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”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Constantly Parsing for the Absurdly Perfect

Courtesy media bucket

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I was studying to get a cider endorsement and started laughing. 3am in the morning, unable to sleep. I was lucky I didn’t wake my wife or she would have beaten me, as I so richly deserve so often. Yes, I’m kidding, but admit talking to myself probably can be damn annoying. She has solved that by talking to herself too.
 Hey, isn’t that marriage is about: going nuts together?
 Anyway, as a former English major I started laughing at what has happened so often. Some of the words we commonly use in judging were under attack by word parsers. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Constantly Parsing for the Absurdly Perfect”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: A Hoppy Question

                   NSBO with some long hair creep judging too.

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 I’m still trying to figure out if I made a mistake. I stepped away from a mini-BOS table because I had what I thought was a prejudice towards an entry. Some considered the entry a tad problematic. My view was different.
 It happens.
 We were judging in the brewery at Star Spangled Brewery in Clarksville for The New South Brewoff. Always a grand time when I can do it, if not a grand time for those who do like Millie, my wife. BTW: apologies to those at NSBO: at least for a while I am getting away from individual reports on each competition. I think it more interesting to judges to bring up judging questions rather than what I judged, number of entries, etc.
 When it comes to one entry, did I make a mistake? I can only give you my perspective; especially when takes on that entry were so different. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: A Hoppy Question”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Moving Sideways


Ken the beer judge moving sideways. Not really crabby at all! Crab Kolsch? Hmmm…

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 When I first became BJCP Certified I decided I wanted to serve the BJCP as best I could. I thought maybe being National might facilitate that. I think I was wrong.
 I admit to taking to retaking the test several times. I didn’t advance but I learned so much doing that! Yet, I also understood tasting tests might be best be reserved more for new judges. Taking a new judge’s seat was something I didn’t want to do. To be fair most of the tests I took might not have happened because they were having trouble filling seats.
 But, at least for now, I’m done with that. I have a new goal and I’m halfway there: moving sideways.

 ”Moving sideways, what’s that?”

 Why thank you for asking! Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Moving Sideways”

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”