Another 7:30 pick up so I rise at 6:00. After a quick shower, I finish off writing up yesterday. Yippee! I’m 100% up to date. This is a first. I’ll have almost nothing to do when I get home.
I breakfast with Tim. Starting with bacon and scrambled egg, followed by fruit. I’m such a healthy bastard. Well, half healthy. And boringly repetitive. I could show a photograph of any day’s breakfast and you wouldn’t be any the wiser. But this is today’s. The first course.
Why do they cut up the bacon like that? It’s weird. Though nothing like as bad as the sliced-up sausage swimming in some red stuff. Never dared try that.
Tim and me have a good chat about taxation, the Stasi and bus travel in Scotland. Normal breakfast stuff. Neither of us mentions the bacon atrocity.
I sit next to Ben on the bus and he tells me more about his bar (Beer Lovers Bar). It’s sounds dead cool. I really must visit it sometime. It’s been so long since I was last in Antwerp.
In the judging hall, I’m having trouble with my network connection. Again. It says I have access but nothing is happening. Today, it’s just me. Everything is working fine for the other judges on my table.
Stewards are called. Quite some fiddling occurs on my laptop, but still no luck. While I’m not looking, suddenly I’m in. At least it didn’t take over 2 hours, like yesterday.
9:05 – we haven’t got a flight yet. Experimental Beer first. Who knows what they will be? Nothing too insane, I hope.
Carolina Barioni and Simone Cantoni, my fellow judges, greatly embarrass me when they say it’s an honour to judge with me. “When we’ve finished judging you might have changed your minds.” I quip, lamely.
9:26 the first beers appear: a Catharina Sour mid-round. Whatever that is. Quarter final? Some pretty good beers. Others with obvious faults. Easy to pick three to go through. But these are extra beers. In addition to the scheduled six flights. Slightly dispiriting to still be on flight one.
Experimental Beer is a surprisingly good set. I was apprehensive, when seeing we were judging this class. That’s being polite. Shit scared of having to let all sorts of anarchic shit touch my lips. How wrong I was.
A 1% ABV Catharina Sour is amazing. One of the best beers I’ve had so far. A crowd of tropical fruit flavours jostle for room in its amazing aroma. I can’t recall another beer this weak I would voluntarily drink. Though a shot of vodka would liven it up.
Historical Beer. I doubt that it’s a coincidence I’m judging this. Kicking off with Bernadynskie, which is a new one on me. There’s my specialist expertise made a sprint for the exit.
I’m better with the other styles. Which include two Lichtenhainers and a Kulmbacher. Pretty sure I judged a couple of these beers in Florianopolis last October. Especially the one incorrectly called Lichtensteiner.
The next three sets are all Scottish. In preparation, I launch into a rant about Scottish beer and how it’s all the same, really. 60/-. 70/- and 80/-, I mean. Not sure how coherently I put my point across. My fellow judges smile. Probably in pity.
Scottish-Style Light Ale. Three samples, all terrible. Riddled with faults and nothing like the style.
The guidelines we’re using are, to be honest, very wrong. Very, very wrong. And have the “conflicting theories” guff about peated malt in Light, Heavy and Export. Conflicting fucking theories? There’s the real history and shit people have made up. It’s like saying there are “conflicting theories” about whether Hitler was a Nazi.
Scottish-Style Export Ale. Most are OK, one is good enough for a gold medal.
Scotch Ale or Wee Heavy – much more fun. Full of sweet, alcoholy goodness. One beer is very heavily peated. Weirdly, there’s no mention of peated malt in the guidelines for this style. Who the fuck wrote these things? I’m guessing someone who had never visited Scotland.
Baltic-Style Porter. A very good flight. No beer is really bad. This should have been our last flight. But we’ve made the mistake of getting through our scheduled flights too quickly. So, we’ve been given more extra ones.
While Stephen and Tim, on neighbouring tables, have been sitting around without anything to judge for hours. I’m not sure which is more frustrating: extra beer or no beer at all.
Gluten free. A nightmare, mostly. Surprisingly, the Kölsch is pretty good. I was expecting it to be terrible. Being a tricky style to brew
Italian Grape Beer. Mini BOS of 13 beers. Torture at 6 PM. I’m really not up to tasting any more. And it’s really hard to compare beers of different styles with different grape juices added. Unsurprisingly, we struggle to agree. I realise I prefer those with grape varieties I like. Is that the right or wrong way to judge these beers? I’ve honestly no fucking idea.
When we’ve whittled it down to 5 beers, we vote: 5 points for the one we think the best, one point for the worst. Then add up the scores to determine the medals. The gold winner wasn’t the favourite of any of us.
It’s already 18:45 when we’re done. Just in time to catch the bus to Blu Terrace. Great. No time to relax again. And I’m taking my laptop to the pub again.
I sit next to Ben on the bus. And in the pub, where Jos Brouwer joins us.
It’s loud. Not just on account of the live music. Also, from the general hubbub of a swarm of judges. It’s Eisenbahn beer. Heineken, really. I wisely opt for IPA rather than Pils. I’ve been burned before by crappy Brazilian Pils. The IPA is OK. Not great, but drinkable.
The buffet is a bit of a joke. About 2 metres of deep-fried stuff. It fills a hole rather inelegantly.
On the way to the bogs, I notice a miniature of Chivas Regal at the hotel reception.
“How much is that?” I ask.
It’s the only one they have, sadly. It partially fills a spirit-shaped hole. As the bar sells none. I really can’t face much more beer. I’m totally ausgebiert.
Chris turns up after a couple of hours. He’s done the pre-BOS judging. The BOS itself is still continuing. This is after 22:00. I’m so glad I wasn’t asked.
We have some more IPA and wait for the bus to arrive to take us back. It’s supposed to be at 11:00. When it hasn’t arrived at 11:10, we go outside to check. It’s already been and gone. We didn’t see it because it parked around the corner.
Not to worry, Chris sorts out an uber for us and we’re soon bipping and bopping back to the hotel.
“How about a caipirinha in the bar?” I ask.
Chris and Jos are keen. But the hotel bar is closed. The others head off to a somewhere over the road. I’m far too knacked for that. Instead returning to my room.
Where I subside into sleep in the warm glow of Ardmore.
Blu Terrace – Eisenbahn Biergarten
Rua Mariana Bronneman 230
Disclosure: Concorso Brasiliero de Cervejas paid for my hotel during the judging as well as for some food and drink.