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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.

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.



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.


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SNERHC 2014 Results are up!

Please follow this link for full results from SNERHC 2014.

Scanned score sheets should be available at this site before Oct. 10.

Scores and score sheets are now available. Log in to the registration site to view and/or download your score sheets.

If the writing on one or more of your score sheets is too faint to read, send me an email (address on the entry list page) and I’ll rescan it darker.

Many, many, many thanks to the awesome crew who made SNERHC such a success yet again: the organizing committee, the judges and stewards, and the sponsors. You were all fantastic.

SNERHC 2014 just four days away!

The entries have been unpacked and sorted. The prizes are piling up. The judges are getting their marching orders. In short, everything is falling into place. SNERHC 2014 is just 4 days away. Yes, we are excited.

Sept 2014 Meeting Notes

Just back from Dan and Alison Mages’ home and the September meeting. As usual, Dan went overboard on the food, with excellent cheese and bread and pickles and a wonderful tabouleh-like thing. Delicious.

Dan also showed off the swag he’s collected for SNERHC prizes. Completely over the top. SNERHC winners will be very happy. I can’t imagine how much time he must have spent wrangling this stuff out of the hop farms, brewers, equipment makers, and wholesalers he has persuaded to donate. Thank you, Dan!

The homebrews we judged were also over the top. Almost everything scored in the high 30s and some reached the low 40s. Absolutely outstanding brews. You shoulda been there.

Unfortunately, I’m an utter numbnutz when it comes to WordPress. I have no idea how to insert a table and fill it with the tasting notes. So I’m going to just give you the highlights here. Maybe someone who knows WordPress can fix this for me later.

  • American Wheat with Mosaic hops, brewed by Pastry Dan, scored 37. Melon and juicy fruit aromas. Well-attenuated. Mouth-filling. Much more interesting than your standard American wheat. A very yummy, drinkable beer.
  • Witbier, brewed by Pastry Dan, scored 30. Phenolic, grainy aroma. Lots of coriander in flavor. Dry finish. Bottle was a gusher which stirred up the yeast. Dan says other bottles have been better.
  • Biere de table, brewed by Pastry Dan, scored 40. Second runnings of the wit. Clean, bright, fresh nose full of noble hops. Lemony flavor. Clean, quick finish. 3% abv. Very drinkable.
  • Flanders Red with mulberries, brewed by Handy Andy, scored 42. Outstanding Flanders red base with a strong sour nose and balanced dry finish. Perfect acetic/lactic balance. Mulberries evident in aroma and flavor. Mmmmmmm.
  • Belgian Dubbel, brewed by Ted (I think, notes unclear), scored 32. Clovey, phenolic nose. Malty sweetness. Hints of licorice. Lacks carbonation.
  • American Stout, brewed by Colin, scored 35. Rich, dark, roasty, malty nose. Excellent malty sweetness up front. Could use a bit more hop bitterness in finish. Extremely flavorful.
  • Imperial Stout with coffee and cacao, brewed by Handy Andy, scored 34. Strong aged alcohol nose with some coffee and cacao. Port wine character in flavor. More of an old ale than an RIS. Flavorful but not to style. Perhaps has passed its prime.
  • Strawberry mead, brewed by Colin, scored 28. Aroma lacks honey florals, contains a bit of funk. Not much strawberry evident in aroma or flavor. Totally drinkable. Good first try at mead.

That’s all! I’m hoping Handy Andy has some photos we can post later.