It was a little intimidating judging others homebrew because I didn't want to be critical and at the same time honest criticism is what the entrant is looking for in order to improve their brewing. I had the BJCP guidelines opened up to the page that described the style I was judging and used it as a reference to make sure the flavors and aromas I detected were appropriate or not for the style.
I tried to be thorough and accurate and I learned as the judging progressed that I will need to develop not only my palette but also my vocabulary if I am to continue judging in the future.
This is serious work and judging anothers homebrew is not something I take lightly. This is not sampling beer and having an opinion on personal likes and dislikes or preferences but comparing the sample to the style for accuracy and quality.
The nerve center of the competitionThis year there were one hundred and thirty some beers entered into the competition, the largest number yet for the county fair and an indication of the rapid growth in the homebrewing hobby. When all was said and done, I ended up in the best of show arena with my Russian imperial stout, but the winner of the best of show turn out to be a new brewer who submitted a Belgian Saison. Congratulations for brewing a great beer.
Next week, each night of the fair, the Zymurgeeks homebrew club will be conducting brewing demonstrations at the fairgrounds and pouring samples of beer from one of the local commercial brewers from Santa Cruz. If you can make it out I'll be brewing on Wednesday night, stop and say hello and taste some beers.