« on: November 17, 2015, 08:05:10 AM »
Don't necessarily list every single spice that you used. Only tell them the real obvious ones that you are actually able to taste in the final beer. Then you'll score well.
I'll give you an example: one time I made a beer with mace in it, among several other spices. Mace tastes almost exactly like nutmeg, except 99% of beer judges would probably have no idea what mace is. So, I actually lied and told them there was nutmeg in the beer instead of mace, because the beer did in fact taste like nutmeg. In the end, I scored very well and the judges all stated how wonderful the nutmeg flavor was balanced by the malt, yadda yadda.
Another example: I have made several gruit ales with all sorts of crazy herbs but no hops. In that case it was beneficial for me to tell them "no hops!" but when faced with terms like "sweet gale, mugwort, and cardamom", it was a crapshoot whether I would score well or score poorly. If I had instead told them that it tastes mostly like "mugwort, which is similar to oregano", which is pretty much true, and ignored the other herbs that I really used, then I would probably have scored better.
Tell them what the beer tastes like, not necessarily the ingredient list. On the other hand, don't just say "spiced" because they don't know what the spices might taste like -- could be peppercorn, could be clove, could be cinnamon, could be ginger. Be a little bit specific, but not too much. Figure out what it tastes like most to you, and throw them just a bone or two to focus on. It would also be okay to say "spiced with cinnamon and other spices" if it tastes like cinnamon and other spices, or whatever. You get the picture?
As for imperial schwarzbier versus Baltic porter, choose whichever one you think it tastes like the most. Judges know how to differentiate those kinds of terms pretty easily.