A Beer Judge’s Diary: Oh, Where, Oh, Where Have All The Beer Events Gone?

    How most of our tasters made it to this quaint railroad town with no roads going to it!

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
    Festivals, competitions, tastings… seems beer events are waning.
    Oh, I get the superficial reason. COVID kind of put a kibosh on a lot of this. Clubs that ran competitions have backed off. HEY, IT’S A LOT OF WORK! And getting volunteers is often an issue. I ran a few myself and I would still be running the one I alone invented if not for…
    A. COVID, B. My fellow organizer hadn’t tossed me under the brew bus too late in the game. It didn’t help we kept getting the same winner, like we did at another competition in Nashville: Let’s Get WEIRD!
    But the festivals seem to have waned too. I understand: again COVID and some folks don’t know what the &%$! they’re doing. There were 2 competitions that died. Millie and I were to blame, partially, for killing one. When COVID slammed into the nation like a plane hitting our health instead of the towers we had to back out. People started abandoning the sinking brew ship, making rats seem braver than the band on the Titanic. But with all who died I can’t blame them. It didn’t help the organizer had no idea he had to tell us what style the beer was and other parameters. You can’t just say “IPA.” Brut, NEIPA, Black… we learned to judge the style without such help.
    Another one was right next to big lake with the wind blowing off it. He tried to get 3 of us to judge 40 beers in 2 hours (My comment was, “Unless you want 3 very drunk judges we need a 4th.) …and the festival goers were all around us. To be fair they left us alone, mostly. But not what I would call a great environment to judge beer. It also doesn’t help someone called the cops who hovered around the entrance to the park. I was WAY under everyone else because, well judging beer is not a “get drunk” experience But I had, at the time, maybe you guessed it, out of state plates. luckily (?) some jerk passed me on the wrong side speeding and he was off to at least another ticket.
    Even my own competitions went down, festival after festival. Doesn’t help what some of the states started doing. In Tennessee a fellow brew club member helped pass a new law that allowed homebrew clubs to pour at festivals. Why not? We can’t sell, except interest potential new homebrewers in the hobby. However, the beer board interpreted the law the OTHER way. My wife’s boss, who works at Metro Nashville, told her the beer board was basically in bed with big beer.
    As Gomer Pyle used to say, cluelessly, “Surprise, surprise.”
    my own event had problems, luckily still running. I do beer tastings in an infinitesimally tiny town called Beaver River, NY, where we own a camp. I was doing two at two local restaurants, outside. Not in the bar area. A local enforcer contacted them telling that was illegal, so I contacted him. I had to fill out a form and pay some small fee. OK, on the last, but after looking at the form I realized he considered a beer tasting the same as a festival. I had to identify every brewery I “represented,” pay tax on each beer I served, and fill out information on each brewery I “represented” I didn’t know.
    I told him, via E-mail, it was my own beer I bought and already paid tax on, I wasn’t selling anything the tasting was free, I wasn’t representing any specific brewery and since I didn’t work for them I had no idea the status of their bookkeeping, annual sales in every state… he said none of that mattered. So I said, “Fine, I’ll move the tasting to my own property.” He said “OK.”
    The next year when the cops were called in regard to other law breaking in town… (They have to boat in, fly, or take a barge. No roads connect the town to other cities or towns.) …this guy walks onto my property during beer tasting and asked what iut was all about, even though the sign said “free beer tasting.”

    ”How much for a bottle?”
    ”I’m not selling, just giving it away.”
    He stalked off our property.

    All that doesn’t help, but certainly COVID tops the list. With such a high percentage of the populace vaccinated I hardly think that matters, unless people want to have a tantrum. Besides, under the right conditions, in other words no a big wind or drunk festival goers pestering us, competitions can be held. And festivals are usually held outside. Have people bring their own glasses or, much better, hand out their own tasting glasses. Include it in the price. There are some cheap, nice, plastic glasses out there with pouring marks already on them for servers.
    BTW, this could all work for mead or cider. Combine the three?
    No reason we can’t at least return somewhat to normality, unless having tantrums is the point for some. And these events bring cash into hotels, motels, restaurants, tolls, pubs when some events have buses that tour local breweries. Entrepreneurs could offer, at decent prices, Uber rides, bus rides, food trucks: this could avoid having an issue with over eager officers.
    Makes sense to me.


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 in the 70’s he discovered brews beyond the standard fare’ available on the east coast in the 60s. Thus the adventure began.
©Copyright 2022
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
all rights reserved

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: