A Beer Judge’s Diary: THE Website

The OLD website.

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I suddenly realized, when I had reached the new redesigned BJCP web site, that I had been here before. Not this exact design. Not even in regard to beer.
 Why the two are similar, why I had “been here before,” is because they both were about layout vs. content and usability. Also, in the case of the two publications, about how strict, dogmatic, rules for layout may actually ruin intent.
 In the early 70’s I was one of two editors of a literary magazine in college. I was also a columnist and did an occasional news story or review for the paper. Oh, and helped with layout on both until I clashed with the graphic artist too much when doing the paper. I had hoped it would stop there. I was wrong.
 Don’t get me started on that or I’ll get too far away from my topic; lost in the weeds of anal graphic arts theory (now thankfully dated) vs. what really works. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: THE Website”

From the Bottle Collection: Saranac

Saranac/Matt Brewing. Picture courtesy Wikipedia.

 Without intent, I have collected well over 1,000 beer bottles since the early 70s. When something finally had to be done about the cheap paneling in this old modular, I had a choice: tear down the walls while, oh, so carefully, replacing the often rotted 1X3s; OR, cover them with… The Bottle Collection

 The reason I am writing this is the plan this year, or at least by next, is for both of us to retire and move back to the Adirondacks where I am from, and closer to Millie’s sister. We have two places waiting for us. I am NOT moving the bottle collection, so if you know anyone who wants a vast beer bottle collection going back to the 60’s you could contact me via Facebook. I am in the process of dumping bottles, so sooner is better.
 I thought it a great idea to place what Saranac bottles I have; not even close to all the styles they have done, on a classic vehicle. The truck is this story is our 63 Studebaker Champ named Harvey Robin Churchill. Harvey was my first car: a 61 Lark I bought for $25 and went well over 300,000 miles. Robin: color of a Robin’s egg, according to Millie, my wife, and we both loved Robin Williams. Harold Churchill: without Harold there would have been no Lark.
 Another reason I am doing this is to celebrate one simple fact: Saranac, also known in Matt Brewing and F.X Matt Brewing, has done something incredible. Among the smaller major brewers in this country they have brewed more different styles than pretty much anyone. I am referring to old school brewers that go back to the 1800’s. In fact Matt Brewing would be the OLDEST surviving brewery in the country, instead of the second, if they hadn’t changed names and owners in the 1800’s. The original owners didn’t own it for long. This is kind of a technicality, IMO.
 Most of the surviving small traditional breweries have done a craft-like style here, style there. The gigantic breweries simply bought out craft brewers. Their independence safe… for NOW Continue reading “From the Bottle Collection: Saranac”

From the Bottle Collection: Daleside’s Monkey Wrench Dark Ale


 Without intent, I have collected well over 1,000 beer bottles since the early 70s. When something finally had to be done about the cheap paneling in this old modular, I had a choice: tear down the walls while, oh, so carefully, replacing the often rotted 1X3s; OR, cover them with…

The Bottle Collection

 Have you had this? The bottle I have is pretty old and I haven’t seen this for a while. But I haven’t been looking. Listed as a Strong Dark Ale it gets a 3.5 on untappd, 85 on BA, 48 and 52 on RB (3.23 out of 5). Though claimed to be strong it is a mere 5.3 abv.
 The site asked if I was at least 18. Drinking age must be a8 in England; as it used to be here. Continue reading “From the Bottle Collection: Daleside’s Monkey Wrench Dark Ale”

