11/3: Judged at the Impaling Alers' annual Fall event. Sat a flight of 7 American Pale and Amber Ales. All pretty good, firm upper 20's and mid-30's. Good clean beers, good expression of style. Lunch, then a flight of 8 Spice/Herb/Vegetable beers. Standouts were two Sweet Stouts; one flavored with vanilla and another with ginger, orange and cinnamon. Obviously the same beer with differing flavor treatments. The ginger, orange and cinnamon version was real nice; like a black treacly Christmas pudding. Ooh, and a pale beer flavored with oregano. Interesting but not without it's own distinct nauseating charm. These types of beers are a challenge to judge, especially when the base beer style isn't mentioned. Your Spice/Herb/Vegetable, Wood Aged, Smoked and Specialty entries would all score better/more accurately if you'd make sure to include ALL the pertinent info with the entry. Base beer style, special ingredients, types of wood, types of smoke, and whatever else you can fit in would be sooo much help. Sat the Best of Show panel. 15 top notch homebrews. Best of Show was our ginger, orange and cinnamon Sweet Stout, 2nd Best of Show was a Dopplebock (fine malt complexity though a little bit thin bodied and hot) and 3rd Best of Show was a Strong Scotch Ale (firm malt, a bit of booze but lacking a distinct smoky phenolic). Seemed to be a bit of difference of opinion about what constitutes Best of Show judging criteria (first time I've ever used that word in a sentence, I swear). Got down to the last 3 beers of the 1st pass, one of which was a lambic. Judge X starts to spiel about how wonderful it is. I say not so fast; it's far too acetic and very one-dimensional. It simply did not taste very good. Judge X starts to comment about how it represents the style better than the other two beers in our taste-off. I say well at this point the most important thing is quality of flavor. Judge X hisses at me, hisses at me!, "We judge by style!" Not so fast Chieftan, these beers have already been judged for style. That's the whole point of the mornings' previous judging. Best of Show round is the part of the contest where we pick the best tasting beer. Style considerations are important, but mostly when you're making eliminations or ordering the remaining entries and then as a way of edging one beer over another. Sheesh. Judge X also didn't appreciate a comment made about the Strong Scotchs' lack of smoke. "These aren't smoked beers." Duh. Style guidelines state that Scotch Ales may have a phenolic smokiness. Which means that if you expect one and it's not there and that one consideration means it comes up short against the Dopplebock then it's getting a downcheck for not having it. Are there a lot of prick homebrew judges out there?