Competition: Battle of the Knickerbockers

Reported by Ken Carman for

Vastly superior to my own, pictures without a date stamp are courtesy Steve Smyth.

We spent the week in the middle of nowhere: our future retirement home/camp in the Central Adirondacks. About a thousand miles from our present home base for over 30 years: Nashville, TN. When we left we could have gone south, or go about a hundred miles in the opposite direction and judge beer in downtown Albany, NY. Being beer folk, never guess what we did.

Yup. Judge beer.

The ugly guy with the blond hair and the black mustache is me.

This was not my first trip to The Pump Station, otherwise known as C. H. Evans Brewing. Stopped by about 10 or more years ago. Downtown Albany, NY: right off of 787. You can see it as you exit the Clinton Ave exit coming from the north. Big brick building. On your right.

Of course you will find some of the pictures a bit dark and fuzzy. My second decent digital and it’s a bit quirky. “Decent” because the first AOL bought cam would have made Starry Night seem photo like. No matter what pic I would attempt to take. Wherever that camera would… Gogh.

The advantage to a brew system above the bar is obvious.

We judged in the loft, as I would call it; to the right and behind the camera: the picture to your left.

You can see the whole pub from up there, and I mused to Millie, post competition… “I wonder if the patrons ever found themselves blessed by spilled beer from above?”

While the acoustics were excellent: very little to any noise intruding upon the judging process… there were some problems with the location. The main one: you’re judging a lot of beer and the bathroom is downstairs? Yikes!

We did discover the elevator the general public can use: post judging. (I missed it entirely. Millie thought it was for the staff.)

Pretty dark up there and I was too busy judging to adjust the camera. Not that that would have worked; most likely just provided weirder pictures.

Of the beers we had at my table I thought a pepper beer was close to “spot on,” but Ken: the other ranked judge at the table who also has the best first name in the known and unknown universe, thought it a bit too much and so it didn’t place as highly as I would have placed it: “drinkability.”

The third place Porter with Cocoa nibs which I also might have placed a bit higher. Again, drinkability became an issue. It was a bit dry.

From my experience all judges have entries they may have scored higher, or lower. For non-judges who read this: be aware. These are the kinds of decisions we reach when we judge. What you “like best” isn’t the issue. And respecting, and including, the opinions of all judges at the table no matter what the rank, or no rank at all, is crucial. Judging beer is an art, in my opinion, that involves how we get along with each other in the pursuit of objectively assessing what is, essentially, very subjective. And, therefore, how we score.

The categories Millie and I judged are some of the toughest because the guidelines are a bit more vague, to say the least, than say a Robust Porter or a Bohemian Pilsener. And BJCP guidelines are crucial to a beer judge.

The blur you can’t see: sitting at the table, is my wife Millie. The blur you can kind of see: Master Judge Judy. (No, not that “Judge Judy.”) Millie and Judy had the Specialty (not Belgian) Beer category. The “blur” is caused because the categories are so vague they turn you, temporarily, into ghosts with spooky-magical beer judging powers. Nah, I’m joking. It’s my funky camera.

The second picture is a little better view of that table and the judges, though you can’t see the Master, just her back. Hence why I loaded the ghost picture too. Plus, hey, to paraphrase the wife, “You’ll do anything for a laugh, won’t you?” (Why do they refer to it as a paraphrase when it’s usually just one phrase? When they made that mistake, did someone say, “Para? Shoot!”)

Yup. “Anything” for a joke.

They had 20 beers to judge. We had 21, if I remember right. Unlike other competitions I’ve judged in you don’t move tables/categories in the afternoon. You come back to the same category. We had herb and veg, Millie had Specialty. A number of tables ran late: much to my sorrow we ran the latest. As head of the table? My fault. Too much discussion and debate. However, I feel the morning session was probably one of the best I’ve ever been part of when it comes to fairly assessing a beer between three judges.

Meanwhile, down below, they were busy serving lunch, then dinner, as patrons slowly started to fill in where tables for judging had been.

Here’s the banner that hung from the walkway: looking down upon the bar and regular patrons as awards were given and, then, another Battle of the Knickerbockers ended.

313 entries, 48 judges, 13 stewards, and 17 flights; this competition was organized by Saratoga Thoroughbrews, based in Saratoga, NY. Under the careful, experienced watch, of Greg Mobley. Largest Knickerbocker ever, according to Greg.

Results can be found…


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