I do a bit of beer judging when I am invited to do so. It is usually interesting and enjoyable, though depending on organisation and what you are actually asked to taste, it can be a bit of a slog. Like many things it is what you make it and there is the bonus of meeting fellow judges, both old friends and colleagues and new. In fact that is, if truth be told, often the best part of it
Yesterday was the International Beer Challenge where 40 odd judges reviewed, swirled, sniffed, sipped and even swallowed over 400 beers. All beers are anonymised and we had a bit of fun when we thought we recognised a brewery or beer. We probably had around 50 beers each in batches by style. Held at the White Horse in Parson's Green - what a great venue - it was superbly organised and a model of efficiency in getting the beers out to the judges. Now as you know there are more pale pilsner type lagers in production than anything else and it was these that made the bulk of the morning's work. "Work?" I hear you hoot. Well yes actually. You see the thing about most of these beers is the sheer sameiness of them. They really are just variations on a theme, but some are made with better ingredients and some are simply brewed with considerably more skill and attention to detail. It was our job to suss them out, but we kissed a lot of frogs while looking for our prince or princess.
More interesting were the specialty beers and of course, IPAs and Double IPAs. These varied between delicious - remarkably few - and "What the heck was the brewer thinking of?" - many. I didn't judge stouts or porters which is a pity, but talking to fellow judges, they had mized fortunes with them too. It seems that no matter how many beers are produced, they all find a home where someone loves them. That's beer for you, but those that are really good, do rise to the top. Afterwards we gathered in the bar for a drink and a chat. Oddly you may think, the beer of choice fo most judges was Tankovna Pilsner Urquell. I think the White Horse is the first UK venue for this technique which is meant to give much fresher beer. The lovely shiny tanks certainly make a very handsome feature in the bar I must say.
As I looked around, I reckon that 90% of the judges were supping tankovna beer. A compliment indeed to PU and a deserved one. It was nearly as good as that served to me in Prague just a few weeks ago. The main difference was the serving technique which lacked the panache of the single pour that is typical of Prague pubs.
Oh and the price. At £4.80 a pint, it was a dear do. But it was good. Reflecting on the day, the best part really was meeting up with beery people either anew or once again, but the beer judging was great fun too, but hard work.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer author, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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