Comparison: 2016, 2019 and 2020 Dogfish 120

By Ken Carman
 I thought of doing this as a beer profile, but I think the nuances would be lost. Comparing years on any beer is a special form of analysis. I used to think of 120 as an overly hoppy, somewhat barley wine-ish brew. I was skeptical when they claimed it ages well. I decided to test that. I am VERY happy to report I was wrong… sort of.
 Before I even tasted them, smelled them, savored them, I added this caveat: I find hops tend not to age well when they become the focus. A little cardboard is one thing among the sweet, flavor-filled, well aged Bigfoot or Foghorn. I find it adds texture, a pleasantness. But when hops are THE balance factor, unless you’re brewing one of those Belgian brews that use specific type of hops that age well, uh, no. I have done assessments of up to 10 different years of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. Thomas Hardy too. I have an almost 20 year bottle of Hardy Big Bob gave me from Big Bob’s Barleywine Bash just before he died. Some day we’ll savor it. Almost hate to: once it’s gone that’s it. Like Big Bob dying all over again.
 So let’s see how aged 120’s stack up. BARELY aged. Not sure I’d want a 20 year 120 due to hops, but I’d be open to the experience. My original plan was to have 3, but Midtown in Nashville stocked them wrong. They had them labeled as 17, 18 and 20. I ended up with 2 2020’s and one 2016. But 2 days later found a 2019. So 16 v. 19 v. 20.
 The comparison was, well, educational. We’ll start with mutual characteristics, then move on to 2020, and from there go back in time.
 No fermentation characteristics in any of them. Two of them have a dry, yet slightly sweet, sense to them. Makes for an interesting balance, enticing. One? Well, we’ll get to that. I do have a question: does Dogfish vary they recipe for 120? That might explain the 2019.
 Let’s see what 1 year, then 4 years, does to 120. Continue reading “Comparison: 2016, 2019 and 2020 Dogfish 120”

Brew Biz: Werts and All… Giving Hersheys Holy Hell

KEN CARMAN IS A CERTIFIED BJCP JUDGE WITH A MEAD ENDORSEMENT. HOMEBREWER SINCE 1979, AND A CLUB MEMBER AT BOTH CLARKSVILLE CARBOYS AND MUSIC CITY HOMEBREWERS. KEN HAS BEEN WRITING ON BEER-RELATED TOPICS AND INTERVIEWING PROFESSIONAL BREWERS ALL OVER THE EAST COAST FOR OVER 30 YEARS.

Written by Ken Carman
This kind of nonsense infuriates me. Apparently a small brewery made a beer with Milk Duds, and one with Jolly Ranchers. Hershey’s made them dump the brews and now wants money for how little they sold of the product.
 Stupid.
 Stupid.
 Stupid.
 OK, I understand “proprietary.” So have the brewery change the name of the brews, change how they’re promoted; but otherwise wise men and women would look upon this as a business opportunity for both companies. One they should eagerly welcome that with open arms. Mid-level management’s blindness to opportunity is legendary. So common in large companies. So this column won’t be about just beer. Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All… Giving Hersheys Holy Hell”

Brew Biz: Werts and All- Marrowbone Creek Brewing

KEN CARMAN IS A CERTIFIED BJCP JUDGE WITH A MEAD ENDORSEMENT. HOMEBREWER SINCE 1979, AND A CLUB MEMBER AT BOTH CLARKSVILLE CARBOYS AND MUSIC CITY HOMEBREWERS. KEN HAS BEEN WRITING ON BEER-RELATED TOPICS AND INTERVIEWING PROFESSIONAL BREWERS ALL OVER THE EAST COAST FOR OVER 30 YEARS.

                Part 1: The adventure begins
 The first edition is merely an introduction to a new brewery. Since they’re busy putting it all together I felt part one should be all about the promise of a new arrival to the Middle Tennessee brew scene. Expect part two to get more into the character and characters at the newly opened Marrowbone.

