Ayinger is affectionately known as Munichâ€™s â€œcountry brewery,â€ and itâ€™s easy to see why. When you take the train out from Munich, the cityscape gives way to the industrial margins of the city, and then suddenly youâ€™re on a broad green plain with gently rolling hills to the north and the snowy crenellations of the Alps to the south. A mere half an hour from the city, Aying hits the spot for slowing down to relax in the countryside with a beer or three.
The brewery rises up on the outskirts of this idyllic village where wooden chalets with an Alpine flair cluster around an onion-domed church as white as the driven snow. Aying and its brewery present a study in contrasts. You can tuck into hearty Bavarian fare like Tellerfleisch (boiled brisket with stewed vegetables and horseradish) or KÃ¤sespÃ¤tzle (highly recommended!) in the rustic surroundings of the Ayinger BrÃ¤ustÃ¼berl in the center of the village. But the delicious beers accompanying the traditional food come from a state-of-the-art production facility that seems light years from the carved wooden balconies and flower boxes that dot the town.
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Andrew Luberto: BJCP Grand Master, mead, Advanced Cicerone
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.
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.
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”