I had the honor and pleasure of participating as a guest judge for the Australian Amateur Brewing Championships in Perth, Western Australia this weekend. Not only was it my first ever judging experience, but I got to taste some great beers and meads from the best amateur brewers in the country; and I got to meet some really great guys during and after the session.
The competition organizers paired me up with two nationally ranked BJCP judges. This allowed me to offer my impressions of the beers and meads while receiving valuable insight into how the technical evaluations were finalized for scoring. Any nerves that I brought to the table quickly dissipated as I realized that years of sampling, drinking and hanging out with my team of aficionados at The Hive has positioned me to offer valid judgment on beers and meads. I was in my element and thought I held my own - a proud Apprentice!
We started off with Amber and Dark Lagers - a wide-ranging category that covered 18 different beers across eight styles. We progressed methodically through them and only occasionally differed in scores to a point that required a lengthy and technical discussion. I loved being able to hear the judges state their case for raising or lowering the score, and at the same time, I tried my best to explain the rationale behind my particular score. Those few instances provided me with the best insight and education during the event.
After a very quick lunch break, it was time to move onto the Mead Category. The Aussies brought some excellent offerings across a wide variety of styles to the nationals. We experienced some awesome traditionals, bochets, big fruit bombs, and some very interesting entries in the “other mead” category. Some of the honeys used were quite unique. One in particular really stood out for me and I was told it was leatherwood honey from Tasmania (it wasn’t actually listed on the entry – so I’ll have to trust my newly befriended Aussie judges).
Overall, the experience was one of a kind and I’m thankful to Sean from Erosion Meadery for the invite. I can honestly say that I now have the bug and will start working towards improving my education and training to become a judge sometime in the future. If you ever get the chance to be a guest judge, I recommend you go for it. Thanks Mike for talking me into going.
Cayce Rivers is the head of Finance, Sales and Marketing for Meridian Hive. While not technically qualified to handle any of those areas, his 20 plus years in the corporate world provides a wealth of ammunition to allow him to fake his way through most of it. He brings a balance of extraordinary vision, sharp focus and practicality to help the team reach seemingly unachievable goals.