Friday, 20 March 2020

Judging day one

We start very early today. The bus to take us to the judging hall leaves the hotel at 7:15. I rise at 6:30. Wouldn’t want to miss breakfast.

Martyn is already in the breakfast room. I pull up a chair it his table. I’ve given up on the weird sausage slices. Today my scrambled egg is accompanied by ham. It’s much better. Lots of orange juice and coffee, too. Especially the latter. It’s going to be a long day.

Yesterday I forgot to put on sunscreen. And awoke half transformed into a lobster. My arms and legs are fairly pink despite being in the shade most of yesterday. The sun is pretty strong.

Not making the same mistake today. I smear myself with sun gunk. A bit pointless as today’s schedule will see us locked away inside for the daylight hours.

“Goodbye, sun.” I say on entering. I won’t be seeing you again today.

Today’s schedule is brutal. Judging starts at 8:00 and goes on until 19:00. It's going to be knackering.

Before we start I chat a little with the other two judges on my table. Argentinian Maria Sol Cravello tells me about the Argentinian hop industry, which is by far the largest in South America. While Spaniard Fernando Campoy Osset talks about his brewery in Toledo. I give them my lecture about hops in the UK - shitloads and from all over the world.

We kick off with 25 Juicy Double IPAs. Perfect for 8 AM.

My fellow judges, as professionals (Maria Sol is a beer educator), are both better tasters than me. They’re picking up stuff that I’ve missed, but which were obvious when they mentioned them. This is the sort of collaborative judging which I enjoy.

I’m brutal in my marking. Nothing undrinkable is getting much of a score.

“You can tell which ones I liked.” I quip to the servers. “They’re the empty glasses.”

I have one rule when judging: I finish off the samples of the good ones. I hate throwing away good beer.

Next, 30 session IPAs. Only 1 is drinkable. The others are an accumulation of faults. Mostly oxidation. Seems to be a big problem down here.

Lunch is a buffet upstairs in Eisenbahn Bierhaus. Doug Merlo spots me in the queue and invites me to sit with him.  To discuss plans for Tuesday. Our free day, when he plans on giving a few lucky judges a bit of a tour.

Back downstairs in the torture room, we’re treated to 20 chocolate/cocoa beers. Weirdly, one is straw-coloured and another pink. What the hell is going on here? At least they aren’t as nasty as the session IPAs.

75 beers in one day. Even at just 5 minutes a beer, that’s well over 6 hours of actual judging. Not including any hanging around between flights. Of which, thankfully, there isn’t too much.

Just before we leave Fe says: the bus will be at 8:00 and not 7:15 tomorrow. We all make a little dance of joy.

I'm resting in my room now before dinner. My table finished at 17:30, so it could have been worse. The judges I was teamed with were both pretty nice. I'll just have a bit of food and then come back and kip.

I walk back to the hotel with Maria, Fernando and a couple of others. Have a bit of a rest. I’m tempted to just fall asleep, but make myself grab a Joe and head back to the Vila Germanica (German Village). A weirdly kitschy assemblage of German-themed shops next to the hall we’re judging in..

I'm glad I do. I feel more lively, and in Eisenbahn Bierhaus, where we’re having another buffet meal.  I bump into Martyn and Chris Flaskamp, who annoys me by saying:

"Where were you earlier? We spent the last 2 hours drinking caipirinha." The bastard. Winding me up like that.

Only 4 cases of corona so far in Brazil so I'm pretty safe here. At least for now.

After the buffet, we head to Bier Vila for caipirinha and that Brazilian rum whose name I still can't remember.

A small band is playing a weird selection of songs: Boys Don't Cry, Girl from Ipanema, Pink Floyd. All very well played and with a S. American twist. The drummer is dead good on a tiny kit. Yesterday the music was really well played, too.

We take the bus back to the hotel but don't go immediately to bed. Someone suggests “What about a last drink in the hotel bar?”

“OK. I want one if those things whose name I can never remember. The stuff that’s like rum.”


“Yes, that’s it.”

Luckily, after the first one I just have to point at my glass and smile.

The others seem more interested in beer. The lightweights.

We sit on the terrace and chat and sup. The talk turns to yeast, hops and other technical shit. And weird Asian TV. I describe Lonely Gourmet. It’s all very agreeable. One drink turns into several. But who’s counting this late in the evening?

Fun, fun, fun. It's always the same when we beer people assemble. Stephen says:

“You and Martyn behave like an old married couple.”

“I'll take that as a compliment.”

Belgian Peter Bouckaert (who used to be head brewer at New Belgium) winds me up about the use of sugar in beer. Then explains the Chimay brewing process: one type of malt and sugar.

Loving Brazil so far. Lovely, open, friendly people.

Eisenbahn Bierhaus
R. Alberto Stein, 199,
Setor 4 - Velha, Blumenau

Choperia Bier Vila
R. Alberto Stein, 199,
Velha, Blumenau

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