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April 27, 2011 / Brewtiful BC

BC Beer Judging

Volunteering feels good.

I have volunteered for many things in my life.  In high school I did some volunteer work for the Cancer Society around Christmas time, I volunteered my organs to those who need some after I die, and I even altruistically volunteered my labour for Vancouver Craft Beer Week as their marketing intern.  Most recently, I have donated my time to help with the VCBW BC Beer Awards.

It was my first time at a beer judging event so I didn’t really know what to expect. There were about 15 volunteers helping to label, pour and bus the beer up to the four tables of judges.  There were over 150 beers that were dived into seven categories.  Breweries involved include interior favorites such as Tree, Okanagan Spring, Tin Whistle, Cannery, and Mt. Begbie, Island staples like Driftwood, and Phillips, as well as Vancouver heavyweights Red Racer, Storm, and Deadfrog and GIB.  Lots of the beer I have seen before, but definitely a lot I haven’t.

As a rookie beer nerd, looking into the elite judging the beers was an experience.  I don’t know how I envisioned it, but it wasn’t like this.  I guess when I think of beer drinking I didn’t really picture taking 150 critical sips of beer, but this was extremely official, check out the BJCP and you will get an idea of what I’m talking about.  Upstairs where the judging was happening was very professionally done.

Downstairs with the volunteers, not so much.  We were granted the privilege to sample the remaining beer that wasn’t being judged.  So for a 650ml big bottle of beer, the remaining ½ litre that isn’t sampled goes to the volunteers to test.  The beer, or as I call it “volunteer fuel”, kept everybody happy and working hard all day.  The other volunteers were all over the map, the range included computer programmers, home brewers, students, journalists and unemployed beer fanatics.  All great people.

To the volunteer goes the spoils

Watching the judges was one of my favourite parts.  Of the celebrity judges on hand I recognized VCBW president and Urban Diner creator Paul Kamon, Matt executive from CAMRA Vancouver, Graham from VanBrewers, and Nigel from the Alibi Room.  There were others I probably should have recognized, but I’m still a rookie in the beer scene.  What I found funny about the whole situation was the ritual that the judges took when sampling the beer.  It was a lot like a basketball player taking a free throw or a pitcher about to take a pitch, the process had to be the same in order for the beer to be judged the fairly.  Like any ritual or routine, it can look funny to those who haven’t seen it before.  Some would exhale fully and then dive in nose first into the beer in an attempt to inhale the beer before sipping it.  Others would close their eyes and tilt their head back as if they just escaped the desert having their first sip of water in weeks.

Nonetheless it was a great experience to volunteer for the VCBW Brewery Creek BC Beer Awards, one of the many signature events happening during Vancouver Craft Beer Week.  The winners will be awarded on Saturday May 14 at the Beatty Street Drill Hall.  Click the link for tickets.



Leave a Comment
  1. Leo / Apr 27 2011 11:19 pm

    Great post. I wanted to come by and check out the judging etc. but I had to work. Perfect summary of the day, I can just picture the “rituals” haha. Cheers.


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