I was lucky enough to get chosen as a backup judge for the Ontario Brewing Award judging, held this week at the Three Brewers on Yonge Street in Toronto. Everyone showed up the first night, so I decided to help steward rather than head back to Stoney Creek early. I do like stewarding as it gives you a chance to try some beers during a lull while the judging is going on, and I tried a number that made me sad they were one-offs that were now gone, like Sawdust City’s Blood of Cthulhu and Black Oak’s Epiphany. I really have a thing for cherries in dark beers.
I headed back on Wednesday to be a judge. I was so nervous, as I am the first time I do anything, but quickly found a groove after chatting with my table mates, Brandi from Because Beer and Craig, who has been judging for about 26 years.
First up was dark lagers, a style I was not that familiar with. This was the first time I’d really been able to try this many different takes on one style. and one of the first things that struck me was how incredibly varied the brewers’ interpretations can be. There were one or two that my taste buds preferred, but I told my taste buds to pay attention & do their work because as Ray had said many times in Sensory, tasting for judging is not the same as drinking for pleasure.
The next category was American Pale Ales. We had 7 samples that had made it through the first round, and it was our job to determine gold, silver and bronze. No pressure.
My last category was vegetable beers. I found this one especially challenging, as we were not told what the vegetable was. It was fairly obvious that three of the five samples were pumpkin beers with variations in spice and we were certain that the fourth was a ginger beer, but I still do not know what the fifth beer was comprised of. Brandi, who has an incredible palate, thought it might be ground cherry. All I know is that it likely isn’t a gose, even though that’s what it kind of tastes like, tart and briny. I can’t wait until the OBA gala, so I can find out what it was.