Sunday, 5 December 2021

Last judging

"What will we be judging today? We already awarded medals yesterday." I ask Gordon over breakfast.

"Not all the categories have been judged yet."

My hopes of a short day dashed, I tuck back into breakfast. The eggy sausage fruit thing I'm now totally committed to.

I've been down early enough to be ready for the scheduled departure of the bus at 8:20. I should really have caught on by now. It leaves closer to 9:00.

I sit next to Jan Koch, who brews at a brewpub in Hamburg. I'd been surprised a couple of days earlier when he spoke to me in fluent Dutch. Not what you'd expect of someone living in Hamburg.

It turns out he'd worked in Holland. Including a place where my wife worked. Though they were in different departments and their paths didn't cross. Still weird.

He complains about how late the bus back to the hotel was yesterday. It turns out I was one of one of the lucky ones. I assumed that the minibus would have continued to ferry people back. It didn't. After my trip it fucked off. Everyone else had to wait for all the judging to be done. Which was after 8 PM.

I'm on a table with Ludmilla again. This time captained by Tibor, who has  a beer pub in Munich. Just the three of us.

Tibor is using the same system as Gordon, more or less. Which has us zipping through the beers. I'm dreading a couple of the flights. Vienna Lager, for a start. And home brewed Catharina Sours.

The Viennas are as expected. Almost all riddled with faults. Except for the only decent one I judged on the first day.

In contrast the Catharina Sours are the best set I've had in the whole competition. 8 out of 10 good. Some very good indeed. It restore my faith a little.

We rattle along so smoothly that, even judging one of the flights meant for the afternoon, we're still pretty early for lunch. Again up on the rooftop. It's pretty much the same buffet fare as the other days.

Tibor rocks us through the afternoon flights. So quickly, that we get an extra flight. Even after that, we're one of the first tables done.

I'm going to be judging Best of Show. Meaning I have to hang around until all the other tables have finished. Jan does, too. He mentions that he had a quick swim and a beer at lunchtime. Just 50 metres away. I wondered why his shorts were wet after lunch. I didn't like to say anything in case he'd pissed himself.

A couple of tables clearly have a way to go.

"Fancy nipping to the beach?" I suggest. "Some fresh air would be much nicer than staring at a blank wall."

He doesn't need asking twice. Soon we're settled down on the beach. Almost deserted and quite lovely.

It feels like I'm on holiday for the first time since Sunday. So I get myself a cachaca as well. I nice big, thick one.

Jan asked another judge to call him when they were ready to start. Which he does. It only takes a couple of minutes to get back. We've had maybe 30 minutes on the beach, but it's really chilled me out. And got me ready to make big decisions.

There are two rounds to Best of Show. Each table of six judges gets 15 beers or so and has to put through three. There's a lively discussion on our table to whittle down the possibilities. We manage to come to a consensus without too much pain.

While we're discussing one of the Brazilian judges, possibly a shade older than me, mentions that he's a musician. Quite sell known in Brazil, it seems.

When we've made our choice, I nip off to the bog for a quick slash. On my return, I notice that I 've been chosen to be on the final panel. That's what happens when your name is in the BJCP guidelines. Gordon has already left, flying back to get home for Thanksgiving. The sneaky bastard.

It's pretty obvious to me which the winner is. To most of the other judges, too. There are only really two beers in contention. A quick show of hands confirms the winner as a Catharina Sour. With passion fruit and dragon fruit. The aroma is amazing. I could just sniff it all day.

It's late, but not stupid late. Not even 8 PM. There should still be some food left for us.

Tonight it's Feijoada, a traditional Brazilian stew. Not that I'm feeling that hungry.

A samba band is playing and most of the Brazilians are dancing. It appears the band recognised the musician judge and have invited him to join in. He sits in, singing and playing, for three or four songs. He clearly knows what he's doing.

I'm not tempted by the dance floor. A couple of decades back, I'd have been up like a shot. But my dancing days are behind me. I'm happy now just to watch and tap my foot.

I chat with fellow judge Thomas Sjøberg about beer history stuff. Drinking more Black Princess beer.

It's been a long and tiring day. Other than the quick beach interlude. I don't need to be up particularly early tomorrow. But I still go quite early to my bed. I need to preserve my energy. I'm not a young man anymore. 

Gentleman Bowmore has deserted me. This time it's cachaca giving me the final push into temporary oblivion.

The organisers of the Brasil Beer Cup paid for my accommodation and food during the period of judging (four nights and three days) Beer, too, which was provided by one of the sponsors. I had to pay for my own cocktails. And all other expenses, such as flights and extra hotel nights.

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