Wednesday 3 November 2021

More judging

Ever the optimist, I'm up early and down for breakfast well before 8 AM.

I join Gordon again. And exactly the same egg/sausage/fruit combo as the previous mornings. How boring am I?

We're asked to head for the bus before 9 AM. We're not allowed on straight away. Which gives me a chance to chat with Jan Koch, fellow judge and brewer in Hamburg. One topic is the weird fruit on a tree adjacent to the bus.It looks a bit like a 1930s football.

We ask one of the Brazilians what it id. She has no idea. Another says she's pretty sure it isn't edible. No-one knows its name

We get to the judging hotel about on schedule. We're underway after not too long.

The beers come out exactly when required. Not the case everywhere. I've had to wait 20 to 30 minutes for each flight. Really annoying and dispiriting.

They've made a big effort to have a good balance of male and female judges. Great idea. I'll just say that in passing.

Today I'm on Gordon's table. Dead pleased about that. Not just for the chat. But because I know has lots of experience at this sort of thing. He won't allow any hanging around. His table finished first yesterday.

Sure enough, he has a much better system worked out. Makes the process much quicker.

A word about judging, for those who've never judged. It's way less fun than it sounds. Mostly.

You're going to have to drink some bad beer. If you're, unlucky, some really bad beer. That's just how it is. Some brewers, inexplicably submit quite old samples. I'm sure a lot is damaged in transit. Which, depending on where the judging is performed, can be a complex process.

On the upside, you get to discuss beer all day with fellow nerds. Some judges can have very expressive faces when sampling beers. Especially ones they hate. That look of just having taken a slug of battery acid laced with cyanide. I'm a member of that club. I've almost spat out particularly disgusting beers. None that bad this time, luckily.

Other humans can also be a downside. Argumentative, opinionated, pedantic and pig-headed are the characteristics you want to avoid around the table. I'm guilty of at least three. (Possibly five. I'd forgotten arrogant.)

The exact mechanics vary at each contest. But the approach I've seen most is to eliminate the obviously faulty beers first. Oxidation, DMS, diacetyl are the main problems. Even my leather nose can pick them out easily enough.

Next to go are any that are way out of style, no matter how good a beer it is. Like an English Dark Mild that's been hopped with bucketloads of the latest trendy high-alpha varieties, matured in Islay barrels for two years with Brettanomyces and finally bottled with champagne yeast. It might be a great beer, but it's in the wrong fucking category.

Finally, you get to argue about what's left. If you're unlucky, most of the flight will be faultless and to style. A nightmare if there are 8 or 9 quite similar beers. And when arguments can ensue.

The worst rows, however, flare when there's a big split in opinion about a beer. Especially if  two argumentative, opinionated, pedantic and pig-headed judges face off against each other. It doesn't happen that much. Most of the time. judges are in broad agreement. Diametrically opposite opinions don't pop up often. The process would be torture if it did.

I can't claim total innocence of this sin. But I have learnt from my mistakes and grown. As I person. Not getting drawn into that shit again.

Gordon has worked his magic and we're some of the first done with morning flights.

Lunch today is in the rooftop restaurant. With a view over the sea. Very scenic. I get first crack at the nosh, too. 

[Perhaps I would have done better to photograph the lovely view rather than my beige food.]

I get all the food groups: beef, pork and chicken. Note that I go for just a small portion of a single carb.

I've some time after gobbling down my grub. And drop by the supermarket over the road. To check out their cachaca selection. For the kids, obviously.

Disappointing, to be honest, the selection. Just the cheap one in the 931 ml bottle. I grab one just as emergency hotel drink. In case there's a big emergency. Like I've drunk the Bowmore too quickly.

On my way to the till I notice a display of glasses. Hey, that's just what I need. Yesterday, I nicked a flimsy plastic cup from the coffee corner. But that bugger split and I almost dribbled Bowmore all over my laptop. Now I'll be able to drink my whisky like a gentleman.

We start dishing out medals in the afternoon. Without a great deal of disagreement. At a decent pace.

A minibus takes the early finishers back to the hotel we're staying at. So early, I can unwind in my room before dinner.

When I get downstairs Gordon and a few other judges are drinking cocktails at the bar.

"That's a good idea. I haven't had a caipirinha yet."

So that's what I get. Makes a change from beer.

There's a barbecue at the end of the garden. Just before the beach. It's blowing a gale. Scarily windy. Which isn't doing the cooks any favours.

I eat a few skewers of meat and one of cheese. Big lumps of this white stuff. No idea what type it is. Barbecues up nicely. 

People keep bringing me bottles of beer. Black Princess Gold. One of the ones we're getting for free.It's OK, when cold enough.

Someone unwisely asks me about oak flavour in 19th-century IPA. It's a good hour before I pause for breath. 

Not a late one, again. 

A gentlemanly Bowmore, from a glass, gently rubs my temples and soothes me to slumber.

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