Judgment day: The craft beer tasters have spoken

By on August 26, 2015

 

Aug. 13 was my birthday, and I couldn’t think of a much better way to spend it than trying a few dozen brews. It just so happened the first round of judging for the Lititz Craft Beer Fest Homebrew Competition took place on Aug. 13; so, I got myself a designated driver and headed to the second floor of JoBoy’s Brew Pub where I met up with approximately 20 other beer enthusiasts.

Hop’in Around columnist Michael Upton joined other beer enthusiasts Aug. 13 at JoBoy’s to sample, judge, and help select the offerings for the Sept. 27 Craft Beer Fest.

Hop’in Around columnist Michael Upton joined other beer enthusiasts Aug. 13 at JoBoy’s to sample, judge, and help select the offerings for the Sept. 27 Craft Beer Fest.

Just like last year, a panel of beer aficionados gathered to whittle down the slew of entries by homebrewers from across the area to a list of top-scoring favorites. This competition is a free-for-all. Any style is welcome and there were some unique offerings, like a Braggot (mead made with malt and honey). The folks with the Lititz Craft Beer Fest arranged all the beers with similar styles — or as close to similar as possible — into flights. Each flight was scored by a pair of judges. I sat down with Mark Garber of Lancaster Homebrew and happily delved into the category holding some wheats, blondes, and comparable brews.

Using a point system for grading aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, and overall impression, a total of 14 beers were selected as standouts. We used guidelines and scoring adopted from the Beer Judge Certification Program (the competition is not a BJCP event). From those 14 a top 10 were chosen. Competition was stiff! Each table had a few standout beers and there were only a few beers deemed heavily flawed. In no particular order, congratulations goes to the following homebrewers (and their beers): Andy Good (Batch 40 Pale Ale), Derek Markel (Tropical Implants w/Citra and Solar Terminator), Shane Pawelczyk (The Rites of Signage), Matt Ranauro (Surfboard Session IPA), Steve Foose (Hop Along IPA), John Palmer (Double West Coast IPA), Travis Markel and Damien Garloff (Pumpkin Pecan Pie Porter), Adam Chamberland (Stowaway Stout), and Steve Anderson (The Gourd, The Bad, The Ugly).

All finalists will receive two free tickets to the sold out Lititz Craft Beer Fest on Sept. 27, and will have the opportunity to win even bigger prizes. Anyone attending the festival will be able to sample all of the 10 finalists and cast a ballot for their favorite. Unlike last year, judging will be done solely by the people. Two first- place vote getters from the fest will brew their winning beer with a local craft brewer and will have it featured in either JoBoy’s Brew Pub or Mad Chef Craft Brewing. Second-and third-place homebrewers will win gift cards to Lancaster Homebrew. Last year’s top brews were a Scottish Ale and a Smoked Chipotle Porter.

I definitely had a favorite, but I don’t think I should give out that information until after the final judging. Cheers!

Note: Here’s a special shoutout to Ken Myers of Ephrata, who won a pair of tickets to this weekend’s Lancaster Craft Brew Fest by following Hop’in Around (and the rest of my writing) at facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

Michael C. Upton works as a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure, covering subjects ranging from funk punk to fine wine. He invites your comments and suggestions at facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

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