Meetings at Mara’s place are always exciting. Things run fairly normally upstairs, although “normal” for Mara usually involves an outstanding spread of munchies. But we always end up drifting down to the basement eventually. And things get very interesting in Mara’s basement.
Mara has built her own glycol-chilled fermenter. She has built a 3-tier brewing stand we all envy. She has an induction brewing set-up and a 4-tap kegerator. And she has a beer cellar surpassed only by Clay, to the best of my knowledge. It’s all kind of intimidating.
As usual, the March meeting ended with everyone in the basement, sampling from Mara’s extensive sour beer collection plus some truly excellent cider she had on tap. As I tore myself away, she was opening yet another hard-to-obtain gueuze to share.
This particular meeting, however, included some excitement upstairs as well. We previewed some changes which may become standard operating procedure during at least some of our meetings. We glimpsed the future, and it was good.
As most of you know, we spend most of our meetings blind-judging homebrews according to BJCP guidelines. There is much to recommend this: it refines our palates, improves our descriptive ability, prepares us for BJCP exams, and makes us better brewers. But it can be a little too serious, especially when there are many homebrews to judge in an evening.
At the March meeting, we supplemented this with a second option: “tell-taste-talk” (as coined by our own Dr. Pivo). At the brewer’s discretion, we do not judge the entry blind. Instead, the brewer gives a short presentation on what s/he was trying to produce and what went right or wrong. We taste the brew and make comments.
Why would we do this? Well, in my case, I brought a saison made to an old recipe but with new water. This was my first brew in my new house, where the water is completely different from the water in the old place. I knew the beer was bad. I wanted feedback on what people were tasting. I could present the beer and the problem and I got excellent suggestions for improvement.
Other brewers discussed their beers (or ciders) or allowed the blind judging to proceed as normal.
Did this work? Yes! Fantastically. It will probably become standard procedure going forward.
Andy took pictures but I don’t have them yet. Tasting (and discussion) notes are below.