Beer judging is a serious business

Last updated 13:22 30/11/2012
Hobbiton Beers
FINE DROP: Hobbiton Beers are supplied by Good George Brewery, owned by Jason Macklow, right, ntsG (cap) nte pictured with brewing director Brian Watson

Relevant offers

Fritz and Maria's Beer Column

Vote for Nelson's best beer photo Double hoppy; we're happy Whisky and beer can pair well Destination Woolston Auckland brewers hop on board Silly season for beer Session beers pack a flavour punch Red tape threatens community events Flavours from the Baltic Richmond supermarket hot spot for a brew

This was our second year co-ordinating the homebrew judging at the A&P Show, so we thought we'd give you a behind the scenes of what goes into a juried beer competition.

First, we will let you, like all of our friends, chuckle at our seriousness about the topic.

Yes, we studied for six months before taking a three-hour exam to become Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Recognised beer judges.

Yes, the studying and the exam involved drinking. No, you don't spit when you are judging beer.

So, yes, we take beer judging seriously and we took the offer to run the A&P competition seriously.

The organisers hoped we could draw in a new, younger crowd of homebrewers, as the number of member entrants was dwindling and the entire competition was at risk of dying.

Our BJCP training was heavily focused on providing value to the entrants, stressing the importance of giving useful feedback for continuous improvement.

Having entered the A&P competition the previous year, we could see room for improvement in this area. We also saw an opportunity to build some judging talent among local beer enthusiasts.

We had judged a number of times for the New Mexico State Fair in the United States, a rather larger version of the local A&P show with several three-judge panels judging hundreds of professional and amateur beers.

We figured the best way to fit the scale of the Nelson show, while bringing in some features from the other, was to start with two panels. This way, judges can still enter beers without risk of judging their own brew.

Ahead of the show, we held a little training session, and lo and behold, we had a nice team of judges to draw from.

We got positive feedback from entrants and judges and decided to repeat the formula this year.

Many of last year's judges were not available, so we quickly trained up a new crew, and again had two eager panels.

Our only challenge this year was receiving just 12 beers. We heard a number of valid reasons and excuses, including cost. (We can only imagine that particular concern was a misunderstanding, since you can enter unlimited beers, and wines, for just $10, which also gets you a ticket to the show.)

But quantity aside, this year's quality was truly impressive.

While last year's judges faced a few challenging entries, this year they found one tasty brew after another.

In the end, only one of the dozen entries did not earn an award.

Ad Feedback

As mentor on the day, Maria did some "quality checking" and confirmed that it was not just generous judging.

Congratulations to the winners, especially to long-time competitive brewer Don Wilson who, despite a significantly reduced brewing schedule this year, was able to win three awards and take out the champion award for highest total points!

We are open to suggestions for ways to get more brewers into this competition (email your ideas to, and we look forward to another stellar group of entries next year.

This was also the third year of the Nelson Craft Beer Awards at the A&P show. Entries were opened to breweries in the top of the south, which drew in a record number of breweries and beers.

The three-judge panel awarded gold, silver and bronze awards in four categories, including cider. Congratulations to McCashin's, Sprig & Fern and 8 Wired who won the golds.

Beer News

The Moutere Brewing has released their third beer, 1516 Pilsner. (Beer geeks might recognise that as the date of the Reinheitsgebot German Beer Purity Law).

Like beer? Like cheese? On December 6, the Vic in Nelson is hosting a Beer & Cheese pairing with Geoff Griggs of the Marlborough Express and Karen of Trafford of Wangapeka Cheese.

Geoff will pair at least six Mac's and other beers with Karen's cheeses in ways that compliment, cut or contrast flavours.

And those of you going Hobbit mad this week have two New Zealand beers to watch out for. Yeastie Boys have put out a 4.4 per cent abv golden ale called Golden Perch will be on tap in Welly.

Then, when you visit the Green Dragon Inn in Hobbiton, you can try the house ale, an English bitter made by Hamilton's Good George Brewing.

- Nelson

Special offers

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content