Tag Archives: rhetoric

Judging with Mind & Body: a Holistic Approach

Here’s an awesome idea: What if, after completing a judge sheet during a competition, the judges stood up, lifted their arms above their heads, and took five minutes to gauge the physiological effects of their beer? Some light calisthenics, a lap around the house, or a lightning game of rock-paper-scissors would probably suffice. Assessments of balance, logic, and physical fatigue could be taken, as well as insight into the more metaphysical effects of certain styles. For example: “Could only complete five squat-thrusts, but creamed the other judges using the all-scissors method.” Or, “This barleywine made me feel like a helium balloon tied to a millstone!”

This section could be linked with the enigmatic “intangibles” checkboxes at the bottom of the current scoresheet, with a range of points to be given for, say, balance: a scale of -2 to +2, -2 being “falling down,” 0 being “wobbly as normal,” and +2 being “walked the line.” Physical exertion could be particularly telling; if, after finishing a Pilsener the judge was winded after one lap, they might remark that “this beer is too exhausting; it would be unacceptable to have a couple during lunch break on a construction job. Best to enter this as a Baltic Porter.”

Mental games such as short math tests or memory puzzles would be perfect assessment tools, and language games, like tongue twisters or anagrams, would not only help the judges analyze the metaphysical aspects of a beer; it might improve the written portion of the scoresheet. For example:

A dearth of grain character and a bouquet redolent of northern Thai durian fruit, coupled with an amalgam of yeast notes that conjures images of torture by wet socks is a clear indicator that this is a  ___ beer.”

In this case the beer was bad enough to turn this working class judge into William Faulkner. Also, one should never make assumptions. Another example:

lst m vwls, srry, br sx.” [lost my vowels, sorry, beer sux [sic].]

Here we get a double dose: something must be horribly wrong for a beer to have a direct impact on the judge’s ability to write. In normal judging circumstances, this malady might not show itself until the subsequent beer has been served.

My suggestion has its obvious theoretical and practical holes; of course we have all had different levels of exposure to the limits of our own senses. Secondly, it treads dangerously close to the realm of categorically different substances, both legal and frowned upon. If this practice was adopted, there would have to be some sort of manifesto drawn up, extensive studies done to weigh points given against classified information on the judge; naturally there would be resistance to this radical method of judging process, and the BJCP test would become much more rigorous than it already is. Also, think of the competition organizers and stewards, who would spend their now extended engagements wrangling giddy judges. Judging would have to become self-officiated, and would inevitably fall into anarchy. Best we scrap this whole thing.

New in Bottles: Great Divide Hibernation

Today started out with a dream in which I became a detective trying to solve the murder of a woman. After singling out her friends and relatives and always coming up with a solid alibi, I discovered a secret room behind a large staircase in the barn-like garage of her lesbian lover’s house. Something in this room revealed that it was in fact the lover, who had been escorting me around throughout the dream, who had murdered the woman. I managed to secret a glass knife from a nearby table in case of an attack which I soon experienced, overcame, and then woke up. It’s not often I remember completing a dream, much less waking up with a feeling of success, so the day started out alright.

Work at the Stein went smoothly, helping some of the folks coming in for the game (UO/Stanford) find something to oil their vocal cords for the big match (i.e. Ducks fans shouting “tim-BERRRR” as the Cardinals (with their tree mascot) succumb to Phil Knight’s mighty stadium). I love to drink before events like that, but one woman chose, after rejecting Adriaan, a Dutch gruit beer that contains a blend of herbs instead of hops, the Dogfish Head Raison d’Extra, the proportionately doubled uncle of Raison d’Etre. At 18% and $9 per bottle, I wondered what sort of party she was going to. I decided to walk out with two bottles: Chimay White and the winter release (even though it’s barely autumn) from Great Divide, an Old Ale called Hibernation.

This is a pretty young beer; bottle date is 9/2/10. I think the fad of checking the “skunk date” only applies to lighter beer, but this could be a reverse situation: a beer that’s too fresh! Old Ales are, by the books, aged for a while, so perhaps I’m not giving this beer a fair shake by drinking it before winter… but then why don’t they release it when it’s actually winter? Seems Hallmark has set the bar for advance holiday cheer, what with Jubelale and Winterfish already on shelves as well. Anyhow, my impressions:

Aroma: Malty with a red/green apple note (acetaldehyde?) hit right away. After that, there are some light sugary aromas and a pineappley sort of hop aroma that lends a twang. Very little alcohol aroma, no diacetyl or other specific off-flavors.

Appearance: Clear, brownish-red. Eggnog colored fluffy head settles down rather quickly.

