NHC First Round, Austin – Judging and Results

Apologies for taking so long for another post. It’s been a fairly busy month for me so far, and it doesn’t seem to want to let up. I have been trying to plan for a large series of brews, and perhaps have talked myself out of it.

NHC First Round – Austin

I was encouraged to come and help judge the first round and spent Saturday, April 5, at Rogness Brewery north of Austin. This was my first time formally judging and I am not a BJCP judge, but have been looking at the materials and know the styles fairly well. I was paired with a “real” judge and walked through the necessary bits. I did my best to provide feedback that I would like to have. We used the check box sheets, which I had never seen before – it seems to guide (at least new judges) through a process, but limiting space for comments. To that end – it was a very informative and enjoyable time, but exhausting. While I did not judge anything terribly hoppy – my palate was blown after the second flight. I had to take an extended break and get some food before I felt like I could fairly move on. At the end of the day – we judged 4 styles each with at least 5 entries. My personal thanks to Ed and Chris – who were supportive and patient with all of my questions!

One final comment. Neil – who organized the competition – made this very easy for me. I basically showed up – planning to help steward, and was quickly talked into judging. The stewarding and organization of the process made this bullet proof – and approachable. The stewards were very careful and detail oriented… and genuinely appreciative of the occasional taste of a great beer.

Results

The score sheets have shipped from Austin, and mine arrived yesterday.

As for my entries – of course, I did not judge those categories. I entered both my Strong Saison (Nelson Sauvin) and house Saison. As the Strong Saison was out of style – I entered it into the 16E – Belgian Specialty category, and the latter as 16C. Turns out those categories were very full. I am quite happy with the feedback and the scores, although I didn’t advance to Nationals.

The Nelson Sauvin hopped Strong Saison netted a 35.5, advanced to mini-BOS, and ranged from 34 – 37. Both judges commented on the quality of the beer. I think being in the Specialty category made the competition more fierce for this beer – but I still believe it is far too out of style to survive as a saison. I almost submitted a different beer because this had been stored for about 5 months – and I felt it was past its prime. After tasting my pale ale (which was still too green) – I decided to move ahead. I plan to keep this recipe in my rotation, and make just a few tweaks, but will not likely submit to future competitions.

My house Saison scored much better, with a final 37, and also advanced to mini-BOS. Scores ranged from 39 – 34. Both commented that the acidity was a bit low, which can be fixed, but otherwise this beer seemed to register well with both judges (one non-BJCP). I think that Belle Saison yeast worked well for this, spicy phenols and some clove (70F ferm temps), and there might be room for a bit more spice (orange).

So why am I happy with these scores? Honestly – given the range of bad beers I tasted and the challenge of judging, I am very happy. I was in a competition with a lot of Zealots who are amazing brewers. Perhaps on a different day or different judges I would have done worse or made it through. Facts are – the feedback was strong – and right on spot with my personal thinking.

Entering and judging were very satisfying. If you are interested in judging I would highly encourage you to get connected with your local club. If you are interested in good feedback, send along your best beers into these AHA and BJCP sanctioned events… the feedback should be very good. If it isn’t – feel free to contact the event coordinator. They should help you resolve any concerns.

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