Monday, November 06, 2006

Heah Come de Judge

11/4: Judged at Novembeerfest. This competition is hosted by the Impaling Alers, a club based out of Larrys Brewing Supply in Kent. I've shopped at Larrys a few times over the years but this was the first time I've been in the back (where the judging was staged). Overall the competition was well organized and business-like. There was a series of flights in the morning, lunch and then the Best of Show panel in the afternoon. In total I think there were 8 or so panels with 10-14 beers per flight. With each flight pretty well split up covering a few different styles of beer excepting the American Ale and IPA entries. These seem to be popular enough that they usually have enough entries to make up a solid flight. The 1st panel I sat was with another judge and a steward. Good guys. The other judge admitted to being Novice but I was well impressed by his understanding of the process, how to relate to Styles and willingness to listen to a more "experienced" judge (me - ha, ha, ha). Our steward had no judging experience at all, I made sure to pour for him as well so he could follow along. So, our panel was broken out into entries for 8b Special Bitter (x2), 8c Extra Special Bitter (x2), 9c Scottish Export 80/- (x3), 11a Mild (x1), 11c Northern English Brown Ale (x1), a Common CIder, and a Sweet Mead. The first 3 entries judged seemed to be scoring almost too well. I'm always concerned, almost to the point of apprehension, about whether or not I'm scoring accurately. I'd like to be able to do more judging at competition sitting at a table with other more experienced judges, just to get a better sense of scoring "accurately". Anyway, that 3rd beer I scored a 38 and was pretty confident that is was worth it. It scored the highest out of the flight and we advanced it to Best of Show. The rest of the scoring was pretty strong too, not so much in the sense that all the beers scored high but that the scores reflected the quality of the beer. I think we did a pretty good job. The challenging part was to make accurate and helpful comments. Beer quality was pretty good overall and the entries that came up short seemed to have characteristics that were easily explained. So we cleared the panel, had lunch and I was asked to sit the Best of Show panel. Now, this whole Best of Show thing is kinda weird. I've only judged 5 competitions, including this one. I took the BJCP exam in Spring 2005. I scored National but haven't got the points for the pin. So there are either more experienced judges who don't care to sit the BoS, don't have the rank for BoS or there is actual respect for my judging ability. Scary thought. Anyway, 13 beers advanced to BoS with a widely diverse range of styles. Eliminating the 1st seven wasn't too tough. All the beers were very good but a few really stood out. Ranking the remaining beers took a little more attention and debate. The Best of Show winner was the ESB that we advanced out of our 1st panel. Kinda nice to have that counter my scoring "neuroses" or whatever it is. 2nd place was a German-style Wheat beer and 3rd was an American Barley Wine. All were good but the ESB was really nice. Nice malt complexity, firm yeast/fruit flavor, nice bitter backbone with a huge, intense hop flavor and aroma and very nicely made, no real faults present. Very nice indeed.

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