A Beer Judge’s Diary: Of Moving Goalposts and Respecting Our Cousins- Mead and Cider

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
   After a few years moving sideways in the BJCP ranks: getting cider and mead endorsed, I am comfortable. I have no need or desire for National. I really wasn’t all that dedicated to going National in any sense. As I have written before, every time I take the test I learn something.
   That was my goal.
   Most judges I know become what rank they become and are happy to stay there: even if it was the extinct as Dino rank Apprentice. Nothing wrong with that. But I enjoy learning, and every time I took the test I learned more. Technically by now, if things were as one would think, I might be National, but one thing I have noticed is the goalpost keeps being moved.
   I know there will be a lot of resistance to that framing, however I know a few Masters who admit to it. Just to provide one example; and I have no interest in exposing anyone, was one of the first to take the test. That judge admits taking the test he or she would never qualify now.
   In just a few years I took the legacy test I have noticed the questions have multiplied and become more difficult. Plus, the categories keep shifting: new guidelines. Then you have odd concepts like counting the number of (I assume from what I have observed) approved adjectives to change scores. However use “good;” especially a lot, and you may not achieve whatever score you seek. (Be more descriptive: HOW is it “good?” There are words they prefer. Perhaps we need a divining rod to figure out which ones for you newbies?)
   Except for that last little tidbit, mostly as it should, even must to some extent, be.
   The first legacy I took was the easiest, and we all failed. Rumor is the BJCP wasn’t happy with the one of the proctors answers. Each one after seemed tougher. They picked harder categories, demanded more, and if you think I’m complaining I’m not. I think making the test more challenging is a good thing. In fact I wish they had gradations of ranks: Recognized C, B, A, or 1,2,3, for all ranks. That way it would be easier for those who grade to pop a test taker up a little, reward them for wanting to serve the BJCP better.
   Yes, some do this for ego’s sake, but to assume all would be the opposite of why. I think we want to be of more service. Perhaps I am naive’ in that assumption.
   I also think we should be retested every few years: not to take away ranks, but assess if a “pop up” is deserved.
   Goalposts do need to be moved, but rewarding judges who seek to improve should be part of the equation. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Of Moving Goalposts and Respecting Our Cousins- Mead and Cider”

Brew Biz: Werts and All, Goodbye Nashville, Part I


 When we arrived in Nashville area: 1978, all that was left of Gerst Brewing was one of the old original buildings. Inside what they laughingly called a German Restaurant: not very good at all. Good German beer hall atmosphere and OK beer. They knocked it down for Titan’s stadium and what was left of Gerst management decided to build a newer, smaller, building. Food was no better. They closed and became a home for homeless and their tents. An ongoing Nashville situation once kicked out of lowere Broadway. Then even that new building someone should have put a brewery in was no more.

  Except maybe one competition per year, a final wave goodbye to Nashville and the beer business.

Written by Ken Carman
  Millie and I moved to Joelton, Tennessee in 1978. At first they had a few more interesting brews compared to Upstate NYS, but not many. The craft brew biz hadn’t hit yet, except mostly out west; like the origin of all sacred craft beer holy: Acme. Sierra’s divine incarnation was just around the corner. Before that the boom wasn’t even a fizzle, except homebrewers.
  I started in 79 when Jimmy made it legal. If you were homebrewing before that it was like smoking pot, legally. The sentences weren’t as bad, and crackdowns far less frequent.
  The first craft brewery I remember was Market Street. Founded by Lindsay Bohannon, they were like a whiff of freshly mashed in mash flowing down Market Street. Then, after a few years, they became more like sour, phenolic air; and not the complex Belgian kind. The founder seemed less interested, eventually sold the brewery. Then it disappeared faster than a ship in the Bermuda Triangle. Never to be seen again. Reviled by homebrewers, home brew judges and craft beer drinkers with a sensitive palate. Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All, Goodbye Nashville, Part I”

Beer Judge’s Diary: How Dry I DON’T Want it!?

