Author Topic: AHA First Round  (Read 5094 times)

Offline johnf

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Re: AHA First Round
« Reply #60 on: May 06, 2011, 07:42:04 AM »
One of my favorite recent judge comments was (on a Belgian Dark Strong Ale): "Though the style guideline provides for the level of sweetness you have in this beer, I prefer the drier examples of this style."  I was blown away that he basically acknowledged that one aspect of my beer fell within the guidelines but outside his personal taste preferences,and then dinged me for it... ???   

I've made comments like that in the overall impression section if the scoresheet, but I've never let my preferences affect the score I assign.

Me too, although I would rather say something like "while the sweetness is within the guidelines, it doesn't work to provide the best balance in this beer" or something like that so it doesn't come off as saying "this beer is awesome but I don't like it anyway". Sometimes when you are filling out ten scoresheets an hour you may not have time to craft the perfect presentation of what you are trying to say though.

So I can say that I don't love that phrasing but I understand that things don't always come out the way they would if you had a lot of time to think about what to say and I wouldn't want to recommend this judge for a spanking or anything without at least seeing the complete scoresheet.

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Re: AHA First Round
« Reply #61 on: May 06, 2011, 07:43:52 AM »
There is the passion for the NHC, because it is the Nationals.  This is one we all look forward to.  It makes people competetive, but in a good way.   When a friend takes a medal it really makes you glad for them.  If you win a medal, you get quick texts and calls from people who were listening to the broadcast.



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Offline dbeechum

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Re: AHA First Round
« Reply #62 on: May 06, 2011, 08:55:43 AM »
I would rather say something like "while the sweetness is within the guidelines, it doesn't work to provide the best balance in this beer" or something like that so it doesn't come off as saying "this beer is awesome but I don't like it anyway".

This is good.

One thing I always teach in the BJCP classes that the Falcons put on is something similar to this and I think that it needs to be beaten into judge's heads.

Assuming a perfectly spherical judge in a vacuum, we can also assume that judge's intent is to communicate a sincere opinion on a submitted entry. (As in physics, we know how well those assumptions play out in the real world)

- How you choose to phrase something affects how well the brewer will receive it.

For instance, "use less roasted malt" will cause an entrant who used no roasted malt to say - "this daft git doesn't know what the hell he's talking about" Take the extra few seconds and offer the entrant - "there's a harsh roast-like acridness to the beer. Suggest either using less roasted grains or checking your water chemistry" This way, the brewer knows what you've perceived and why you're making the suggestion at hand.

The other thing that we need to do better, and again I think this is a flaw of how most training for the exam is done, don't focus solely on the negative. Judges, particularly newer judges fresh from the exam, spend most of their time hunting out the flaws and beating on the entrant for this, that and the other. If you're not offering positives, then why is the entrant going to look at doing any of this again? When I'm judging an entry, I try and record the raw impression and then synthesize it into positive commentary and pointed feedback.

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Offline spointon

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Re: AHA First Round
« Reply #63 on: May 06, 2011, 11:55:18 AM »
Judging is subjective.  Sometimes you get a bad draw.  Part of the game.  Two years ago, I had a robust porter score 44, 46, and 22 in three successive weeks. Guess which one of those weeks was the first round NHC?

On the BDSA example, the judge could have meant that although the individual components of the beer met ranges in the guidelines, that the overall beer didn't work as well.  That's a hard point to capture, for many judges as well (particularly ones who judge so close to the guidelines that they don't try a wide range of examples).  The "I prefer" bit could be trying to say how the balance should be tweaked, and to not interpret the individual changes as being something that would put it out of style.

Or they could not like Kasteel or Gulden Draak and couldn't wait to tell you.

The BJCP doesn't train judges per se.  It has a system for evaluation, and a lot of training materials.  Many people use them as part of training, but the results vary widely.  There is no one way to judge, just like there is no one way to brew.  Teaching one method as The Way is not something I want to see.  The exam (should) measure how competent judges are based on how they practice their craft.  That is what we care about.

