One of the things that can be a part of being an international biersommelier is being asked to be a judge in a beer competition. I was asked again to judge in the Dutch Beer Challenge of 2021 and of course I said yes!
There are several big judging events in the Netherland and the Dutch beer Challenge is probably the most prestigious of them. I already judged before in the last Dutch Beer Challenge edition as well as in the Beste bokbier van Nederland (best bock beer of the Netherlands) competition and I was honoured when they asked me to judge for the Dutch Beer Challenge again.
So, what does it mean to judge a beer? Yes, you have to judge a lot of beers, no you won’t get drunk. Not in the slightest.
The Dutch Beer Challenge starts at 9 AM in the morning and this year we had a special covid-19 proof location. Over a course of eight hours you get about sixty beers to judge. You sit at a table with two to three others and one is the table captain. Everyone gets a judging form for every beer. There is water and toast to cleanse the palet inbetween. It’s best to bring a light so you can also judge the appearance of the darker beers. You will judge beers in several beer categories. The goal is to judge the quality of the beer ánd if it fits the style. Brewers all around the Netherlands sent in a beer for a specific style and received the style requirements beforehand. The judges receive the same style description to judge the beer. Whether a beer is tasty or not isn’t part of the equation. It has to be good quality wise and fit the style in all its aspects. I think it’s even easier to just a beer if you don’t like it and you can solely focus on the quality of the beverage.
Sixty beers, so you cannot guzzle, quaff or booze, because you must be able to judge the latter beers as good as the first beers. Besides, you don’t need to swill or swig a beer to be able to judge it. In reality you mostly take a sip or two from every beer and after sixty tastings you will probably have drunk the equivalent of two to three beers. I myself felt perfectly fine yesterday evening and this morning as well.
You get about ten to thirty beers in a style which you then have to compare. Every beer is tasted and judged by an average of four judges who then discuss the beers per style. Together they decide which beer will get the gold medal, which beer silver and which bronze. In some extraordinary instances the amount of medals can differ.
After eight hours it’s done. At least for us. For the brewers the long wait begins. On May 12 the winners will be announced during a festive awards event!
Are you as curious about the winners as I am?