[Please join Carla and me in welcoming our newest contributor, Steve Marks. We’ll let him introduce himself in the post, but we’re really, really happy he’s come aboard. Welcome Steve! –Tom]
For my first contribution to Hoperatives, it is only fitting that I begin with an article on Beer and Sweat. The event encompassed everything I love about craft beer. But before I get to that, I will give an introduction of myself.
I recently graduated as an engineer from Ohio State and am fairly new to the Cincinnati area. As a diehard Buckeye fan, my love of Michigan beers will always hold a special conflict of interest in my heart. Especially since Bell’s Hopslam is my all-time favorite (sorry, Pliny).
Quite simply put, I love craft beer. I have been home brewing for a little over two years, and the more I brew, the more I continue to explore everything beer. As cliché as it sounds, the greatest thing about this journey has always been the people I have met along the way. Whether it has been fellow brewers, beer business owners, or other craft beer enthusiasts, the people in the beer community are just wired slightly different. There is a certain genuineness that comes with the territory. Enter Tom and Carla.
I had been reading this blog daily for some time, and when I finally got the chance to meet Tom and Carla at the Teller’s Craft Beer Symposia, it was truly an honor. I had a strong interest in contributing to the blog, but I wasn’t sure it was even something appropriate to ask. After all, this is their site that they have built from scratch.
I was expecting a guarded and cautious response when I finally mustered up the courage to ask. I clearly forgot I was dealing with craft beer people. They couldn’t have been more welcoming or accepting of the idea, so here I am. I hope to bring some beer perspective from the eyes of a young brewer who is currently studying to become certified as a beer judge (BJCP).
Which brings me back to Beer and Sweat…
For those of you who are unaware, Beer and Sweat is a yearly home brew competition hosted by Cincinnati’s own Bloatarian Brewing League. Unlike most competitions where three unmarked bottles are submitted, Beer and Sweat requires its entrants to submit an entire five-gallon keg. This year there were 266 entries. Yes, you read that correctly.
This was my first competition as a beer judge, which is just a step in the process towards becoming BJCP certified. In many ways I felt like I was prepared, but it really would depend on the style I was judging. Luckily, I was tossed a softball and assigned to the style I am easily most familiar with: Belgian Strong Ales. This covers Belgian Blonde Ales, Dubbels, Tripels, Golden Strong Ales, and Dark Strong Ales. It’s safe to say my path has crossed with more than a few of these in the past year. They also offer some nice variety for your palette (unlike judging IPAs, which can become tiresome quickly).
I ended up getting paired to judge with a BJCP Master Judge, one of the highest ranks a judge can achieve. This was a guy who could read through any line of BS and had been doing this for years; it was a bit intimidating to say the least. Luckily, I didn’t screw up too badly and learned a lot from sitting in with such an experienced judge. Plus, he was a craft beer guy, so of course he was patient and helpful the entire time.
Overall, it was a fantastic learning experience and a fun evening. You will not find an event more representative of everything great about beer. Individuals came from all over the Midwest to test their merits as brewers, share their newest concoctions with fellow beer lovers, and meet new people. This is beer stripped to its rawest form. No one is competing for market share, people are not ordering fancy drinks to impress others, and there are no ulterior motives. It’s just craft beer, plain and simple.
Also, sampling that many beers was not a bad consolation prize. Perhaps that’s why craft beer people get along so well?
With that, I leave you until next time. I hope to contribute many thought provoking beer articles, and most of all, I hope to continue making friends along with way.
[Note: the original version of this post said that Steve was paired with a BJCP Grand Master Judge. Thanks to the commenters who kindly pointed out that he was actually a Master Judge. It doesn’t change the essential point he was making, and we’ve edited the post to be correct it. The comments you see will make more sense now. –Tom]