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SNERHC 2015 Results

SNERHC 2015 was an amazing success. The decision to co-host with the Krausen Commandos was the best ever. Despite a major change in guidelines and an inauspicious start (we were stranded outside until someone came to unlock the gate at Two Roads), we judged 400 entries — 40 more than last year — in 45 minutes LESS time. We were cleaned up and out the door by 6:30pm.

Results may be found here: SNERHC 2015 Results

Scores and scoresheets are also available. Go to the SNERHC page and log in to see your scores.

Enormous thanks to all involved: the judges, the stewards, the cellar staff, and the sponsors.

See you all next year!

Local(ish) upcoming events

They are still looking for judges for NERHBC, 10/24 in Nashua. I judged this comp last year. Very well run. Good food. http://bfd.org/nerhbc/

And also for LIBME’s 3rd Annual, 11/21 in Bayshore. If Bayshore seems like a long drive, be aware that the plan is to get the whole thing done in one flight, leaving you the rest of the day free to explore. http://beermalt.net/

And LIBME is hosting a MEAD EXAM on 2/20 in Patchogue. This is the only mead exam to be held in this area in the next year or two, so jump on it. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bjcp-mead-certification-exam-tickets-17768677593

September Meeting at Mara’s

The September meeting was held at Mara’s house in Bridgeport, her first time hosting our motley crew. Awesome meeting: an excellent spread, some newbie members, and some fantastic brews to judge. We’ll definitely have to go back there.

Before the meeting proper, we got a tour of the brewery. Jealously factor: extreme. Induction heating units, automated keg washer, and, best of all, a homemade glycol-chilled, stainless steel fermenter. Outrageous.

Chatter during the meeting was uncharacteristically brewing-related and geeky. Even the newest members seem to possess extremely detailed knowledge about micro-organism strains, enzyme levels, hop varieties, and all kinds of other things we oldsters never knew. I’m not saying we used to just dump and stir back in the day. But I’ll admit that these kids are intimidating.

Not least because their beers are so damn good. Herewith, the tasting notes:

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July Meeting — Mary Izett Speaks!

The July meeting at Dan Mages’ house featured a special guest presentation by Mary Izett, ably supported by Chris Cuzme, who drove all the way up from Brooklyn to be with us.

Many of you know Mary and Chris as brewers, judges, and competition organizers from the NYC area. The ran the NYC region of the National Homebrew Competition First Round this year. In fact, they did it so well that I wrote a long post about how enjoyable it was. (I would post a link to the article here if I wasn’t just a WordPress numnutz. You can search for it in the archives.) They host and produce the Fuhmentaboudit! podcast. Chris was, until recently, the head brewer at the 508 gastropub. Chris and Mary recently formed Cuzett Libations to gypsy brew all kinds of fermented liquids.

More to the point, Mary just published a book: Speed Brewing: Techniques and Recipes for Fast-Fermenting Beers, Ciders, Meads, and More. This isn’t just about brewing beer faster, although that’s part of it. The book also explores a number of other fermented beverages — kombucha, kefir, sodas, teas, short meads, etc. — all of which can be brewed very quickly and drunk fresh in a week or two. These are all low-alcohol beverages and mostly quite thirst-quenching. Very tempting as we head into the hot part of summer.

Mary spoke about the book and the motivations behind it, giving us insight into what kinds of beverages work well and why you might want to brew them. She brought samples of 3 different recipes: a fermented jasmine tea, a short mead, and a cider. All of them had been brewed within the last 2 – 3 weeks and none had more than 5% abv. All were delicious and flavorful. Based on these samples, I am guessing that this book will be a big hit.

Chris also shared with us Cuzett Libations’ “Revenge Of The Emu”, a heavily-hopped Kolsch-like beer. That was also extremely yummy.

So a huge Yahoos thank you to Mary and Chris for the long trip, the excellent talk, and the delicious samples!

Of course, we also did our regular Yahoos thing and judged some homebrew. Tasting notes are below. Colin was the clear winner for the evening, clocking a 42 for a cider and a 40 for an American Strong.