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 Is it my palate or is there a trend? I have noticed it for so long I KNOW it has to be the trend is towards more and more too dry.
 Should I blame the brief life span of IPAs that were very dry? Try googling the term. I’d forgotten that name and the name of very dry IPAs seems to have vanished from the web. What was it, 2 years at best?
 Yet, I think it started a trend, or at least that’s where beer was going. And yeast. And maybe cider and mead made brewers think, “EVERYONE wants them drier!”
 I sat at Screamen Eagle, in Inlet, NY, home to craft beer genius Matt Miller. I was next to Millie and we ordered a “Thick Mint” beer by Southern Tier. The ABV didn’t bother me: I love well done high grav. This is a stout and at 1o%, as per their site. NOT BAD! By “not bad” I mean the alcohol didn’t conquer all. I am amazed by the talent in brewing these day, though at 55% I’m be astonished if packaged in dead squirrel End of History wasn’t disgusting in every sense, especially ABV. Brewed by BrewDog.
 Problem is the Thick Mint was too damn dry. Continue reading “Beer Judge’s Diary: How Dry I DON’T Want it!?”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Is THIS Where Balance and Judging Divide?

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I know I probably should have published this under Brew Biz or Beer-y Good Story, however it deals with balance. In judging that’s important.
 I understand an NEIPA can have both bitter and fruity aspects to hops. But what’s the point when you already have categories where bitter is important? Other than hazy which can easily be provided without filtering, with incomplete fermentation, what makes it unique, different from an IPA, or a Double?
 Fruity. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Is THIS Where Balance and Judging Divide?”

Brew Biz: Werts and All, Flytes Brewhouse, Pleasant View, TN

Written by Ken Carman
 The closing of the door to Tennessee is quickly approaching. We may visit to judge in a beer competition on a rare occasion. But after 44 years of mostly grand experiences living here, we are headed back to my long term chosen home: the Adirondacks where my family has had a presence since the 1800’s. Closer to where Millie grew up: Utica area and two sisters. Despite that much will be missed, like Emerald Dawn the 26 acre little valley we sold recently. Once almost 30 before the state decided we had to have a 4 lane in our backyard.
 For one of my last to this area Brew Biz columns I could have chosen one of the newer breweries, like Southern Grist, Crazy Gnome, Czann’s, or Monday Night Brewing the last which, for now, actually brews in Atlanta.
 I LOVE supporting small town breweries, especially close to where I live. And I knew John BEFORE my last Brew Biz: Marrowbone Creek Brewing.
 Pleasant View isn’t even Ashland City big, which reminds me of Old Forge. Old Forge is where I graduated public school: just down the road from one of our new homes we have owned for a few years now. Pleasant View is more the size of Eagle Bay even closer to one of our two places. We will wake up to even more woodland sounds in the little valley we just sold, plus Alexandria’s doughnuts. And aromas far too tempting.
 John Nelson: owner of Flyte; along with his wife Trish, is a delightful study in how great brewers come to the craft from odd angles.
John helped me judge cider for Music City Brew Off last year, and we visited his brewery several times quite a while before that. Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All, Flytes Brewhouse, Pleasant View, TN”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: The Long Wait

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 This may seem a minor complaint, so I offered a few minor suggestions, and one BIG caveat.
 I have taken BJCP tests several times. After I became Certified I took them because, by the time I was done studying for the next exam, my knowledge base expanded exponentially. Becoming National was pretty much beside the point.
 Recently I decided to advance horizontally. In other words add mead and cider, figuring I could be of more use in competitions, and maybe these additions might help me organize my thoughts more efficiently when filling out scoresheets. Once I started that I went beyond these two goals, IMO. Especially with my most recent cider exam.
 I firmly believe the different ways mead, cider and beer are judged can be used across that divide. Some terms, some methods like “first attack” (to the palate) are useful judging all 3.
 However one thing that I think drives judges nuts is waiting on results. About three months is not unusual. After I achieved mead I pursued cider and it’s been almost 4 months since that test.
 First I think judges in wait need to understand is why it takes so long. This is important when it comes to understanding the long wait… Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: The Long Wait”

Brew Biz: Werts and All, Marrowbone Creek Brewing (Part 2)

 It had been over a year when I finally returned to interview Chris Morris again at Marrowbone Creek Brewing, Ashland City, TN. While the exterior looked deceptively the same, there were massive changes inside.

