Thursday, November 29, 2007

Validation for The Sober Brewer

A couple of posts back I went on a tirade about the nonsensical beer judging we have encountered at the Great American Beer Festival. After each year's festivities are concluded and awards are handed out, the Brewer's Association sends us the judge's notes on the beers that we entered into the competition. These notes are supposed to help us brewers find out where our beer is in relation to what they are looking for. The feedback includes comments on the beer's Color and Appearance, Aroma, Bitterness, Alcohol, Style, Flavor and Aftertaste, Balance and Drinkability, Technical Quality and Carbonation. I thought you would be interested in some of the weird, almost schizophrenic comments that we received. Mind you, these are only from this year's judging, the past years' comments have been just as goofy.

First of all, let's look at the Oktoberfest. One judge says "lacks biscuit character in flavor" while another judge said "Biscuity" in flavor and "Biscuity and Toasty" in Balance. Strange, there would be a 180 degree disagreement, and what's with the overuse of the biscuity term? Did they both eat at Chick-Fil-A that morning? Another aside about the Oktoberfest, we sent it to another competition and again, no awards from the beer judges but it won the people's choice award...can you say Validation.

Next, let's look at the Anvil Steam, one of our all time favorites her a BBC. The general consensus of the judges was that it was a very good beer, only a little too much hop aroma. That's fine I can live with that, and since it was consistent among all the judges, it makes sense. But I do have one problem, and this happens all the time with these judges. On the bitterness section it read "Maybe to[sic] high." What's this "maybe," either it's too high, too low, or right on. "maybe" if you didn't have a spine made of linguine you could "maybe" give someone a straight answer, unless of course "maybe" you have no idea what you are talking about.

Moving on to the RIP VanWinkle Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Porter. When entering a barrel-aged beer we have to specify first, what the base beer is, (Russian Imperial Porter) and secondly, what the beer was aged in, (Pappy VanWinkle American Oak Bourbon Barrels). So it must of came as quite a surprise to one particular judge who wrote "Almost has a bourbon Quality." Well duh. The same judge also had one of my favorite contradictions. On Flavor he writes "Very Woody" and on the very next line under Balance it read "Wood doesn't come through." I hope this guy finds some professional help for his split personality.

Finally we reach the Pilsner, and this is the one that validates my previous post about flawed beers doing better in competition. During the festival itself Cameron and I detected a high amount of hydrogen sulfide in both the aroma and flavor of the Pilsner. We determined that it was probably a function of autolysing yeast since the defect was not present in our filtered beer back here in Louisville. We were disappointed with what we sent and figured that the Pilsner certainly would be torn apart in the judging. Quite the contrary, this was the one beer of ours that went on to the medal round, just missing being awarded. But what held it back illustrates another weird judging comment. The judge wrote, "Well made beer, lacks some of the subtleties of a classic Pilsner." That's great Mr. Judge...care to elaborate on what exactly those subtleties are? I guess not.

As you can see this "feedback" we get from the GABF is as useless as the medals we receive. As long as you, the customer is satisfied, so are we. Besides, I'm fairly certain you know more about beer than some of these jokers.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

4 comments:

Ye Olde Shiza said...

The Anvil Steam was great, I have to say. Isn't steam-brewing a hugely different process, or am I just making that up in my head?

Jerry Gnagy said...

It's all in your head. Steam beers aren't any harder to brew than other lagers. Steam beers are basically an amber colored, medium bodied beer that is well balanced with Northern Brewer and Cascade hops. Most use lager yeast (like ours at BBC) and are fermented a bit warmer than traditional German-style lagers. (55-58degrees as opposed to 48-53degrees). Hope that answers your question and thanks for the comment.

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