Sunday, May 17, 2009

Free Beer!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of judging at the Spirit of Free Beer competition run by Brewers United for Real Potables (BURP), the local DC/MD/VA club. It was held at the massive and beautiful Whole Foods in Fairfax, VA. The store is big enough that Emeril films his show for Emeril Green there (I hear you can occasionally see him walking through the store on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
The competition was really well run, organized and WF provided some great food for both breakfast and lunch. For the morning session I judged Stouts with Lyle Brown. I first met him when he proctored my exam last year, and he has been judging and brewing forever (claims he's the fourth to take the test back in the 80's). We had the latter half of the style, mostly Foreign Extra Stouts, one American, and three Russian Imperials. Since stout is a great beginner style given its ability to hide off-flavors, we had some really good examples. Two really stood out, one FES and a RIS. The former was just so complex, had an amazing aroma of tropical fruit and cocoa powder while the latter tasted like a Sam Smith clone, not overbearing like some American Imperials but balanced and smooth. The FES took the win and came in third in the best of show. Turns out it was brewed by Mel Thompson, and while I haven't met him, it looks like he's one hell of a brewer judging by the results.
I was excited for the afternoon session as I was judging sours, 6 total entries. Half and half Flander's Oud Bruins and Flander's Red with one straight lambic (strangely, no Berliner Weisse's). However, that excitement was quickly quelled when the tasting began. I now know why it is so difficult to make these beers. Some missed the mark completely on balance, sourness, carbonation etc. The lambic, though, was really nice and an easy winner.
My only entry in the Cream Ale category didn't place and I will receive my score sheet this week and see how it did. I'll have to start entering more frequently. I don't know of any big competitions coming up in the area soon, but I hope to be there when they are.
- photos were all taking during the frantic Best of Show judging.

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