A Beer Judge’s Diary: Pawtucket!

Before I retired I used to tour through Rhode Island in the 90’s and 2000’s as an entertainer and educational service provider. Of all the things I miss, I miss spinach pies the most. I was determined to find one if I ever came back. Millie was skeptical regarding how good they were, and how the pies in Rhode Island were quite different.

Millie and I missed this competition last year because of snow. It’s a long drive for us out of Eagle Bay, NY; a tiny, tiny town set deep in the southwestern Adirondacks. We almost missed it this year. The plan was to stay in Johnstown, NY, for the night then in the morning drive to Pawtucket for OSHC. We got there and Ellen (Millie’s sister.) and Bill Hunt warned us about an incoming storm. So we drove into Massachusetts and crashed in our Sequoia at a Turnpike rest area.

Over $200 for the hotel we had already booked, and expenses pending the next week, we thought it best.

We checked out the hotel on arrival in one hell of a rainstorm, then headed out to The Guild, location for OSHC… Ocean State Homebrew Competition. STILL one hell of a rainstorm.

They had needed Cider and Mead judges, and since I’m endorsed for both, that was my task for the day. Millie judged Mead and Irish.

Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Pawtucket!”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Cider and UNYHA

Written by Ken Carman

Written by Ken Carman
    It was a busy weekend starting with a rather shoddy Motel 6 where the shoddy wasn’t much of a problem. First morning: on to Studebakers at Dunkirk. We own a 63 Stude truck and I had a book I wanted to hawk, Studebaker Hawk pun somewhat intended.
    Back to the Motel 6 and next morning off to offices at Genesee Brewery to judge for UNYHA: Upstate New York Homebrewer’s Association. Beautiful offices! Even down to the bathrooms.
    Neither of us had ever been to the Genny brewery, so we even stopped the night before. Good porter, the orange and cranberry “sour” was orange and orange peel dominant, light cran. Where’s the malt? If we had wanted something seltzer like we could have ordered that.
    The morning was amber lagers, the afternoon cider. The lager judging was clockwork, as was amber lager mini-BOS.
    I still feel we need more BJCP cider judges, being a freshly minted cider judge last year, having taken the test 12/21. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Cider and UNYHA”

A Beer Judge’s Diary: Oh, Where, Oh, Where Have All The Beer Events Gone?

    How most of our tasters made it to this quaint railroad town with no roads going to it!

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
    Festivals, competitions, tastings… seems beer events are waning.
    Oh, I get the superficial reason. COVID kind of put a kibosh on a lot of this. Clubs that ran competitions have backed off. HEY, IT’S A LOT OF WORK! And getting volunteers is often an issue. I ran a few myself and I would still be running the one I alone invented if not for…
    A. COVID, B. My fellow organizer hadn’t tossed me under the brew bus too late in the game. It didn’t help we kept getting the same winner, like we did at another competition in Nashville: Let’s Get WEIRD!
    But the festivals seem to have waned too. I understand: again COVID and some folks don’t know what the &%$! they’re doing. There were 2 competitions that died. Millie and I were to blame, partially, for killing one. When COVID slammed into the nation like a plane hitting our health instead of the towers we had to back out. People started abandoning the sinking brew ship, making rats seem braver than the band on the Titanic. But with all who died I can’t blame them. It didn’t help the organizer had no idea he had to tell us what style the beer was and other parameters. You can’t just say “IPA.” Brut, NEIPA, Black… we learned to judge the style without such help.
    Another one was right next to big lake with the wind blowing off it. He tried to get 3 of us to judge 40 beers in 2 hours (My comment was, “Unless you want 3 very drunk judges we need a 4th.) …and the festival goers were all around us. To be fair they left us alone, mostly. But not what I would call a great environment to judge beer. It also doesn’t help someone called the cops who hovered around the entrance to the park. I was WAY under everyone else because, well judging beer is not a “get drunk” experience But I had, at the time, maybe you guessed it, out of state plates. luckily (?) some jerk passed me on the wrong side speeding and he was off to at least another ticket. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: Oh, Where, Oh, Where Have All The Beer Events Gone?”

Brew Biz: Werts and All, Anchors Away to Bikini Bottom’s Graveyard

    You can almost see SpongeBob holding his nose as the now leaky ship Anchor sinks into Bikini Bottom’s graveyard.

    Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Salt City Homebrewers in Syracuse, NY. Former member of Escambia Bay Brewers, Clarksville Carboys and Music City Homebrewers. Ken has been writing on beer-related topics, and interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast, for well over 20 years. Opinions here are not necessarily representative of opinions or education presented by the BJCP or their representatives.

By Ken Carman
    Following the downward path powered by bad business decisions that crushed OceanGate’s Titanic tourism sub, Sapporo‘s bad decisions sank beloved Anchor. Sponge Bob probably held his nose and waved as Anchor sank into Bikini Bottom’s Craft beer graveyard.
    I have had a passion for their Foghorn barleywine for a long time, which has nothing to do with “Leghorn” if I am going to continue with these cartoon metaphors. Foghorn, to me (original recipe), was a TRUE Barleywine. Not the more recent poor attempts by other breweries to turn the barleywine style into just another version of a super hopped, ultra bitter, IPA.
    Sometime after Fritz sold the business, I bought a pack of Foghorn. Horrors! I LOATHE that green rubber hose/Band-Aid phenol and this pack had nothing else but that defect in every bottle. It’s almost like watching a Road Runner cartoon and from the start the coyote dies, end of story. Nothing funny about ruining a product because management doesn’t want to do what they should do keep the business afloat. Why it’s almost as if the Japanese concern could have cared less about Anchor and their customers. Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All, Anchors Away to Bikini Bottom’s Graveyard”

