore. Just found out has serious heart palpitations.
 After Friday night and Sunday afternoon, two weeks earlier, Main competition day, October 3rd, 2020, Millie and I started on Sours but wound up on smoked at the end. Since we finished early I ended up on lighter English beers (“United Kingdom”) that same session. Millie and I judged together except when we did mini or big BOS, or if I had to help finish a table.
 Big BOS: Millie told me to go ahead and do Big BOS. Later she said, since there were only 9 in contention, she wishes she had too.
 Humorous moment on Sunday: the woman who has been stalking me for 47 years; 43 married, set me up. That’s right. She got me back for all the bad puns and jokes. While judging an entry she
Jerry and Tanguy

simply watched after, “Have you tasted it yet?” In a few moments I let out a curse due to the severe shock to the palate. Don’t worry: I have plenty of revenge traps set at home. I think she’s trained the cats to trip them in advance though.
 Jackie: I swear I told you before I offered a taste, “Want to try a BAD beer?”
 Her response was similar to mine.
 Winner time! You may notice odd categories, like Weissbier under United Kingdom. I contacted Jerry Wood and he explained…

 We had a very diverse set of entries this year. Lots of entries from lots of categories, but very few instances of multiple entries in one category. As a result we had to make a few seemingly illogical choices to balance the numbers so we didn’t end up with 20 beers in one category and only 4 in another. The weissbiers was a good example of that. As was putting a Belgian dubbed in the strong category and spice herb vegetable beers in the light category.

Jerry Wood
   Category Winners
         Hoppy American
     (1-3) Paul Cahill, NEIPA*** David Byer, American Pale***Mark Gregory, American Pale
   Anthony Tapia, Co-Brewer: Andrew Breitborde, Oatmeal Stout***David Byer, British Strong***Paul Cahill, American Porter
         Southern European
   David Byer, German Export***John O’Brien, German Leichtbier***John O’Brien, German Export
         Dark Lager
   James Warden, Schwartzbier***Andrew Weaver, Rauchbier***Chris Wrusch, Marzen
         United Kingdom
   Anthony Tapia, Co-Brewer: Amado Arteaga, Weissbier***Ben Sookying, English Brown***Mark Gregory, Best Bitter
      Evan Comeaux, Fruit Beer***Brian Sommers, Classic Style Smoked Beer***Brian Sommers, Historical
   Jerry Wood, Spice, Herb and Vegetable***David Myers, International Pale Lager***Michael Cumbia, Co-Brewer: Tim Tant, American Wheat***Brian Sommers, Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer (HM)
   David Byer, Double IPA***Paul Cahill, Belgian Dark Strong***Ben Sookying, American Strong***Paul Cahill, Double IPA
   David Byer, Belgian Golden Strong***Paul Cahill, Belgian Golden Strong***Mark Gregory, French Saison*** Anthony Tapia Co-Brewer: Andrew Breitborde, Witbier (HM)

   Best of Show
         David Byer, Belgian Golden Strong

All the winners are also listed here.

 At the end judges and stewards had our pictures taken. Shared stories and brews. I enjoyed this; a more quiet affair. Sometimes the award ceremonies and all the hoopla are OK, but this was just for the stewards and the judges. Something other competitions should consider, especially in the days of COVID. Besides, I think for a lot of us the joy is in the judging, the assessing, and finding the best of the best among what is often these days many great entries.
 We even got home early.
 To ALL who entered: salute!

Judges, end competition


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 2020
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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