Judging the SIBA North Beer Competition 2010

A couple of month's ago I found out that not only was there going to be a Northern Beer Festival but also they were looking for judges to assist in the SIBA North Region Beer Competition 2010. After a few tweets and emails I had confirmation from SIBA that The Ormskirk Baron was indeed going to be a judge at the event.

I've been 'baron rating' ales now for a bit over a year and never judged a beer competition so I was really looking forward to seeing how it all worked.

The day was last Thursday (28th October) and Chris (also picked as a judge) & myself got the train from Aughton Park to Manchester Oxford Road (via Liverpool). The judging and following beer festival was in the Grand Hall, a massive room down in the bowels of the building. Tandleman & numerous other beer volunteers had been extremely busy over the previous days assembling the largest row of handpulls that I've ever seen.

First of all we collected our official name badges and I was pretty chuffed,see you yourself:

On the badge were the table numbers you were to sit at for the three normal rounds of judging, my preference was for bottled ales (as that is the focus of this blog) and they respected that pretty well - I was judging bottled beers for all three rounds!

After that there was around thirty minutes to 'mingle', which basically means find the people that you already know and don't move from that spot! Luckily we found Richard from myBrewerytap, Glyn from Utobeer, Rob from HopZine & Jeff Pickthall so the time past pretty quickly.

There were around thirty tables in the hall, seating about six people per table (although not all tables were full for each round). We were told how to judge & score the beers and that unlike wine tasting it was pretty important that we swallowed the beer rather than spit it out in order to assess the aftertaste.
Appearance was scored out of ten (with clarity a very important part), aroma was also out of ten. Taste was out of twenty and the aftertaste was out of ten. An interesting additional score was require for saleability (which was also scored out of ten) - this ended up being one of the hardest scores to give, how saleable is a 10% hop monster?

My first round was for "Bottled Bitter (up to 4.9%)" and I judged it along with Paul from AlesByMail. We were later joined by Matt Lambert from Label Apeel who due to travel issues had a lot of catching up to do! We judged nine beers in just under an hour - it was a lot more fast paced than I thought it was going to be.

The bottled beers had been decanted into a jug first which just had a number, that number along with the scores were written down on the judging sheet and then totalled up at the bottom to give an overall score for the beer.

Next up was "Bottled Bottled Porters, Milds, Old Ales & Stouts" - we had an hour to judge eleven different black beers - there are only so many scores to can give for a jet black ale with a mocha head!

The final round was "Bottled Gold Beers" which was a little slower paced, we had six different ones to try and they were a little more varied than some of the other rounds.

Once us 'normal' judges had finished a select panel of experts disappeared off into a separate room to do the final judging of the competition and pick the overall winners. Whilst they were sampling the rest of the room was being packed up and turned into the Great Northern Beer Festival 2010.

The festival was open to the public at 4pm, luckily we finished judging the final round about 3pm so we had the pick of the beers to ourselves. From this moment the day starts to become a bit of a blur but I remember speaking to Matt & Katie from the excellent Hawkshead brewery, two top guys from Bushy's brewery - the 'ale of man'. There was also much banter with plenty of chaps from the Twitter beer circle as well as talking to some of the award winners mainly the Ossett brewery team & the Ilkley brewery guys.

I had a thoroughly excellent day, really enjoyed the whole judging process and would jump at the chance to do it again - thank you SIBA for allowing me to be part of an excellent competition and beer festival!

SIBA has a full list of the award winners on their site, as well as a load of great photos from the day.
Thanks also go to SIBA who kindly allowed me to use their images in this blog post.


Rob Derbyshire said...

I had a really fun day. The quality of the beer wasn't amazing but the beers we judged on the third table were much better. It’s a bit of a crapshoot as to what you get. The selection I got for "Specialty" was really quite poor, but the table Rich and Chris was on sounded pretty good...regardless of the chili beer you
Renamed as "Poison".

I met some fascinating characters and everyone was very friendly. This was my first time judging too and I didn't feel out of my depth, to be honest I think I may have know a bit more than some. I was glad you could discuss the beers and being on a table with the affable eccentric Robert Bracegirdle and the very knowledgeable Ian Garrett of GBBF's excellent Bières San Frontières bar. Talking to people with such vast knowledge was a learning experience alone.

Clearly I was on the table with the most discerning palette as Me, Alex and Jeff all appear in your photos.

That photo of Paul from Ales By Mail baffles me, why is he holding this glass like he's Indiana Jones and he's just found a precious relic.

Its always good to catch up with the beery-folk I’ve meet of the last year or so. Hanging the likes of Matt from Hawkshead, Kelly, Glynn, Rich, Chris and yourself made me feel like part of a new-wave of beer enthusiasts among the older establishment.

I hope I get the chance to judge again in the future and no doubt I’ll be proudly wearing my twadge!

Rob said...

Nice one. Sounds like fun.

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