A Beer Judge’s Diary

Our Topic- When Craft Beer is Bad

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman

    What exactly do you do? Tell the server every beer is crap? Be more sensitive about it? Do what we did, be polite, pay and leave?
    I am not going to tell you the name, or where we were city/village-wise. Please don’t tempt me by guessing: I have no desire to destroy anyone’s business. It’s just a damn shame such places give craft a bad name.
    I had been here once before, but it was closed and the hours didn’t work for me. This time we came into town to buy something else, so…
    We bought the sample tray, filled with an oatmeal stout, a brown, a red, and a fruit Kolsch. We sampled dark to light. We agreed about all 4. The best was the stout, but seemed rather thin, needing more oatmeal. We went down the line and down hill from there: literally and figuratively. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary”

Of Beer Judges and Bench Judges

Originally published as an Inspection column. These opinions are not officially approved by the BJCP This editorial is the opinion of Mr. Carman, and not the opinion of all the staff or writers here at Professor Good Ales.

Written by Ken Carman

    What does the assignment of Aileen Cannon to the Trump case, after this Trump appointee’s previous Trump case remind me of?
    The kind of potential beer judges who, if honest, shouldn’t be judging an entry in a beer competition because they know the brewer. Also the kind of test taker who might not pass a beer judging test, if they were honest. Example paraphrased question, “Can you judge an entry if you know the brewer?” The answer is obvious, “NO.”
    Beer judging tests are actually quite hard. But the bar should obviously be higher for bench judges than beer judges.
    I have heard some lawyer wannabes compare the written BJCP beer judge test to being harder to pass than the Bar. Once you become a beer judge you are expected to judge according to, and within, the BJCP Guidelines. If you’re judging IPAs but somehow a stout got into the flight you’re not supposed to make it a winner because you prefer stouts. In fact before even judging that entry you need to ask if it was placed in the wrong category, essentially the wrong group of judges.
    Equally, as bench judge, guidelines for getting assigned to any court case should be at least equally tough. If there are no uncompromised judges (like no conflicts) in a circuit then a uncompromised judge should be brought forth from elsewhere. Just letting THEM decide if they’re compromised isn’t good enough. Indeed a beer competition organizer, and/or the judge organizer, has/have the job of making sure Judge Ken doesn’t judge his own beer, and like bench judging one of the highest, most important, ethical calls is to tell the organizer of such conflicts. Continue reading “Of Beer Judges and Bench Judges”

Brew Biz: Werts and All, Bagg’s Square Brewing

    Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Salt City Homebrewers in Syracuse, NY. Former member of Escambia Bay Brewers, Clarksville Carboys and Music City Homebrewers. Ken has been writing on beer-related topics, and interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast, for well over 20 years.

    A casual review of one of Utica’s newer breweries.

By Ken Carman
    Millie and I met in 1974 at MVCC: Mohawk Valley Community College. Back then we felt blessed we had ONE brewery: FX Matt Brewing, noted mostly for Utica Club, Matt’s and occasional one offs like Maximus Super. This was just a few years into the craft boom and almost all of them out west, like Anchor.
    Once we got married we lived, briefly, in Utica, then moved to Nashville area for 45 years. Meanwhile when we came back to visit relatives, and then when I was on tour, FX morphed into Saranac, basically the same brewery, same family owning it, but now increasingly more dedicated to craft beer. And eventually breweries like Woodland, Nail Creek and Bagg’s Square popped up.
    On St. Patty’s Day Millie had a doctor’s appointment, so we stopped. Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All, Bagg’s Square Brewing”

Brew Biz: Werts and All, Lake Placid

    Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Salt City Homebrewers in Syracuse, NY. Former member of Escambia Bay Brewers, Clarksville Carboys and Music City Homebrewers. Ken has been writing on beer-related topics, and interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast, for well over 20 years.

The Topic-A casual review of two breweries with the same brewer, and what may cause at least one difference between the two.

    It was almost my birthday so what did we do? GO TO BREWERIES! I had had previous contact with Big Slide Brewery. Their beers looked interesting, as did their menu. The brewer also provided a second brewery he brewed at in his message to me: Lake Placid Brewery. Home to UBU Ale.
    Right up front: this is no BJCP-driven review. More like a “drive by” commentary. By necessity we were more focused on “drive by” because of the distance from home.
    In Lake Placid we stopped by two breweries. Two breweries with the same brewer: Kevin Litchfield.
    How can THAT be interesting? Well, we found one distinct difference between the breweries. But, before that, other notes….
Big Slide
    The first visit was to Big Slide. Small, comfortable, establishment on the way to the site of the Olympics. Last time I was here I was a student at Town of Webb in Old Forge, NY, and performing at All State Choir along with my fellow classmates. They were still building the slide and everything else.
    At Big Slide we had the “Birra Torta.” The menu called it “Chile Beef Stew, grinder roll, pepper cheese, cilantro, cup of birra broth for dipping.” Especially this time of year (winter) I was expecting a beef stew with a chili spin. No, it was an EXCELLENT hoagie with marinated beef and a dip that was somewhat tasteless. Good for the waffle fries. Kind of threw us at first, but pleasurable. May I suggest up front the hoagie-like aspect to the description.
    Unfortunately I lost my beer notes from Slide. Here is what I remember… Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All, Lake Placid”

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

Written by Ken Carman

Written 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”