Written by Ken Carman
 No more than 10 miles west of the city, on Route 12, you would never realize you were so close to Nashville. As you head northwest the hills rise and surround you, the woods get closer, denser.
 In 1980 we bought 32 acres (now 28 due to a redirected, rebuilt highway) about half way to Ashland City for this very reason: reminded me of my Adirondack home. Plus we got to live in our own little valley. The Cumberland River to your left, high bluffs to your right, and then you slowly start to roll into Ashland City: classic small town Tennessee. Dead center is the traditional rural Tennessee brick building that usually starts as home to police, courts, DMV, public offices of all kinds.
Ashland City, TN
 But just before you reach dead center Ashland City, on your left, you’ll find the beginnings of Marrowbone Creek Brewing. It wasn’t that long ago finding beer at all was mostly an out of county experience. I have been hoping for a brewery in downtown Ashland City, Tennessee, for a long time. So one day when Millie Carman and I were coming back from a Clarksville Carboys beer club meeting and I saw a banner proclaiming that in an old past tense car dealership would be the home to Marrowbone Creek Brewing, I knew what my next Brew Biz would be about.
 Very wise choice for a name, great local flair, perfect location.
 The brewery; still in the works, is just a little past McD’s and the old Strattons’ location; a passing of a business that Millie and I have both mourned. Steve Stratton’s 50’s restaurant and soda/malt shop was an Ashland City icon, providing great local character. Soon more character will be added back in: Marrowbone. That alone is enough to cheer. Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All- Marrowbone Creek Brewing”

Brew Biz: Werts and All- My Barleywine Fine Whines


Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Clarksville Carboys and Music City Homebrewers, who has been writing on beer-related topics, and interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast, for over 30 years.

 Maybe I complain too much about changes in craft, maybe it could be classified as “whine.” But when it comes to barleywine my complaint here, if heeded, would return these delicious quaffs to just that: fine, delectable, warm your soul by the fire sippers.
 I LOVE Barleywine. I used to be the major supplier of barleywines to Big Bob’s Barleywine Bash in Pensacola Beach, before Bob passed on. I collected them all over the east coast.
 Not as much a fan these days. I will use one commercial barleywine as an example, but I don’t fault the brewer. Jeff is merely following the trend.
 Most brews I have had from Various Artists in Nashville have been decent to very good. So I was excited when Millie and I saw a bottle of Newfangled Perspective in a cooler at a local store. I also was excited because Jeff Bergman: owner, has to be having a hard time of it. His tasting room is closed, last I checked: COVID. He really doesn’t have the room, inside or out.
 We opened it Thanksgiving and… damn.
 OK, too dry for a barleywine, IMO, but that was a minor thing, really. A lot of craft beers these days seem to be dried out. It’s like everyone is taking a cue from a long ago extinct beer Rheingold Extra Dry; and even Rheingold wasn’t as dry as craft beer seems to be headed for. Rheingold was one of the first beers I had. And I have heard you can get a version of the long lost brewery’s staple. The brand name has been taken under the wing of a company in Connecticut that has many lost brands brewed again. I have seen it nowhere in my travels, so I am guessing limited distribution.
 No, the big disappointment was among the quite adequate malt sense: high gravity, thick, luscious, was a slam it out of the barleywine ball park hoppiness. Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All- My Barleywine Fine Whines”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Taking the Mead Tasting Test, Bay Shore, Long Island, NY


Andrew Luberto: BJCP Grand Master, mead, Advanced Cicerone

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
Note: Readers will be wondering, “You took a test on Long Island when you live in Nashville?” So this edition will provide a lot of context. Hence why it reads even more like a diary than previous editions.

 This is the 3rd test I have taken since I became Certified BJCP back in the 2000’s. Usually my main purpose is using tests as a self teaching tool. They inspire me to go out of my way and study more, learn more. I don’t want to be a judge who just passes the test, gets his rank, and never does anything to improve, to challenge myself. For me the pressure of an upcoming test is perfect.
 Though these tests can be like an advanced refresher course, with this test I had as strong an incentive to achieve a mead endorsement.

