Written by Ken Carman
Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay, Salt City and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.
Diary of a Beer Judge: Fugetaboutit
A few years ago Tony Giannasi from the Barley Mob Brewers: Chattanooga, convinced a few of us at the Music City Brew Off to come on down and judge at the first Fugetaboutit homebrew competition. Since then we’ve judged for Fugetaboutit at Terminal Brewhouse, the third year at a business in downtown Chattanooga. During the second Fugetaboutit we even walked the plank for Tony at the future home of the Honest Pint. I’m not kidding: they were working on the place while we judged upstairs and they had just put down the cement on part of the floor. So we literally had to walk the plank to get there.
Guess that’s an important consideration in judging beer: balance.
So, last Saturday, we left at about 3am… actually I woke up at 1:30 and couldn’t sleep… and judge of me/beer judge wife: Millie, and I, hopped into the Honda Element, mounted the Eagle (Monteagle) then drove on to Hixon, Tennessee: just north of Chattanooga.
Brad Lumley, organizer, helped check us in. We had had plenty of contact over the web because I wanted to enter some braggots and they had originally planned to skip mead related categories for this competition. Guess I helped start something because they eventually added those categories.
In the morning we judged IPAs. It was a table of 4 teams of two judges each. Without revealing anything important about the entries let’s just say that I swear the stewards selected out the brews that needed the most work for my team. Not intentionally. They did a grand job
If you look at the picture above the one to your left, the picture up and to the right, that’s Tony with his long, silky, soft blond hair and his low riding pants. He comes to competitions that way, unless he wears a skirt and… I’m kidding! I’m kidding! Tony is the black hair gent doing a thumbs up, though it looks more like he’s holding a sample up to the light. This year he took a step back from organizing so he could judge. Plus he’s been really busy working at Bounty Bev bringing great beer to the Chattanooga area.
Lunch. The staff at Rib and Loin were incredible. Even though I had just said, “Guess I’ll go an get a little more,” the waitress eagerly offered to go get seconds for me. She was back almost mid, “That’s OK, I can go and get it…” The sauce was on the side so those of us with sensitive palates could use… or not. Of course I “used.” Desert was with banana pudding. Honestly? I think that helped reset the palate: good but sufficiently bland.
With 388 entries, and still a lot to go, we got to work again as soon as possible: Strong Ales. Second session, again with Matt, I swear the stewards felt sorry for us from the morning and picked out mostly the best entries. Of course we did the whole category, so we must have just had mostly good entries.
To the right, and a little lower, you see me with Matt Warren, my co-judge, for both sessions.
Afterwards we went to McHale’s and judged one last category. BOS followed in the brewery part of McHale’s with Tony Giannasi, Adam Hale: brewer and owner of McHale’s and moi’. We used a modified version of assessing five categories, then five categories, on until we’ve been through all the categories. Nothing ever gets totally tossed out as a possibility until we revisit what we feel we should and make our final decision. It really was necessary to do BOS this way, if for no other reason than because we had space issues.
Having twenty plus beers in front of you may look impressive, but it can limit the intense focus one should have on each entry and, especially in this case, take up way more space than is available.
I actually prefer this method of BOS, introduced to me in Memphis last year. There are several ways to do it, and while “what is the best beer” should be the focus: I prefer not to ignore categories. Yes, judges have done this work already. But palates vary, sometimes things are missed and, especially if the beer is warmer, or the second bottle varies, some defects may pop out, or maybe some significant out of style variance may be more obvious. This is the advantage of having multiple judges judge a beer. Otherwise one would do.
It really worked well.
With “early” having been the modus operandi on the way here, we left a bit early.
We’re sure to return again.
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.”