Stumbling into a brewvanic experience is always a good thing, but it’s not stumbling when you’re going to a homebrew competition where there will be great brewers swapping brewing stories and strategies. Where you’ll get to taste a number of very nice beers, and learn from a handful of problem beers. I’ve found that it is even less stumbling when I’ve got my comrade Ken around.
Ken won Carolina Brewer of the Year (CBOY) a couple of years ago and is undoubtedly one of the most talented and creative (sweet spiced kumquat orange tripel, anyone?) homebrewers in the country. I first noticed him when he was forced to judge meads, having entered every beer category available. That day, he won more ribbons than I’d plan to take in a decade. Turns out, he’s one of the nicest guys you’d hope to meet, and is good at about everything he sets his mind to. There are several tangents I could get to, but sticking to beer, I’ll just say that after winning CBOY, it wasn’t long before Ken was brewing professionally. Working together at The Duck-Rabbit, I’ve had the good fortune to get to know and learn from this guy, who’s old enough to be my old man.
I find that wisdom and brewvana is closer if I hang around people like Ken, especially if I shut my mouth and listen. I think it’s no coincidence that God gave us two ears and one mouth. This is our second carpooling trip to judge at a competition, and we had a great time. Waffle House and good beer–that’s what I like in a trip.
The competition was held at Carolina Beer and Beverage, a very nice facility in Mooresville, North Carolina. It was well-organized and slathered with good beers and brewers. My last-minute-bottled beers judged poorly, half expected. One was an exercise in how choosing the right category is so important. I had to do it, as you can’t have two in one category, and I was really curious for feedback on the other beer.
I judged two really good flights, with only a couple of problem beers. In addition, it worked out that I judged the beer that would go on to take Best of Show, something that makes you feel like you’ve done something right. By way of research for a beer I’m planning, I signed up to judge the sour beer category, and wrapped by buds around a couple of Berliner Weisses.
It should be no surprise that I picked Ken’s brain about the style and his experience with it. And I’ve been intrigued by the more than coincidence in his destructive CBOY rampage, so we talked a lot about the skill and strategy involved in his bid for that title. Six hours in the car with Ken, and I’m a lot better brewer. Likely, I won’t brew again until after our early-June move, but I’m absolutely chomping at the bit.