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...