Brew Biz: Werts and All

Written by Ken Carman for

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay Salt City, Salt City and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.

The Topic: Is “Small” Better?

Can’t say I didn’t enjoy, though it’s annoying as all hell when we pay well over $100 for some hotsy totsy Dallas hotel and they demand more money just to go web surfing. Hell, I’ve stayed in $26 motels in northern Georgia and gotten “free” internet. If they can include it in the price at $26, you know damn well it can’t be that hard at well over $100.

Beer? Yes, this is about beer. We were at Bluebonnet, a competition in Dallas, Texas. This was a few years ago. This is a huge competition: well over 2,000 entries and they want three bottles per entry. That’s well over 6,000 bottles to check in, register, take off the labels, hopefully not break while you relabel them and sort them into categories and then off to each respective table.

I admit, I enjoyed. But then a few years later I was at the first ever official BJCP competition in Mississippi: close to Jackson. Two categories. I found it, oh, so much more personal, less rushed, more beer focused and, to be honest, the potential to be more professional. They were able to offer us rooms in a member’s home and gratuities for judgiong.

None of this was possible at Megajudge City. And I found the judging a tad problematic: at the big comp I spent some time arguing, politely of course, with two judges who claimed they knew who entered a beer and it was a perfect example of a Strong Scotch Ale.

Wait: this is a conversation that’s problematic to begin with. We’re not supposed to know. Just so my readers know, I thought it was a fine Scotch Ale, just not quite “Strong.” If I remember right one of us was Recognized, the other non-BJCP and I’m Certified.

Yes, I am. My wife’s been saying that for YEARS.

At small competition we did a better job of discussing, “Um, should we even go there?” …when deciding judging etiquette.

I am a Unitarian. I prefer the small churches: especially the fellowships which are disappearing because Boston wants them to go away. The same is true: the treatment at the small churches and fellowships is more personal. We, generally, know each other and share so much. The one in Panama City, Florida for years met alternate Sundays and the non-Sundays were reserved for meeting at a back bay house where we debated issues.

Those odd Sundays were the best UU experiences I have ever had. I felt more in touch with Unitarianism there than listening to some Boston educated, approved, minister lecture me on zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…. what was I typing about?

But I find organizations like Boston, home to America’s UU hierachy, and unfortunately brewclubs and perhaps some in the BJCP, prefer big, impressive, splashy.

As a teen I started in a high school where my grad class would have been closing in on 1,000. Then I moved to a town where the K-12 school had 500 students, our grad class: 32, biggest they’d ever had at the time. As with beer, and church, we knew each other, the experience was more personal and more educating, and far less that makes education, education, got lost. I believe that’s probably true in beer as well: a lot gets lost in our counter intuitive rush because we feel “big is better.”

Next time you are helping to brew up a homebrew competition, think small. Think a category or two. The focus on those categories will be better, and I think you’ll find the quality of the judging, and how well we assess each beer, will be better.

Going for quality is the best option, don’t you think?


Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”

©Copyright 2012
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

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