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June Meeting – 2015 Club Competition

As usual, the June meeting was our in-house club competition, The Chief Paleface And Ale Competition. And, as usual, John Watson took Best Of Show. But he had some serious competition this year, with outstanding entries by a number of brewers. Mara’s Brett Saison and Dan’s Dry-Hopped Strong Saison were right behind John’s Helles. It was very close.

Judging requires a full stomach. So we enjoyed a pot-luck dinner along with all the outstanding homebrews. Yahoos sure can cook. An excellent night all around.

Well, not quite. We got some sad news that night. It was member Dan Cole’s last Yahoos meeting. He’s leaving our fair state for a new job in Virginia. Dan, we wish you well, but we’ll miss you!

Tasting notes below. Sorry, I know they are a mess. I indicated brewers’ names and which moved on to the BOS round as best I could.

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May 2015 Meeting at Dan’s

It finally happened. I finally managed to attend a meeting hosted by Dan “Top Chef” Cole. Those of you who missed it really missed out. As always, Dan’s cooking was outstanding: steamed mussels, porchetta, tomato bisque — we chowed down like starving hyenas. Thank you, Dan!

Fewer homebrews to judge than at the last several meetings. But almost all were excellent. We actually got into a heated discussion about giving scores over 40 and how often that should happen. If any beer deserves a score that high, it is Mara’s Brett Saison — citrusy, spicy, super dry, Brett not overwhelming, very refreshing. Perfect complement to the mussels and porchetta. (So, of course, we had to chow down again.)

Another heated discussion concerned the new style guidelines and how we will combine them into categories for SNERHC. There are simply too many new categories to give 3 ribbons for each. We can combine some based on our guesses about how many entries each will attract. Or we can use one of the “new styles sorted into old categories” lists out of the appendix of the new guidelines.

We came to no conclusions, and this topic will keep coming up. If you haven’t yet downloaded the new style guidelines, I urge you to do so now (http://www.bjcp.org). Start reading through them. They are long, and it’s not that many months until SNERHC. You’ll need to be familiar with them before you judge.

In that same vein, we need to choose a set of guidelines for the upcoming in-house competition on June 10. Check the announcements mailing list for the official ruling on that.

Tasting notes:

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40th Birthday Party a Huge Success!!

Our 40th Birthday Party was a HUGE success, attracting many old YAHOOS not seen in years as well as some of our newest members. The legendary Pat Baker, founder of Crosby&Baker, the HWBTA, the BJCP, and our little club, was there, telling stories of the club’s founding. There was plenty of excellent beer, of course, and lots of fun.

I will post photos as soon as I can wrest them from Handy Andy’s grasp.

Many, many thanks to all involved. I’m sure I’m going to forget people, so forgive me. The ones I can remember are: Two Roads for the room, Kendra for negotiating with them and handling a million details, Pivo for the pizza and soda, Jane for the wonderful cake (obtained and decorated at the very last minute because I was too stoopid to plan ahead), Andy for brewing beer especially for the event and taking pictures, and everyone for bringing great food and drink.

April Meeting at Pivo’s

Dr. Pivo and Sue were gracious hosts, as they always are, and the April meeting was delightful. Everyone took the “Cider” theme to heart, bringing many varied ciders and cysers for judging. In fact, we had only 2 beers all night. We were saddened by the absence of Dan Beardsley, whose juice produced most of the ciders, due to a freak volleyball injury. But we carried on without him.

Tasting notes:

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Notes On A Well-Run Competition

Andy Tipler, Greg Radawich, and I had the pleasure of judging at the First Round of the National Homebrew Competition in New York City this weekend. I posted some pictures to the BJCP group on Facebook while I was there and commented on the fact that I appreciated how well-run it was. Another group member, Dana Cordes, asked me why I said that. My answer to him grew too long for a Facebook post. So I’m moving it here. I hope that it might prove useful to anyone involved in running a competition.

