One of the most important lessons I learned in Mexico City this year came from my stint judging beer.
My gracious and beer passionate hosts, Jose and Rodolfo, invited me to participate in the Homebrewing Judging happening during Congreso Cerveza Mexico. Knowing full well I’m a very novice judge, they still invited me to participate. So I did with caution and eyes wide open!
The others in the judging corral were incredibly helpful and supportive – we all have to start somewhere. And now I count the experience as a large and influential one. Learning to judge beer based on its technical and sensory merits is very difficult.
Rex Halfpenny has fostered the exercise for years with Jose and summed it up this way:
Think of it as evaluation vs. judging.
Swirl, sniff, write.
Don’t be afraid to compromise.
How do you calibrate something before evaluating something? You need to be knowledgeable, open-minded, discuss with colleague and peers, and then go to it.
We’re human and humans like to judge. If we first evaluate then the process will be more enlightening, more effective, more fruitful and for sure more successful and fun.
I’ll put my hand in the air, with caution, to judge again. To feel confident in doing so, I’ll ask a lot more sensory questions, hang with those who’ve successfully and diplomatically judged, read up and suspend judgement – and simply evaluate.