ANST - RE: Judging Brewing [long reply]

Hugh Niewoehner hughn at
Thu Aug 14 05:36:41 PDT 1997

Greetings Lord Alexander,

On Wed, 13 Aug 1997 23:50:16 -0400 (EDT) LdAlexndr at wrote:
>The simple fact is, that brewing and vinting can be a difficult catagory
>to judge. And, more often than not, such a detailed judging, like the one
>provided in the last post, is hard to do. Finding capable judges that
>can use such criteria is very rare. 

This is not a failing of the judging form or the art.  It's a failing of US
the brewers and vinters.  We haven't demanded better.  If we want to have
qualified judges we need to take every chance _we_ can to sample all types
of brews.  Additionally, there are courses available for those who are
serious about learning all they can about the craft.  I have a college
eneology course guide by Dr. Marrion Baldy from UC - Davis which includes a
good number of exercises to sharpen ones ability to make determinations
about a wine.  Things like this make _us_ the producers not only better
judges but also better craftsmen.  There's a catalog of books like this
available and I'll post the 800 number to request it if there's interest.
We, the brewers and vinters, are going to be the best source of SCA
qualified judges. 

>And some of the period technique,
>ingredients, are quite frankly, hazardous to your health. 

The dangerous techniques can be worked around.  Note that the form asks
that you explain the differences between your product and what we know of
period materials and practices.  Being able to explain these differences
demonstrates that you have done a little work researching your chosen
avocation.  This is true of all the SCA arts and sciences and is worthy is
notice AND encouragement.  

>The style we have found best as of late is on a popularity judging. (AKA
>Brewing for the masses.) This has worked great in the past and really
>gets down to the point of why the majority of us do this little art. What
>people like to drink and tastes good to them. 
Them?  Yourself or the "masses"?  And even amoungst the masses taste is not
always the same.  Take a sampling of people and you'll probably find a
disparate group of preferences.  One group will like sweet, one will like
dry, another will prefer whites or meads, ad infinitum.  However, most are
perfectly willing to drink whatever is offered and agree that it's "good".
And...ask for more.   The winner is deteremined by which preference is in
greater attendance that week.

>You can produce the most periodly correct (PC.. cute,
>I like that), using period technique, ingredients, have documentation to
>the hilt, and it can be perfect in every way.  But, if it doesn't taste
>good, it's a wasted effort.  
Thanks for the set-up...
But what if it _does_ taste good?  You said "it can be perfect in every
way". However, it's not overly sweet and therefore fails to be as popular
to the masses as the entry from Lord XXXXX who's stuff is cloudy and has a
bunch of junk floating in it.  The masses love it, but it's basically a
poor quality product.  This lets the lazy man outshine the individual who
has pride in his craft and is willing to take the time and effort to do it
right.  I know, my example is extreme, but makes the point.  Good taste and
good technique are not incompatable.  Should they not be rewarded
regardless of the opinion of "the masses"?  

Going back to what I said earlier.  A good judge should be able to
determine a good wine regardless of personnal preferences.  This takes
practice at the art of tasting _all_ types and classifications of wines and
brews.  A practice which, usually, is rather enjoyable. <:-)  You may not
like dry reds but you'll learn how to identify a good one as opposed to a
bad one, etc.

>Now, I'm not saying that we should get rid of the detailed judging. 
Just as I'll agree the open, popular form of contest has it's place and

>whole point of the SCA is period recreation. But sometimes, in areas like
>need to have a taste-based judging. I think when I hand someone one of my
>meads or ales, and that person smiles and wants more, I've done my job and
>won all the contests I need. 
I'll agree with this whole heartedly.  One of the joys of this craft is
sharing it with others.  And, hopefully, having others share with you.
This increases everyones fun quotient.  

Waes Hael!


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