Beers In Sacramento reached out to Mike Ungerbuhler to post about his journey to become a certified beer judge. Mike will post every Sunday for the next three months to share his experiences. Mike has his own blog, Insatiable Thirst, make sure to check it out. Here's Mike...
Ladies and gentleman of the journey, may I have your attention please. Thank you for continuing with me on the road to becoming a Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) certified judge. Passing judgment is something that we as humans do second nature. Passing judgment on a beer is not a difficult task; doing so with knowledge of beer styles and brewing techniques, all while providing tips to aid the brewers in perfecting their craft, is a different story and is what being a BJCP certified judge is all about. Better judges make for better beer. This week, the judgment began.
Week 4: Judge Dread
We reconvened at my local homebrew supply shop, Brew Ferment Distill (BFD). It is very kind of Tim Clark, the proprietor of said shop, to allow us to use his space. I think that we owe him a beer. This week, we took our first real look at filling out score sheets for competitions. These need to be filled as completely as possible, be thoughtfully descriptive and provide feedback on the beer being judged. The feedback should include one's overall impression of the beer and possible improvements to better the beer; whether that is a tweak to brewing techniques or possibly a minor change in the perceived recipe formulation. It is important to remember that all senses are used in judging beer; aroma (smell), appearance (sight), flavor (taste), mouthfeel (touch), and one should listen (hearing) for signs of carbonation levels when the bottle is opened. It is imperative to practice focusing on both the beer and the proper filling out of the score sheet. In a competition a judge should be able to fill out a score sheet in 12-15 minutes, as is it typical for organizers to want to get through approximately 4 beers an hour. Training one's self to quickly fill out score sheets will require one to drink a few more beers. Darn, more beer.
Speaking of beer, we had an assortment of beers to sample this week; a few from the Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer category (SHV), a couple Fruit Beers, an Amber Ale, a Blonde Ale and a Rauchbier. With exception to the Amber and the Blonde, I had not tried any of these specific beers and I had never tried a Rauchbier. The beer that I found to be the most interesting was the Ruachbier. It had a smoky, bacon aroma with a hint of bready malt character. Its appearance was similar to root beer, with a nearly opaque brown hue that was topped with a thin, beige head. The flavor was akin to slightly sweet, smoked meats on burnt toast. It was fairly heavy on the pallet, with low carbonation and finished dry. This is not a beer that I want to drink pints of, but certainly one that I would sip on a cool fall evening, maybe paired with a good cigar.
Giving this deposition to the court is thirsty work and requires a refreshing beverage to satiate ones thirst. This week’s thirst quencher is a fruit beer, Dogfish Head's Festina Pêche. This Berliner Wiesse is a great starter beer for those interested in acquiring a taste for sour beers. I have tried a few sours in recent months and I found Festina Pêche to be the most approachable. Its aroma is of ripe peach and apricot with a subtle sourdough note. It was a crystal clear yellow with a faint pink edge. The tart, fruity flavors paired with a fair amount of carbonation and a dry finish, made for one refreshing beverage. I think that this beer would make for a good session on a hot summer evening. Again, I thank you for your attention and for now, court is adjourned. Next week we will discuss a very important aspect of beer; water.