I am writing as a judge, about what made my day of judging fun. But I’ve also been involved in the organizational side of competitions for long enough that I know a little about that. So I can make some pretty good guesses about what the organizers did in the weeks preceding the comp to make my day (days, actually — 3 flights over 2 days) go smoothly.

The competition was run by Mary Izett and Chris Cuzme, and they deserve much of the credit. They were ably supported by a large and well-seasoned crew from the NYC-area homebrew clubs. (I encourage you to view their own FB posts to get the full list of organizers. The cellar and IT crew deserve special mention for their excellence.) NYC has a LOT of homebrewers and a LOT of active volunteers. I realize that some of what I liked might be hard to replicate in places with sparser coverage. But much of it comes down to good leadership.

So here are the reasons why I, as a judge, found the NYC NHC First Round enjoyable. They are in no particular order. Just jotting them down as they come to mind. (In fact, as I review this, I realize that I left some of the most important points for last.)

We started on time. We finished on time. There was an absolute minimum of milling about, waiting for things to get organized. Nothing is more demoralizing for a judge than to fight through traffic for hours trying not to be late only to hang around doing nothing for an hour (or two) once you get there.

Instructions were complete but concise. We knew what was expected of us but there was no droning on. (Something I need to work on in my own organizational role.)

The stewards ROCKED. Seriously. I know that there is talk of running competitions without stewards. Maybe it works. But I know that, as a judge, I utterly depend on my steward to keep the day running smoothly. A steward who knows what he or she is doing makes me 2X – 3X more productive. All three of  my steward (Ralph Bass, Rita Ghei, and James DiMauro) were outstanding. Everything I needed appeared at my elbow, usually before I had to ask for it. Everything I was done with disappeared. There was no hanging about waiting for some necessary but missing item. And it was all done with a smile.

There was enough of everything: score sheets, cover sheets, summary sheets, instruction sheets, cups, pencils, openers, staplers, etc., etc., etc. Again, no waiting about for someone to run to the copy shop or the store for more cups.

There was enough food. Yummy food. Served on time. “Enough” is important — the slower panels didn’t find empty trays when they finished up their flights.

The venue helped make it fun. It was a craft beer place, serving its own excellent brew. Its own staff was fantastically supportive. It was big enough that we were not cramped but snug enough that it didn’t feel cold and sterile. (I’ve judged in big conference centers and wished desperately for a little LESS space to make it feel a little more “homey”.) Lighting was good. Sound levels were reasonable. We never had to worry about spillage or gushers destroying a carpet.

The cellar was totally organized and reasonably close. I know what goes into unpacking and labeling hundreds of entries and getting them all set up for competition day. We did not have to wait for entries to be found or brought from some distant location. Everything was chilled. Nothing was shaken.

Workload was totally reasonable. There were enough judges to keep flights at a reasonable size. This was a big part of “finishing on time”. None of the judges felt abused.

A lot of work went into judge assignments so that novice judges were accommodated without sacrificing the quality of the judging. The novices (many of whom were well into rigorous classes in preparation for the tasting exam) were usually assigned as the 3rd judge on a team. It is fun to teach new judges and even more fun when it doesn’t affect the workload or quality of the judging. Even panels without a novice were carefully paired to combine more-experienced with less-experienced judges.

Did I mention that the food was good? And the beer at the bar? We felt very pampered.

Smaller categories were accommodated in a thoughtful way, with split panels handling multiple small categories sequentially. For example, we had 3 panels who judged Light Hybrids and then Amber Hybrids in one session. But working this way, rather than giving all of one category to one panel, we were able to balance the workload and all finish on time, even with the required Best Of Category rounds.

The organizers kept it fun. Maybe this is a luxury you get only when you have a deep bench full of very experienced staff; you can relax when you know there will be no drama. But it makes a big difference. Lots of laughs and good times. No visible stress.

Communication before the event was great. All the important info; minimal noise.

I think that’s about it: Lots of what we needed (supplies, food, light, staff support) and very little of what we didn’t (waiting, stress, long-winded speeches). A relaxed, highly-competent, well-trained, experienced staff. A fun venue. And a great attitude.

Simple, right?