Monday, May 21, 2012

2012 Brews Crews Wants YOU!

Written by  Patti Smith
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2012 Brews Crews Wants YOU!

Really, it was the nail polish remover smell that got me to think about beer judging. Specifically, it was the fact that I was sitting at a table with a bunch of guys and none of them could place the smell in the glass. I finally took the glass, sniffed and said, “Oh for Pete’s sake! That’s nail polish remover!”
2012 Arbor Brewing Company Brews CrewsNow, we can debate how and why beer ends up smelling like polish remover, but I will save that for another article. Today, kids, are talking about beer judging because you all know what time it is up in here: AABG/ABC’s 6th Annual Brews Crews.

Let me break down the rhymes for you. AABG stands for the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild and ABC stands for Arbor Brewing Company. Along about six years ago, the two great tastes that taste great together decided it would be awesome to have a homebrew competition. This turned out to be a fabulous idea and here we are, half dozen years later. If you have a beer to enter, you can do so until May 18th. If you would like to be involved in another way, let me talk to you about judging and stewarding. (Full disclosure: I am the Judge Director this year).

There are many levels of judging beers. You can go whole hog and take classes on how to judge, and then take the BJCP exam. (This stands for Beer Judge Certification Program.) I have thought about taking the test because Lord have mercy, I have passed the Michigan Bar Exam, every single Michigan Test for Teaching Certification that I have taken, plus endless exams endured during 20+ years in school.

2012 Brews Crews Wants YOU!But this BJCP thing scares me, for reasons I can’t really explain. So for now, I am content to be a true novice. Fortunately, there are enough “real” judges out there who are happy to share their knowledge and expertise with you. At beer competitions, novices will often be paired up with an experienced judge. I have been in that situation and let me tell you…you learn a lot. There are a lot of different tastes, smells and mouthfeels out there, and you can’t really learn them from a book.

If you go to a beer competition and judge, you will be judging on aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel and overall impression. The BJCP style guideline website is amazingly detailed and yes, there is an app for it, should you want it on your smart phone.

If judging isn’t your thing, I’d encourage you to be a steward. When you steward, you bring the beers to the tables and make sure that judges have what they need. This is an extremely important and cool position, because you get to overhear what some very experienced judges are saying. As I said above, there is a lot to learn and much of it, in my opinion, cannot be learned from a book.

The website can be found here. Hope to see you out there and while I can’t promise that the beer won’t smell like nail polish, I can promise a great time!

Patti Smith

Patti Smith

Patti “TeacherPatti” Smith lives in Ann Arbor with Boyfriend Ken, her dog Buddy and her stepcats Ali and Cyrus. She is a special education teacher by day, local history buff and brew drinker by night (see the hybrid history/beer blog at She also loves watching most Detroit sports on TV, boxing, brewing beer, storytelling, board games and recently wrote a middle grade/YA book that she hopes to convince a publisher to publish! Meantime, she is working on a book about the history of downtown Ann Arbor for Arcadia publishers. Her favorite beer styles include Russian Imperial Stout, pumpkin beers, Kolschs and most things with peppers in them.