Mead judging at Austin, NHC. Courtesy Beer and Wine Journal
 I have tried to spread the beer tasting tests apart, time-wise, because I understand more new judges is important.
 Bringing at least one more mead judge to the mid-South competitions matters to me. The mid-South is somewhat of a mead judging desert, in my opinion.
 Since we don’t have the mead judges we need there are few (to no) mead entries. Far less than I hope for. So if I pass, dare I hope, dare I dream, dare I imagine, as a mead judge I might become Johnny Apple Mead? (Did that weak attempt at a joke make you Cy… Sir?)
 I will start by reporting the basics of how my beer journey, that started in the 70s, had me arriving at Bay Shore, Long Island, for a mead tasting test all the way from Nashville, TN. Then… specifics of the test itself; as much as I can offer. Third… observations, especially personal analysis. I WILL be quite critical of myself. Last… the big wave goodbye as I headed north, with some personal notes.
 I started brewing in the 70s. Then in the 2000’s I began brewing braggots: kind of a back door to mead at the time. The style appealed to me because I enjoy complex quaffs. When I told fellow brewers at the time what I was brewing I’d get, “What is THAT?” This was when online wasn’t a thing yet and legacy mead tests were even harder to find than Sinclair brand dinosaur era-based fuel on my main route.
 I had to rely on Thruway Sunoco to get here instead.
 Yes, I have a history of doing idiotic things like driving long distances to take BJCP tests. My second Legacy was in Knoxville. My other two, post Certified, were in Atlanta. This year I almost drove to Pittsburgh area from Nashville for a mead test, but it was canceled.
 I took my online mead test just before COVID really hit. Because of COVID the tasting portion of several regular BJCP tests have been canceled for obvious reasons, and I only have a year to get this done. That has been difficult: tasting tests for mead have been even harder to find. There are close to none in the mid-South.
Knickerbocker 2014. Courtesy Chad’z Beer Reviews
 I started judging beer around 1998, became BJCP in the 2000’s, I find it unfortunate; except one mead only competition in Savannah this year, that I always end up head of the table when there is a mead table. There just doesn’t seem to be enough mead judges; especially in the mid-South. And not just the South. One of the first mead tables that I became the head judge for was at Knickerbocker, back when the competition was in Albany. I wanted to learn so I told the organizer if he had a mead judge coming I would love to judge with them so I could learn more. Never guess who had to cancel?
 Through this column I have become an advocate for more mead judges. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Taking the Mead Tasting Test, Bay Shore, Long Island, NY”

From the Bottle Collection

IMG_0483
 Without intent, I have collected well over 2,000 beer bottles since the early 70s. When something finally had to be done about the cheap paneling in this old modular, I had a choice: tear down the walls while, oh, so carefully, replacing the often rotted 1X3s; OR, cover them with… The Bottle Collection.

FromBCollection-150x150 I haven’t written an edition of this column for quite a while, but after a few Zoom meetings with various brew clubs, and members asking about the collection, I thought I’d feature some of the collection.
 First, top left, is a defunct brewery from the 90’s Saratoga Thoroughbrews may be familiar with: Lake Titus Brewery in Malone, NY: a town I used to travel through when Millie, now Carman, went to Potsdam, and I went to Plattsburgh. (I also got in a small accident there, but that’s another slippery tale heading down an ice ice coated hill with a streetlight at the bottom in the early 70’s. Pintos dented REAL easy!)
 I really don’t remember the beer: an Amber Ale. Must not have been remarkable. I usually remember. Continue reading “From the Bottle Collection”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Amber

Different colors of actual amber

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 This comes from an argument I had quite a while ago with another BJCP judge about how we talk about colors: specifically amber. If you look at the picture at the top of the column you may note that actual amber is certainly not just one color, and definitely not always lighter than what we think of as copper, though copper is not a singular color. It does vary… somewhat.
 If you look into the colors of honey there are variations on amber honey too in mead judging. So why do we stick to one hue? One variation? Shouldn’t we have gradations to more accurately reflect the actual color? I might even consider dropping copper if considering light to dark, because copper is more a hue variation with the addition of a red tint to it. Copper, when it comes to light to dark, could be covered by amber.
 I do believe in standards, but standards that reflect the nature of the color, not one singular nature. I have read the argument that everyone is familiar with the standard color due to amber the substance that is commonly used in jewelry. My father made jewelry out with amber setting all the time, but that practice seems to have faded with better fake gems. That one version may have gotten a slight kick from Jurassic Park, but how long ago was that? Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Amber”