Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Speed Judging Tips

There are certain situations where judging and relaying that information as quickly as possible are a good thing. For example, in the National Homebrew Competition, you are trying to get through hundreds of beers in the matter of a single day. Another case is an event at the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference held yearly.

The event is a speed blogging session where you are served 10 beers. You can choose to type up a single lengthy post later or at the conclusion, but for a pro-level experience, try typing up the reviews as individual posts on the fly. That's basically a beer review every 6 minutes.  Here are some pointers...

Aroma - The second the pour has hit your tasting glass, give it a whiff. Remember the first aromas that hit your senses and give it a second whiff. Type in those things, i.e. High coffee and chocolate (in a stout) or Medium-high pine and grapefruit (in a traditional IPA). Move on.

Appearance - Here you can put a quick take on visuals. Color, clarity, head color and retention, and carbonation level are the typical things that a BJCP judge would look for. Next

Flavor - If you're going to linger on anything, spend a little more time here, but not too much. You just want to get the overall character of the beer and relay it succinctly. In many cases, this is going to be similar to the aroma, but in others, you might get toffee notes or tropical fruit notes which were overwhelmed in the aroma, but shine in the flavor. Don't take too much time, though.

Mouthfeel - Another quick take. How does the beer feel in your mouth? Full-bodied, high carbonation, silky, dry, etc. are the qualities you're looking for. Jot them all down quickly.

Overall Impression - Finally, this is just your general impression of the beer. Is it a very good or excellent example of the style? What could be improved? Since these are commercial beers in the Speed Blogging session, there hopefully won't be any major flaws, but sometimes age or other factors may make it not the best example it could have been.

Now that you've got that one under your belt, hit submit and get ready for the next pour.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tasting Exam Advice

The following is a write-up of the advice I give people who ask me about taking the BJCP Tasting Exam. An important thing to realize is that the majority of your score is completely in your hands.

- Judge the beer in front of you!  For the first 4 sections, AAFM (Aroma, Appearance, Flavor, Mouthfeel), write everything you are percieving.  Don't address style other than in OI (Overall Impression) and the scoring.
- Use definitive level/adjectives/modifiers!  Low, medium-low, medium, etc.  Citrus is better than Fruity, but Orange or Grapefruit is even better still.  NEVER use 'nice' or 'some' in AAFM.  If you want to mention it in OI, say pleasant rather than nice.
- Use the checkboxes!  If you mention phenols, check the box!  If you mention sherry or dark fruit on an old ale or barleywine, those are usually signs of oxidation.  Mention it in your description and check the oxidized box.  That factors into your completeness score.
- If the proctors say something to the group before the exam, listen to them!  In my experience, proctors don't tend to be extreme (it's usually pretty unlikely for them to give a beer lower than a 14 or higher than the low 40s).
- Know your styles! This should go without saying, but unless you have your baselines for what you're judging against, you're starting out behind. This is also vital for feedback. Perhaps you were given an excellent American Barleywine, but were told that it was a Scottish Light. If you know your styles well, you should mention that in your feedback.
- Make your feedback actionable and relevant!  Don't assume you know their process (all grain, partial extract, etc.), but offer constructive criticism on improvement relevant to the style. You're judging the beer based on the style you were told, but it may actually be a different style and misentered.
- Scoring is a minor part of your grade!  Focus on the things that you control.  Descriptive Ability, Completeness, Perception, and Feedback.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Beer Bloggers Conference 2016 - Speed Blogging

The 3rd time is really the charm! Tasting 10 beers in an hour can be a bit  overwhelming. This year I hit my groove and managed to live tweet my tasting notes. Here they are in summary. There are some really solid brews on this list! If you can get your hands on them, check them out...

Terrapin Watermelon Gose = LIght, tart, effervescent, salty on the front end, sweet watermelon on the finish. Great Beach Beer!

Cigar City Decoherence = Boozy on the nose, toasted coconut on the front, transitions to roasted coffee flavor dry finish. Intense flavors, loved this!