Flavor: A fruity, malty mouthful balanced by moderate bitterness. Again, the apple flavor rides along. Very little alcohol heat. Does not have the desserty flavors I want from an Old Ale.

Mouthfeel: Medium body; seems well attenuated for style. Slight cloying on the back of my cheeks, but the bitterness balances the sweetness well. Moderately carbonated.

When judging flights, the first beer is the most aggravating because it’s either good or bad, and that can (but shouldn’t) set the tenor for the rest of the beers. In this case, I’d be excited to try the rest in hopes that my face would turn bright red after tasting one with bunches of dark, caramelized fruit and Portly boozy notes. The Hibernation seems too young; its apples haven’t wilted and dried on the branch in an Indian summer. Interesting: this beer is listed as a commercial example of an Old Ale in the BJCP guidelines, and lies at the upper end of the alcohol content spectrum for the style. The RateBeer.com description says it’s aged for three months before bottling. It does go very well with the ginger/rosemary cookies my neighbors gave me in exchange for eggs.

So what now? My personal rating gave it a pretty mediocre score. We have to take into account that I’m not extremely familiar with the Old Ale style, though I’m a fan of what I have had, both commercial and homebrewed varieties. I think I was expecting more of a barleywine. It could also be that there’s dust in the air since I just vacuumed my house, and my nose isn’t “on.” It did go remarkably well with those cookies, and the bottle suggests a pairing with Dutch cow cheese, tenderloin, or (aha!) apple crisp with ginger ice cream. Obviously they know what they’re getting into with this beer, and I’m just being a hater, right?

So try a bottle, have some beef or dessert with it, and see if it’s your thing. Old Ales don’t come around very often, and, as with many British styles that aren’t hoppy-mc-hop-bombs, are overlooked by the general public (again, not a hater, just an observer).

Hello beer world!

A beer blog in the Pacific Northwest?! Who’d’a thunk it…

Well, since we’re all so aching, we Eugeniuses, for hipness to trickle down from Portland I figured I’d start a blog on the joys of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Why do people drink it? Because it won a Blue Ribbon at the World’s Fair back around the turn of the century? Wrong! It never won a blue ribbon– that contest was fixed, probably on both sides, by the A-B guys and the Pabst guys, and in the hubbub of judges resigning in shame, prams bouncing down stairs, and women fainting with their forearms pressed against their foreheads, Pabst declared itself the winner, made itself a commemorative plaque, and began distribution in college towns across the nation. (read Ambitious Brew by Maureen Ogle)

The joy part of this conversation lies in the style: American Lager. Its emergence as the beer of the working class (i.e. the majority) is natural; uncomplicated, refreshing, and a great alternative to water; what’s not to love? The problem is that the enterprising German expatriates and their close offspring that heralded the demise of the ale industry are gone, replaced by even more distant descendants-cum-marketing executives who favor low-cost over high quality.

Well here I go ranting on a blog. What I meant to say is that there is hope for the lager in America– Heater Allen’s fine selection, from Schwarz to Pils, show that the appreciation for heady, bready grain aromas and the tightrope walk of hop balance aren’t lost over international waters. Victory’s Prima Pils could be the turning point for a hop lover who eschews any hint of malt. And dare I mention Anchor Steam, the first historical landmark after thousands of miles on the beer highway? OK, Anchor Steam isn’t an example of American lager, but props to it anyway.

I’m drinking a homebrew, the spring-for-summer inspiration of a friend for whom I’m goat sitting while typing at his computer; staring out the window at flies performing geometric patterns; listening to the goat, Honey, from whom I will extract a quart of another delicious liquid in a few minutes. It’s an American Lite Lager: light body, light flavor, light color, light keg. Delicious pre-dinner beer. While milking I’ll switch to the IPA, which he claims is never under 135 IBU. Bollocks, it’s delicious. Super hop flavor, which for me means no grapefruit whatsoever. Just pine and citrus, with a hint of peonies or something. After dinner, his Oude Bruin Kriek. Are you jealous yet? Drooling? Yeah.

At work today I sampled (ha!) the New Belgium Imperial Berliner Weisse. How dare they! Imperializing a renowned lunchtime liter! It’s good; as I described to a server for her conveyance to customers: “like dipping toast in lemonade.” I’m a big fan of making non sequitur comparisons like this, like describing Zach Galafainakis as the child of Robin Williams and Charles Bukowski. The beer is tasty, though it naturally lacks the … er … lack of body characteristic of this redheaded stepchild of a German beer style. It’s a mouthful (TWSS).

This has been my first blog post. Thank you. I hope to accelerate production of words ideas, and possibly videos in the coming months, to gain a small but thirsty audience, and to lend my voice to this new collective (literally) consciousness (totally fake).