Written by Ken Carman
 A far cry from the stripped down former showroom of a car dealer, among other businesses. The former home to so many businesses is filling up with the brew-dreams of Chris, his wife Julie and fellow investor/owner Ryan Jensen. Pushed forth during COVID.: jobs were lost, life in limbo.
 Oh, MY, how the brewery has grown, changed. I appreciate all the thought going into what once was a show room for a car dealer I appreciate all the attention to detail that keeps being added.
 The perfect time to make a mutual dream come true. Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All, Marrowbone Creek Brewing (Part 2)”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Competition Dos and Don’ts

Courtesy San Diego Beer Festival (Competition)

Continuing my plan to write about issues rather than some droll recounting of competitions….
 I started judging in the late 90’s.
 I’ve seen well run competitions, poor run competitions. Most of them are between the two. I’d like to share some problems I’ve seen. Have no fear, organizers, no specific comp will be mentioned, unless it’s one I started.
 Some things are so obvious: like not having spicy Italian food for lunch, and especially not placing it a few feet away from judge; especially with no cover.
 Let’s pose a problem: someone leaves the staff quickly. Even if there’s no indication they might be mad, or have a grudge, change the damn passwords. Lock them out. Not meanness, just security. They may seem the nicest person in the world to you (or not), but who knows for sure what’s going inside someone else’s mind?
 Play it safe. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Competition Dos and Don’ts”

Beer Profile:The Tiger That Killed My Father

Courtesy Untappd

Profiled by Ken Carman

This is a maple bourbon barrel Mocha Latte Imperial Stout, aged. I don’t get a lot of bourbon, the maple is obvious. Bourbon more in the nose. I really don’t care for it when brewers over declare, but this comes very, very close to what’s declared. Only critique in this regard is some of what they declared is so background might have been better if a little more, but that’s VERY subjective.

Thick, almost chewy, viscous body that no light will ever shine through. Black, obsidian, the devil couldn’t shine a light through this. Pretty much no head.

This is close to all advertised, just some more in nose, some more to taste. Bourbon more to nose. Mocha and rye more to taste.

Initial attack is rye, dark malts and obviously high abv: but not that high to taste. Compliments to the brewer. Middle is rye hangs into the finish and the aftertaste with alcohol and male: dark, deep, luxurious. Bourbon really very minor to taste.

Aroma is light bourbon, caramel malt-ish and darker malt. No roasted barley sensed.

4.5 BA
4.2 Untappd

4.4

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Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

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_______________________________Beer HERE

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Kansas City Cider There I Went


     Kansas City Bier Company 310 W 79th St, Kansas City, MO.

    “Goin’ to Kansas City, Kansas City, here I come…”
 -Jerry Leiber / Mike Stoller writers, sung by Wilbert Harrison

NOTE: My own pictures of Jamye Naramore and Michael Wilcox were too blurry to use. Thanks to Jamye and Kansas City Bier Meisters for the pictures of the test and Jamye for her rock climbing picture. Been writing these beer columns for quite a while and FB has made getting pictures so much easier!

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 Something I should have said to Jamye as a joke after she said that no one had flunked the test yet…

 ”Oh, no, now you’ve cursed it!”

 Then, after talking with a fellow judge who was also hoping to expand his usefulness to the Program (BJCP), I felt even better because it seemed we generally agreed. Seemed like we were talking about the same samples, especially the ice cider.
 You may remember last tasting test (mead) episode I was worried about my Long Island Mead exam. I did pass and become a mead judge. Hopefully Kansas City will be known to me from now on as, “Cider Endorsement City.”
 Long drive! Worse than NYC area from the Adirondacks for the mead tasting exam with Andrew Luberto. Why did I drive over 500 miles? Because cider tasting tests are so few. Israel? NOT an option. Seems like there was one in LA or something like that. 500 miles could have easily turned into thousands.
 The journey: Tennessee to Kentucky, to Illinois, to Missouri, to Kansas for a motel, then back to Missouri to Kansas City Bier. I always make sure I can find the place the night before. Glad I did that because that night before the GPS brought me to some suburb. I did discover I had passed the brewery on the way. Wrong street number I guess.


 Potential cider judges, including some weird guy with really long hair who drove over 500 miles to get here.

 All this time was I studying. While not driving I judged cider; including two seconds from Music City Brew Off. In the morning, because I had to leave the room at 11, I bought plain bagels on the way. I prefer them for palate cleansing. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Kansas City Cider There I Went”