Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Judging The Best In Fest Beer

Curtis Taylor with Beer Judges: Erin Peters, Monie Wickenden, Zach Rosen, and Joby Yobe.

For the 22nd Annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival
Casa Pacifica's Best in Fest Beer Competition was recently held at Barrelhouse 101 in Ventura. Curtis Taylor, Certified Cicerone, selected the beers and orchestrated the beer judging event. Curtis’ blog, HopHeadSaid.com, focuses on beer and food pairings, so he knows what he’s doing.

The entries were judged by a panel consisting of cicerones, certified beer judges and industry experts that included:

  • Erin Peters, Beer Judge & Journalist, practically wrote a book while tasting, but must have known what she was doing, otherwise she wouldn’t be   called “The Beer Goddess.”
  • Monie Wickenden, Beer Specialist at Wine Warehouse Beer.
  • Zach Rosen, Certified Cicerone, beer educator, writer, chemical engineer and deep thinker, appeared to be the most expressive taster and really pondered the beer pairing possibilities.
  • Joby Yobe, proprietor of Barrelhouse 101, also started the Ojai Beverage Company. Joby said that he, like everyone else, has liked IPAs on his beer journey, but his favorite style, depending on the situation, is now Belgian beer.
The craft beer entries were picked up from festival-participating breweries on a Friday beer run that started in Santa Barbara and ended in Agoura Hills. 
Donuts - The default food to pair with beer.
The beers were served (along with coffee and donuts) on Sunday morning at Barrelhouse 101 before they opened for regular business.
The Judges In Action
The judges evaluated each beer style on aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, and overall impression in a blind tasting at the bar. In addition to a lot of viewing color, sniffing aromas, and tasting the flavors in each beer, the judges made food pairing suggestions as they tasted. The beer pairings will be posted on HopHeadSaid.com in an upcoming post.
After about two hours of judging the eight different beers, the top three beers were selected for a second round where they would vie for the Best in Fest award. While the first round was an individual activity for each judge, the second round was done in a collaborative format at a table on the patio (because by now the bar was open for business). 
The four judges had an animated discussion about the relative merits of each beer and selected a winner from the three different styles.
This part reminded me a jury process, where there’s an opportunity for the more compelling arguments to influence the overall outcome. Either way, I would have found it a tough decision to make.
Boris-Oatmeal Stout, Delusions of Grandeur-American Barleywine, Santa Barbara Pale Ale-IPA
The first place award went to the The LAB Brewing Company’s Boris, a barrel-aged Oatmeal Stout (9.6% ABV and 49 IBUs). Way to go brewmaster Roger Bott (aka "Dr. Hops)! 
The other two beers that made it to the second round included the Pure Order Brewing Company’s Santa Barbara Pale Ale, which is really an India Pale Ale (7.7% ABV and 80 IBUs), and not necessarily the last or least, the Institution Ale Company’s Delusions of Grandeur American Barleywine (12% ABV and 100+ IBUs).  Congrats to brewmasters James Burge of Pure Order Brewing Company and Ryan Smith of Institution Ale Company, your beers impressed the judges.
You be the judge!
If you can make it to the festival, try checking out these beers for yourself.  No promises that they’ll be able to serve each beer entry at the festival, due to quantity limitations, but if you download this list of beers you will be able to look for them and pick your own winner(s).

See you at the festival!

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