It’s that time again. GTA Homebrew Club’s annual competition is even bigger this year, with a record number of entries. I volunteered to judge a few sessions because 1) it’s fun, 2) I need the practice and 3) it was held at Amsterdam which is around the corner from me.
I have learned to abstain from anything IPA-ish as my system gets a tad bitter when exposed to too much bitterness, and I judged some English and German categories. I was distracted at one point when I saw my beer, a Lychee Gose, poured at the next table.
It was a bit of a last minute brew. I had had a salted lychee soda when in Japan last year and it made a lasting impression. I was browsing through my local asian supermarket when I saw a bag of lychees, and inspiration hit. I managed to make, sour, ferment and package the beer just in time to enter. I had no idea how it tasted. I was a bit nervous when I saw how long the best-in-class judges were taking over it.
Seems I had nothing to be nervous about. It took second place in a very full category, and was up for the Henderson Prize!
This was my first time judging best in show. Man, there are some really amazing homebrewers out there. There was a Belgian Dubbel that was so good, I would have licked the sides of the glass if it was at all socially acceptable.
It took all of two days from receiving my BJCP test results to get some judging gigs. I needed just one more experience point to get to the Certified level. I was able to get in on one of the judging nights for the Ontario Brewing Awards, and judged Bohemian Pils, Amber Lager and Vegetable categories.
The next weekend, I went with Eric Cousineau, Brandi Lee MacDonald and Victor North to Buffalo to judge the Amber Waves of Grain competition. They did the judging differently than I’m used to, but it’s a format that I definitely prefer – get one beer at a time to taste, judge and discuss rather than the full flight all at once.
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.