I spent a fair amount of time this past Saturday observing the The 2009 Puget Sound Pro-Am Competition, as well as doing a little judging myself, as an apprentice, which means that I was being mentored at the time.
Now this sounds like a dream come true. It is, for the most part. But there are some aspects of judging that both surprised and intrigued me.
- I had the opportunity to taste 20 different beers. Now this sounds easy at first, but around beer number eight, my tongue became inured to the alcohol and I started to be unable to taste the subtle nuances between beers. it was at that point that I took myself out of the judging.
- For every great beer one tastes, there is an equally bad one available. And while everyone wants to taste a great beer, a bad beer deserves equal treatment. I had a beer that tasted just like a band aid (this comes from an excessive amount of phenolic acid, which can be a major flaw).
- Best beer I had was a rauchbier in the smoked beer category.
- The most unique beer I had was a roasted pepper, cinnamon, cumin, chocolate, cocoa nib and molasses porter (I think it was a porter at any rate).
- Every judge there took it seriously. It seemed that everyone there held themselves to the highest of standards, and wanted to make sure that the best beers got their due.
- However, everyone had a great time. All the judges (and there must have been two dozen or so) weren’t so serious as to not realize that, at its core, it’s pretty damn cool to sit down in front of a flight of beer to determine the best.
- The judges represented an interesting cross segment of our population. While there were some folks there who fit squarely into my preconceived notion on what a judge would look like, there were plenty of others who did not fit that definition. Young and old, male and female, were all represented.
- This, like seemingly everything else that is worthwhile, is hard work. Concentration is needed, as is a strong base of knowledge so that one knows what comprises a good Imperial IPA or a great Scottish Ale. While at first this is easy, after beer #15, it gets much more difficult.
Would I do this again? Absolutely. The people were great, the beer was interesting, and the idea that I, too, could be a beer judge strikes me as both amusing and funny.