If you don't like BJCP style judging, you should try going to a beer festival and seeing what is selected as people's choice.  Or read one of those beer review type sites and see which beers are consistently ranked as best.  Then imagine how your beer would be ranked using one of those methods.  Reminds me of the Winston Churchill quote, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried."  If you've got a better way to judge beer, let me know.  Seriously.

Haha thanks Gordon.  Its funny that you mentioned Kasteel and Gulden Draak - Kasteel tripel and GD are two of my absolute favorite beers, though I know they are on the sweet side compared to the dryness of say a Westmalle tripel.

For what its worth I am very new to posting here too and it was never my intention to turn this or any discussion into a critique of BJCP or AHA or any particular competition.  I was just noting an "isn't it funny when..." moment.  A point I stressed several pages ago is that judges are human (and thus subjective), despite an outstanding set of style guidelines that seem to me very clear and precise.   

Offline spointon

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Re: AHA First Round
« Reply #64 on: May 06, 2011, 12:02:01 PM »
WOW !! I was the original post on this subject.It was my first ever post to this forum. It has certainly taken on  a direction I did not anticipate. I just wanted an answer to what I thought was a simple question. Lets see.... it went from a couple of legitimate answers and congratulations to the newbie brewer (me) to bashing AHA it's rules, It's procedures, It' judges, It's competition director (sorry Janis). You people scare me and I am not sure I will participate in this forum again. In my youth I competed in and coached sports. Sportsmanship was the greatest lesson to be taught and learned. Not much of it here. Sorry for the post. :(

I am also a newbie here and hope I wasn't the cause of too much angst with my comments.  I was merely thinking of this forum as sort of a virtual homebrew club meeting.  Pull up a chair, crack a brew, discuss beer, and solve the world's problems all the while being serious or funny or contemplative as you see fit. 

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: AHA First Round
« Reply #65 on: May 06, 2011, 12:12:20 PM »
I am also a newbie here and hope I wasn't the cause of too much angst with my comments.  I was merely thinking of this forum as sort of a virtual homebrew club meeting.  Pull up a chair, crack a brew, discuss beer, and solve the world's problems all the while being serious or funny or contemplative as you see fit. 

You might be new here, but if this is what you think the forum is for, I'd say you get it.

We're not always the best about staying on topic, but the questions usually get answered and some other interesting things usually get discussed as well.  You'll get different opinions, but that's the point, isn't it?
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Online udubdawg

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Re: AHA First Round
« Reply #66 on: May 06, 2011, 12:56:16 PM »
The other thing that we need to do better, and again I think this is a flaw of how most training for the exam is done, don't focus solely on the negative. Judges, particularly newer judges fresh from the exam, spend most of their time hunting out the flaws and beating on the entrant for this, that and the other. If you're not offering positives, then why is the entrant going to look at doing any of this again? When I'm judging an entry, I try and record the raw impression and then synthesize it into positive commentary and pointed feedback.


I agree with this.  I certainly struggle with the positive part.  I don't want to just write "I heard angels at first sniff"" or "It's so good when it touches your lips!" or "feedback: Make more! Here's my address" on terrific beers...
Could you offer some of your examples of positive commentary?

cheers--
--Michael

Offline dbeechum

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Re: AHA First Round
« Reply #67 on: May 06, 2011, 01:43:37 PM »
My advice is to find the positive characters of the beer and emphasize them, even if they don't apply to the style.

For instance, say you have a pale ale that's too malty, but has a wonderful richness, you could always say: "There's a complex malt character this beer, that while inappropriate for pale ale would make a fantastic base for a {insert whatever style it would be appropriate to}"

Almost every entry out there has something to recommend it. Search it out and run with it.
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Offline koelschbrewer

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Re: AHA First Round
« Reply #68 on: May 07, 2011, 05:31:55 PM »
I tasted a friend's English IPA today. The nose punched you in the face with Englishness as if it was a Liverpudlian soccer ultra, and it was obvious that it was a English Pale malt-based beer fermented with an English ale yeast. Judge #1 agrees. Judge #2 comments "Try using English malts and yeast next time". Comment on his six-year old mead that won the first round last year: "Submit it again when it has some age on it, maybe in three years".

