« on: May 07, 2015, 09:39:54 AM »
But, if the judge's experience in that style is limited or nonexistent, I just don't see how they could decide who the winner is. They may be able to weed out faulty entries, maybe even forward the two or three most drinkable entries. But I for one would not feel comfortable at all if I had to assign gold silver bronze to a style I had never tasted before.
I've never tasted mead before. I think I could detect foul off flavors. I think I could tell you which one of a group tasted best to me. But there's no way I could give advice or win-place-show them. I am certain that no respectable mead maker would want my feedback or to find out that I would be deciding if his mead was a winner or a loser. If all judges would excuse themselves from styles they don't really know, there would be... world peace.
It would be ideal if every judge had lots of experience with the styles they are judging, but it's often not practical. IMO, this is exactly what the style guidelines are for, especially some of the historical styles. I've never had a Sahti, but now I can look up the guideline and have something to judge the beer against rather than Googling or guessing (same for beers like Black IPA). This comes down to using your senses against what the style guidelines say. Too many judges don't trust their senses and often look for a clone of their favorite examples of each style (or just what they are familiar with). Or, when they judge with the guidelines in front of them, suddenly they are sensing and writing the words they are seeing on the page that may not actually be in the beer.