Let me preface this with the note that I have and will continue to participate in beer judging. I think that it is great for brewing and I thoroughly enjoy the feedback that I get…
With that said, I was thinking tonight, while I was reviewing some of the judging notes from brew competitions past; does this make senses?
This came to me when I kept getting comments like “not enough hops” and “good, but I expect more of [fill in the blank].” I sat there thinking about the many people that tried the beers in question, some of whom had a decent beer pallet, and wondered if the people I spoke with were just being nice, or if the judges were looking for something I wasn’t seeking to deliver.
Mind you, these beer judging notes are more than a year old. This wasn’t some hard cheese I was still fighting to get down. Instead I was thinking about the process and how it promotes bigger and bolder, where in reality, drinkability and pallet-ability sells.
Take for example the wit that I submitted. It was admittedly an easy drinking wit for the style, but the comments I received sounded like it left something to be desired. I am not sure about all of you, but when I try to push someone to try Ommegang Witte who likes Blue Moon, I generally get a negative response.
It’s not to say that what we as brewers and beer geeks value is not worthwhile, but sometimes I don’t think that we celebrate the breweries that are doing it on a larger scale using the “less is more” concept. The concept of “drinkability” is really lost in the beer judging format (IMO) and we as brewers often times overlook it as well. I found myself poo-pooing Otter Creek because they came in twist off caps. Meanwhile, my mom grabbed a 12 pack for me (because she is awesome and always looks out for cool beer stuff for me, note the many growlers she has grabbed for me) and I really enjoyed them. Not because they were big, but because they were subtle and drinkable.
At the same time, the one beer I had that placed…ever, was the Kafir Lime Imperial Lager. This brew was huge in alcohol, but light in flavor. It was an outstanding example of the power of lagering on beer and wound up at about 8.5% ABV, but drank like Spaten. This one wowed the judges in the “specialty” category(or ‘not otherwise specified’ category) and got me second place. I was able to meet with the judges after at a brew club meeting and found that they were in love with the drinkability after trying so many unique flavors. Their taste buds had had enough.
This brings me to my long, drawnout point; is there a better way to beer judge? Seriously, it’s not like this practice dates back to the dawn of man. Is there a better way to weight like beers and taste, not for just for our personal likes, but for the greater pallitability of beers? I’ve been thinking about it all night and I honestly haven’t thought of anything, but there must be something. Can we preserve our taste buds and still reasonably qualify beers?
Who knows? I certainly don’t. I’m going to wash this thought down with a Saranac and think about the one man I would love to have heard diss my beer.