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SNERHC 2015

The 2015 Southern New England Regional Homebrew Competition will be held on October 4 at Two Roads Brewing, Stratford, CT.

SNERHC 2015 is made possible through the generous support of Maltose Express, My Place Restaurant, and Two Roads Brewing.

Full details will be posted here and on the Facebook page as soon as I can manage it.

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?

 

February Meeting at Ernie’s

The February meeting at Ernie’s house was a tremendous success. Besides the usual judging of homebrews and sharing of commercial beer, we had a special presentation by Doug Gladue. Doug reprised the talk on yeast he had given at the NHC last year. Extremely well-received. It generated a LOT of questions and discussion. Thank you, Doug.

Not a lot of homebrews were judged. Most were excellent. Except my Vienna lager, which was very green (only 8 days in the bottle) and soundly hammered.

After the judging was over, some of us overstayed our welcome, only leaving at the stroke of midnight. (No word on whether any glass slippers were found.) I managed to forget the scoresheets but Ernie took pics and sent them along. Thank you, Ernie.

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November 2014 Tasting Notes (and Gose Notes)

The November meeting was held at Pivo’s house in New Haven. As usual, we had a number of truly excellent homebrews to judge. Very unusually, we also had a presentation on a beer style by Handy Andy.

The tasting notes are attached below. You’ll notice that all of the scores are above average. I don’t know if this means we are getting better as brewers or worse as judges. I’m hoping it’s the former. Either way, we didn’t taste a bad beer or cider all night.

Andy’s presentation on Gose was a huge success. So much so, we are planning more such presentations in the future. Andy has already posted his lecture slides to the Facebook group but I’m including my notes here just to show that I was paying attention.

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Holiday Party a rousing success!

Many thanks to Dave and Gena for hosting the Holiday Party and Silli Biere Competition! The party was, as always, a rousing success. Many excellent bottles were swapped. The Competition was small, but all the entries were clever and wonderful.

Handy Andy took many pictures. Look for them on the Facebook page.

Our next meeting will be in January at Clone and Carole’s house in Stratford. Full details will be sent via the usual channels. With luck, I’ll have the November tasting notes posted by then.

Don’t forget: The club birthday party is coming up in March!

Oct 2014 Meeting Tasting Notes

We have a major problem!!

The October meeting, hosted by Steve Medd and his lovely wife at their home in Danbury, featured a ton of excellent homebrews. Really, truly excellent.

I finally found the time to scan in the tasting notes for posting here. And when I did, I realized that almost all of the scores are missing the brewer’s name. Oops.

If you recognize your beer here, let me know and I’ll identify you properly.

Sorry.

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40th Birthday Bash

Club Birthday Party May 9

The club turns 40 years old this year. And to celebrate, we’re having a party on May 9 at Two Roads Brewery. More details will follow, but get it on your calendars now!

Many things need to get done to make this party a success. Want to lend a hand? Contact me.