Offline thomasbarnes

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Re: AHA First Round
« Reply #69 on: May 08, 2011, 12:43:27 AM »
Thank you for the very thoughtful reply. The reluctance to score 45-50 explains a lot. I was also trying to be modest, the beer I was quoting from actually scored a 40 and moved on to the second round. Being that close to the maximum likely score explains the lack of much concrete criticism.

Appropriate feedback for a beer of 40-45 is: "Outstanding job! Better than/comparable to [commercial example]! Can I have the recipe!"

If you're consistently getting scores in the high 30s-low 40s, you're kicking ass! The fact that you got a 40 with a relatively unexciting beer like an Irish Red is a real coup. Likewise, the fact that you beat a bunch of strong Scotch ales to get to the second round also says something. You should be justifiably proud of your win.

Offline thomasbarnes

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Re: AHA First Round
« Reply #70 on: May 08, 2011, 12:48:47 AM »
I had a beer win a gold in the MCAB.   2 weeks later in a different competition it got a 28.5 and was described as "lifeless and not to style".  First round of the AHA the same beer got a 40.  Same batch, same bottling.  So who was right?

Who knows? It's possible that the judge was being an idiot, it's also possible that you've got packaging problems meaning that your bottles aren't consistent in quality. The only way you can tell is to keep notes as you work your way through a particular batch.

Lifeless, to me, means low carbonation and/or oxidized. Low CO2 means a loose cap, which means oxidation. Low levels of oxidation can give beer a generally "dull" character and reduce hop and ester character. For a hoppy ale, that could knock it out of style. Also, lack of CO2 means that there's nothing to lift hop aroma and esters out of the beer, and less spritziness and "bite" to balance the flavor (although, properly CO2 is a mouthfeel sensation).

Offline thomasbarnes

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Re: AHA First Round
« Reply #71 on: May 08, 2011, 12:58:54 AM »
If I send in a Westy 12 fresh, well treated from the brewery, anything less than 50, to me at least, means there is some sort of uncalibrated scoring going on from novice judges . . .

A dirty little secret about beer judging is that beer judges are human. While brewery-fresh Westvleteren 12 should score in the 40s, possibly even the high 40s, there's no guarantee that a judge will give it a perfect 50. 50 implies that there is no better beer out there, that it's the Platonic ideal of beer for that style, and that no batch of beer can ever surpass that beer in merit. That's a mighty ballsy claim for a judge to make, especially when judging, by its nature, demands consensus. Yeah, that's a fault of the judging system, but there you are.

For those of you who haven't judged, you should try it sometime, or serve as a steward and watch judges at work. There's often a fair amount of "sausage making" that goes into the final score, especially when one judge falls in love with a beer while the other judge finds serious faults with it.

Offline brandon

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Re: AHA First Round
« Reply #72 on: May 08, 2011, 02:38:41 AM »

Meh, the first beer listed in the BJCP guidelines for Belgian Strong Dark, when fresh, well treated, etc. better score 50... and the last beer (in BSDA) better score ~37... if I send in a Westy 12 fresh, well treated from the brewery, anything less than 50, to me at least, means there is some sort of uncalibrated scoring going on from novice judges... I mean honestly, it isn't my fault if everyone hasn't made it to In De Vrede to taste the beer, but if I see a Master level sort of judge on the scoresheet, I expect if they haven't at least made it to Belgium yet, they've had the opportunity to taste the 50 point example of this beer.

 :) But here is the problem just because the BJCP lists it first doesn't mean it really is a 50 point beer. That is an opinion, it is not fact.
I have enjoyed a number of Westy 12's throughout the years fresh and vintage versions. While it is a neat beer and has a cool "Wow" factor for having one state side, I don't think it is a 50 point beer. And I am no more wrong for saying that than people who say it is a 50 point beer. Personally I think Rochefort 10 is a better example and more complex, but still not a 50 point beer. To say "uncalibrated scoring going on from novice judges" is simply silly.
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