Upstairs the competition was in full swing and felt like some kind of Olympic distance race…the medal race. We arrived at NorCal Brewing Solutions’ well stocked brew emporium after 21 of the 29 entries had been eliminated in qualifying heats. The stated classification of each entry had to conform to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guidelines from 2015. One of the original 30 was disqualified early – it was rumored to be a tasty brew, but not true to style.
After that, a panel of eight judges had tasted all of the entries and rated them, attempting to lay aside personal preference in favor of well made brew. We missed the initial heats, but they must have been intense. Beers were rated by each pair of judges on a 1-10 scale based on how true to style they were, which netted each beer a score out of 40 points possible. This helped maintain impartiality for the judges and served as a course corrector during the hotly contested final round.
The final eight beers were ranked by four final judges. Each judge sampled the field of finalists, making notes and informal rankings as they went. NorCal owner Jay acted as proctor and arbitrator, asking folks to narrow it down to five and rank those in order. As each judge discussed his or her reasoning, Jay was led to pull out the BJCP standards, just to keep everyone on track.
As a result, the race to first place went lap for lap around the table. Debate was animated, though civil, with numerous lead changes for various brews-it was exciting to watch and provided a couple of choice quotes:
“I like the smell of this because it has the smell of booze in it.”
“We’re not making a quiche, we’re makin’ a beer!”
-Brewer Guy Richmond
The other judges concurred as words flew around the table in sequence, “it’s got action! Yes, and complexity! It’s loaded…yet still balanced.”
After much deliberation, three leaders emerged. It was tight, a photo finish. The original ‘out of 40’ scores came back to light, and the judges reached consensus-agreeing with the original ratings. The podium was set-Jay went to a back room to shuffle paperwork and build suspense.
Head to Fall River Brewing’s facebook page to see the announcement of the winner as it happened!
Bronze Medal: A Fruit Lambic with Peaches
Silver Medal: Old Ale
Gold Medal winner, to be produced at Fall River’s facilities: Oaked Crown Maple Belgian Quad
Well Done Keith and April!