Sierra Nevada Otra Vez = Earthy citrus on the front end, salty grapefruit finish.

JDUBS Bell Cow Milk Chocolate Porter = Strong chocolate on the nose, milk chocolate and vanilla on the front end, chocolate dries out on the back end from the lactose. Key takeaway - verrrry chocolaty.  

New Belgium Citradelic IPA = Dank citrus nose, lemon and tangerine on the front end, dry dankness on the finish, light for an IPA.

Florida Beer Co. Florida Lager = grainy on the nose, dry with apple notes on the finish. Straight up yellow beer. Great pool or beach beer! 

Lagunitas IPA = Dank citrus nose, bitter and piney on the front end, dry and dank citrus on the back.

Saltwater Brewing Screamin’ Reels = Dank onion on the nose, foamy mouthfeel, sweet onion on the finish.

St. Pete Brewing 90 Shilling Scotch Ale = Sweet caramel nose, low carbonation, light body, earthy start with a light caramel finish.

Crooked Thumb Brewing Florida Grapefruit Gose = Syrupy citrus with toasted cracker on the nose, sweet citrus on the front end, bitter grapefruit on the back. Take it to the beach!
Hope you get a chance to check some of these out! Cheers!

Speed Blogging

Unfortunately the wireless at JJ Taylor's was overloaded, so I couldn't post these live, but these are literally the notes I took last night for the speed blogging tasting.  We were brought 10 beers in less than an hour, so here are my rapid fire takes:

Terrapin Watermelon Gose
Aroma: Moderate watermelon and low salt.
Appearance: Straw with moderate carbonation.
Flavor: Moderate high watermelon and salt.  Very light coriander.
Mouthfeel: Light body with no astringency.

Cigar City Decoherence
Aroma: Massive cocoa, coffee, and coconut
Appearance: Black as night with light brown head
Flavor: Coffee, coconut, and cacao
Mouthfeel: Full with moderate carbonation

Sierra Nevada Otra Vez
Aroma: Agave with very light salt
Appearance: Straw with low white head
Flavor: Fruity with cactus and agave
Mouthfeel: Light mouthfeel

JDubs Bell Cow
Aroma: Cacao and lactose
Appearance: Black as night, moderate low head
Flavor: Coconut and chocolate with a light lactose bite
Mouthfeel: Moderate mouthfeel with a light bite at the finish

New Belgium Citradelic
Aroma: Mango, orange, and lemon.  Light dankness.
Appearance: Gold with white head
Flavor: Fruit (mango, orange, lemon, and dank)
Mouthfeel: Medium-light mouthfeel

FBC Florida Lager
Aroma: Light floral and spicy
Appearance: Light copper with white head
Flavor: Light corn and caramel with bready finish
Mouthfeel: Medium-light body with moderate-high carbonation

Lagunitas IPA
Aroma: Citrus and earthy with a touch of musk
Appearance: Deep gold with a white head
Flavor: Pineapple and citrus
Mouthfeel: Medium mouthfeel with acidic finish

Screamin Reels IPA
Aroma: Wheaty with medium low onion
Appearance: Deep gold with white head
Flavor: Wheat, citrus, low onion
Mouthfeel: Medium mouthfeel with moderate carbonation

St. Pete Brewing 90
Aroma: Moderate caramel with a touch of toast
Appearance: Light copper with low white head
Flavor: Caramel and toasty malt with very light earthy hop
Mouthfeel: Moderate moutfheel with carbonated finsh

Crooked Thumb FL Grapefruit Gose
Aroma: Salty with grapefruit and coriander
Appearance: Straw with low white head
Flavor: Salt and grapefruit with very light coriander
Mouthfeel: Medium low mouthfeel with dry finish

Monday, February 22, 2016

Corporate Brewing - Private Event

Today was National Margarita Day! I hope you had the opportunity to enjoy a Margarita with someone who's company you enjoy!

