Sunday 19 March 2023

Blumenau judging

The bus is at 7:30. Which means I have to be up early. Like just before six early. As I want to shower and write a little.

I hit the breakfast room at 6:50. Where I spot Marti Nachel and Stephen. After Marti leaves, I breakfast with the latter. The bacon looks a bit anaemic. And the scrambled egg has run out. Leaving me to opt for a cheese and fruit repast. Should give me some energy. Along with those three cups of coffee. But it still feels weird having no scrambled egg.

I take the bus with Marti. I mention that I spent a couple of days in Rio.

“Isn’t it dangerous there? Did you feel safe?”

He’s the second person to ask me that. “It seemed perfectly fine to me. Not threatening at all.”

“During the day, but not at night, I assume.”

“I felt safe at night, too.”

Ipanema isn’t the tiniest bit scary. I feel more unsafe in parts of Amsterdam. I certainly wouldn’t wander around the Red Light District on my own late at night.

I’m on table 37. With Rodrigo Veronese and Raul Schuchovsky. Both Brazilian. Their surnames are an indication of the diversity in origin of this country’s inhabitants.

The internet isn’t working. Great. I can’t even download the app, let alone start judging. But, it’s always a bit like this on the first day. At least I remembered to bring my laptop. Which means I can type this while I wait.

You get used to waiting when you judge. Either that, or you go crazy. Just being patient helps. Eventually they’ll get network access sorted. How long it will take? Who knows? Had I been aware that we’d be hanging around this long, I wouldn’t have got up so early to write.

They said yesterday that 47 of the 141 judges were women. Which averages out to one on each table.  We’re all blokes. Some tables have two women, obviously. What am I trying to say? No fucking idea. It’s a bit early for coherent thought. Just crushing the numbers. As I always do. (I could tell you the how many aircon units there are and the number of stairs up to the balcony.)

At 8:46 I finally get connected to a network. Yippee! I’m ready to rock. Bring me some beer, you bastards.

9:20 – the connection has gone again. This is so much fun. Will we get any beers before lunch? I hope so. The network connection has come and gone a few more times. This is getting frustrating.

All this doing nothing is tiring me out. Even with all that breakfast coffee coursing through my veins.

We take a break. For more coffee and snacks. At least it’s doing something. I have a nice chat with Claire of Good Beer Hunting magazine.

10:27 – I’m connected! I hope it lasts.

These are the styles we’ll be judging.  When beers eventually appear.

Contemporary American-Style Light Lager
Munich-Style Dunkel
Fruit Wheat Beer
Mixed-Culture Brett Beer
Juicy or Hazy Imperial or Double India Pale Ale
Chili Pepper Beer

It could be worse, I suppose. Not really fancying the Light Lager or Mixed-Culture categories. Or Chilli Beer. I’m glad that’s at the end of the day.  Come to think of it, the Fruit Wheat Beer and Double sludge don’t sound much fun, either. I do like me a good Dunkles, though.

I’m not table captain, which is fine. It means less work. And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s work. Ron lazy-arse Pattinson is what they call me.

The Light Lagers in the first set of six are all crap. Oxidation, DMS, diacetyl, you name a fault, it’s here. The second set of six are all crap . . . except one. The others are like a course in off flavours. Some have the full set: DMS, oxidation, diacetyl, butyric acid. And one weirdly tastes of strawberries. I’m glad that’s over.

Munich Dunkles next. One is spot on for the style, with a lovely nutty malt character that’s reminiscent of a good Bavarian example. Most of the rest are riddled with faults. And don’t taste very much like Dunkles.

There’s only time for two flights before lunch. We should have done at least three to be on schedule. It’s shaping up to be a long day. I’m just glad we got through any flights.

Guess what lunch is? A buffet. Salad, fish, meat, black beans. I try to make my choices as healthy as possible. I have a wander outside to get some fresh air and prepare myself for a busy afternoon. Even here in the city, there’s lush vegetation all around.

I take a deep breath and re-enter the judging hall.

