Saturday, August 18, 2012

Beer & Sweat Beer Judging

So this was the year. I finally hit the rite of passage that is Beer & Sweat, a keg-only homebrew competition run by the Bloatarian Brewing League in Florence, KY. Never you mind the threat of bed bugs and the weird medieval theme of the Drawbridge Motel. Because nothing says excessive like 250+ kegs of homebrew all gathered in one room (they had 268 this year, by the way). Any-who, the event begins with beer judging in the early afternoon—the vacant excuse as to why I was in attendance—and then turns into an evening of drinking and, well, debauchery. After all, what else would you do with all those kegs of beer? Host a yard sale?

I rolled down from Dayton with Jeff, Jeffrey, and Darren—we were all sharing a room. Judging began at noon, but we got there a bit earlier as Jeff had entered four kegs. I was judging category 16. French & Belgian beers; there were three sets of judges to work through 27 beers (or something like that), with a lot of Saisons, a fair number of Belgian Specialty Ales, and a smattering of the rest. Overall, it was a pretty solid flight—some of the Saisons could have been better attenuated, and there was the usual forgetting to include the appropriate information for the Belgian Specialty Ales that you find in most beer judging competitions, but if these are my worst complaints, I’ve already scored a big gold star on the day. After helping out with the mini-BOS (I poured for the three judges doing it—I’m not that cool), there was some pizza and a few fancy beers back in the room (thanks, Darren!). We also swapped stories about judging—my favorite was from Jeffrey, who was sitting next to a table with Gordon Strong. Gordon’s judging partner kept obsessively apologizing for not judging beer as quickly as Gordon; at a certain point, the compulsive emphasis on apologizing led Gordon to quip “Less apologizing, more beer judging.” Grandmaster ouch! I’d have felt sorry for the guy, but he’d made an off-color remark to us earlier that Jeffrey handled with a crushing aplomb, leaving Captain Dipshit both clueless and speechless and with nothing to do but walk away. Thus Jeffrey’s story was just more of that deserve-ed icing on the cake.

After our proclaimed recovery sortie, it was time for the main event. And even then, I’m not really certain I was actually ready for the maelstrom of beer and people confronting me when we headed back downstairs. Still, due diligence was the rule of the evening, not that I would (or could) try everything before me, although we did meet one hearty soul who claimed to have tried all of the beers pouring that evening. I went for quality over quantity, although at one point I did get talked into drinking down a row of the kegs, hitting a small sample of each one. I blame you, Jake and Sarah, for that one.

Highlights from the evening include getting to try four different Berliner Weisses in a row—yes, you read that sentence correctly—as well as the all of the various sours, lambics, etc. littering the event. The brewer who brought the blended 1 and 3 year old Gueuze deserves a hearty congratulations (sorry, I don’t know who it was, although I know it was tap number 120 or 121—it was right next to a Rauchbier named “Bacon Fucker,” which I managed to take a picture of in my drunken stupor, but not the blended Gueuze I returned to several times—I blame stupid drunken Tom). But my 
more ham
favorite beer of the evening by far was Brandon Cooper’s Funk Plums, which was described as starting “out as a classic Berliner Weisse and was fermented with lactobacillus and sccharomyces. It was then secondary fermented on 2.5 lbs. of plums per gallon and brettanomyces lambicu was added. The result is something between a fruit lambic and a fruit beer that I call Funk Plums.” It got an Honorable Mention in the flight I judged (the Saison that won that flight, by the way, ended up taking the Best In Show honors), but Funky Plum hit all of the right marks for me—it was fruity dry brettanomyces magic. And I did return to this beer again and again. I even ran into Brandon when he was breaking down his kegs, and asked if I could have one more glass for the road, to which he happily complied. I could be wrong, but I think his actions might qualify him for sainthood.

The beers Jeff entered did well overall: he won category 23. Specialty Beer with his Black IPA, Midnight In The Forest, and second in Fruit Beers for Experiment #6. We got to drink Midnight In The Forest further into the evening than any of the other winners—the balloon that was attached to all of the flight winners got disconnected from his beer, and no one ever fixed it. So drink on, good sirs! Still, it got cashed before it was time to call it a night. As the event began to wind down, many of the people—myself included—headed towards the hotel’s outdoor pool to conclude their evening. Shenanigans, drinking, and discussion continued on. I finished the day by jumping in the pool, somewhere in the vicinity of 2 am. Isn’t that how all evenings should end?


No comments:

Post a Comment