I decided that today would be a good day for an out of the office team building activity. I reached out to Chris at Corporate Brewing and discussed what I was trying to achieve with my group. We agreed upon the types of beverages I wanted served. The set up was great! My party was seated at a long table that could accommodate up to 10 seated. We had our choice of silver or reposado Tequila and the drinks were made with fresh juices, not sugar loaded mixers. We were each able to have our own tab and staff could also order from the beer and wine menu.

We received excellent service! I highly recommend Corporate Brewing for your next corporate or private event. If you reach out in advance the Staff at Corporate will definitely meet your needs and exceed your expectations!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

First Time Judge - Bayou Beer Fest 2015

Last year for the Bayou Beer Fest I was on my own serving Toby's Homebrew for 2-3 hours while he finished judging the homebrew competition. I told him he was lucky I was with him or his beer would have just sat. He assured me that this year he would buy me a ticket and I would get to relax and enjoy the fest this year while he judged beer and a fellow homebrewer served his keg. I had made reservations for us at the Courtyard Marriott by the library so we could drive in Friday night, sleep in Saturday morning, and make it to the beer fest with no worries, and have a place to crash post fest.

Then plans changed: my daughters high school football team made the playoffs and we had a home game. That meant Toby drove in on Friday night by himself and I had the joy that is playoff game concession sales for five hours on Friday night. Saturday morning consisted of getting Daisy up early, dropping the dogs off for boarding, and driving into Houma (which is about and 1hour and 15 to 30 minutes away.

I arrive at Southdown, connect with my mother-in-law to hand off Daisy, and discover that they are one beer judge short. Would I like to help? I have been married to Toby for 20 years. In that time, I have learned a great deal about beer. He has often encouraged me to take the test to become a certified beer judge, I have always said no because it is my belief that I can only do one of the two things beer judging is supposed to do. Here was my chance to prove if I was right or wrong, so I accepted the challenge.

First, for those of you who think that being a beer judge sounds like a fantastic way to get "casayed" (I'm sure the spelling of that is off, but it's how us cajuns say drunk) let me dispell that myth. Beer judging is a small amount of beer that you don't always want to drink being sipped and thought about while writing judging notes. It's interesting, it's engaging, but it is not a fun way to get drunk.

I said memorable things to my judging partner, like:
4. "Well, this is either really gonna be good, or it's gonna be a hot mess!"
3. I can actually give brewing tips for this one, "Your beer is infected, please focus on sanitization."
2. Sorry, trying to think of what to say, taste like cat piss is not going to be constructive feedback.
1. I get blue cheese in the finish, was that intentional, or do you think this is infected?

The last thing I wanted to do when I was done? Drink beer. My judging partner assured me that was a normal response. By the time we were done, the festival was almost over and we still had our homebrew setup to break down. I did get to listen to the band for a few minutes and talk to some friends I ran into, but not much actual beer drinking happened at the beef fest.

I now have a judging experience under my belt, and can have an informed response to the question, "Do you want to be a certified beer judge?" For me, I think the answer really is no. While I enjoy the comradery of the beer judging experience and getting to flex my palate and my knowledge of flavors, off flavors, and such; I can only fulfill one of the two things a beer judge is supposed to do. I can determine if a beer is to style and comment of the flavor, appearance, and mouthfeel of a beer. I cannot give adequate recommendations for improving a beer from the brewing perspective.

Toby is such a fountain of knowledge when it comes to here's what I'm tasting and here is why it probably happened. I respect that, but I don't want to be able to do that. I can do that for food, I can do that for many types of arts and crafts. But when it comes to beer, I really just want to be able to sip, taste, and enjoy. I have no qualms about judging again, if ever in a situation where a non-certified beer judge can be paired with a certified beer judge. But I live under no delusions that I will ever be a certified beer judge. And I'm OK with that...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mini-review: Trophy Wife Pale Ale

Aroma is dank and resinous
Appearance is pale gold
Flavor is dank and resin
Mouthfeel is moderate low with moderate high carbonation
Overall Impression is solid APA