Fruit Wheat Beer – we’re spending a lot of time discussing whether the base beer is of the right style. That’s fun. They mostly taste pretty nice, mind. Other than a couple being way too sweet. And one smelling like dirty socks.

Mixed-Culture Brett Beer - way too much of everything in some examples. Too much wood, too much fruit, too many bugs, too many spices. Just too much shit. And shitloads of acidity. Quite hard work.

Juicy or Hazy Imperial or Double India Pale Ale. After all those sour beers my stomach is getting a pummelling. I need me some rum. Quite impressed by the crystal-clear example. And least they’re full of alcoholy goodness.

Chili Pepper Beer flight isn’t as awful as I had feared. The Berliner Weisse with habanero was a real surprise.  I laughed out loud when I read the description. But it was by far the best beer. The only one to really get a chilli flavour and not just heat.

It’s getting on for six by the time we finish. We aren’t going back to the hotel, but straight to the restaurant, Thapyoka. I’d have liked to have had a little time back at the hotel to catch my breath. And to dump my laptop. I’m oddly reluctant to take it to pubs.

Going outside to wait for the bus, I bump into Tim and Stephen. Who seem to have judged a similar mix of the good, the bad and the ridiculous.

In the restaurant we’re joined by Claire. Making us the gringo table. When a waiter walks past with a tray of Pilsner, we grab some. It’s not the greatest beer ever.

The meal is a buffet, of course. It would be surprising if it weren’t. The second of the day. Not the most inspiring choice of food. I get potato salad, green stuff, a little bit of fish and some meat. It fills a hole. Nothing more. And it doesn’t even do that particularly well.

A pair of Policia Militar cops are loading up plates at the buffet. Seems to be a theme. I doubt very much that they’re paying. I hope they enjoy it more than I did. I wouldn’t like them to get angry while I’m around.

Stephen knocked back his first beer quickly. Too quickly. He’s now regretting getting a second. I’m not even half way through my first. He goes off in search of booze. I could murder a caipirinha, myself.

“They have no spirits.” He reports back. “How about we leave?”

Fine by me. There’s nothing here worth hanging around for. No chance of a caipirinha. And the bus won’t be for hours.

Tim checked on his phone earlier. The hotel is very walkable. So that’s what we do, once we’ve finished eating. No waiting around for the bus, like yesterday.

It’s just over the river and a little further. Not far at all. And, it being after dark, there’s no sun to worry about. Rather a short walk than ages of aimlessly hanging around.

Back at the hotel, we ascend to the bar. Where we find Marti Nachel and his wife drinking beer. We order caipirinhas. A very friendly – and very young – waitress takes quite a while making our drinks.

“I don’t know why it’s taking so long. There are only three ingredients.” Stephen says.

He’s right, but I’m in no hurry. I’ve learnt patience in my old age. Finally. And from judging South American beer competitions. Also, she seems very new to the job. Give the lass a chance to learn.

Chris arrives; rather than order a drink, he heads to the pool. Which is just outside the bar. The pool? At this time of night? It’s cocktail hour. Cocktail decade, for me.

Being a contemporary sort of bloke, I get another caipirinha. Weirdly, I’m feeling much better than when stuck in that crappy restaurant. So much so, that I celebrate with one more caipirinha.

Chris appears from the pool and, after much deliberation, gets the good cachaca Stephen has spotted behind the bar. There’s just about enough left for a single measure.

We don’t linger much longer. It’s getting late and we’ve another early start tomorrow. Early bus. Whether we start judging early is another matter.

When I get off at the third floor, I realise that 307 was my room number in the last hotel. Here I’m in 603. And I’ve just charged my drinks at the bar to room 307. Oh, well. I’ll let them know at reception tomorrow. I can’t be arsed to go down now.

Ardmore hurries me down the final flight to nightly oblivion.

Thapyoka Restaurante
R. XV de Novembro, 160
Centro, Blumenau
SC, 89010-001.

Disclosure: Concorso Brasiliero de Cervejas paid for my hotel during the judging as well as for some food and drink.

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