In June 2018 the Guild for Dutch Biersommeliers organised the first Dutch Championships for Biersommelier. The Championships were partly meant to figure out which three contestants would participate in the World Championships on behalf of the Netherlands.
I wanted to write about our training for the championships in 2020, but that will have to wait until next week, because this subject is enough for a whole post instead of just an introduction.
The Guild for Dutch Biersommeliers (Nederlands Gilde der Biersommeliers) has been founded in 2017 and its purpose is connecting the Dutch Biersommeliers and promoting beer culture in the Netherlands. They organise a lot of informal (and some formal) events for Dutch biersommeliers ánd they organised the championships.
The championships were held on a Monday morning at brewery Oproer and there were about twenty contestants. The championships consisted of three rounds and for each round you could score 60 points. The five best then had to present a beer and would partly be judged by the public and partly by the judges on points as serving the beer, explaining aromas, flavours, the beerstyle and beer and food combinations.
In the first round the contestants had to recognize 10 off flavours. These off flavours were created by mixing a standard, bland beer with special test flavour capsules. Some of the more common off flavours are metal (like blood), lightstruck (when the hop reacts with light and smells like weed or skunk), dyacetyl (which is not always an off flavour, and tastes a bit like butterscotch, or just butter) and DMS (which can sometimes also be a desired flavour, but only the cooked corn one, it can also taste like other less desired cooked vegetables). It’s an off flavour when it’s not a desired flavour and can be caused during the brewing process, but also due to bad treatment of the beer afterwards, like storing it in a bright and/or warm (or worse, with changing temperatures) environment or tapping it through dirty lines.
In the second round they received 60 multiple choice questions. Questions like between which latitudes does hop grow, name four terpenes that play a role in the hops and thus beer aromas, what is the chemical name for a certain off flavour and choose the classic beer-food pairing.
In the third round they had to taste 10 beers again, but now to guess the beerstyle. Beerstyles are open to interpretation and debate of course. They are mainly there for two reasons: expectation management (I have a friend that threw away an Oude Kriek once because it tasted sour and she expected a sweet fruit beer) and to be able to judge a beer more objectively. For beer judges there are several beerstyle frameworks to choose from. The basis for the Dutch Championships is the BJCP. The BJCP describes broadly 119! beerstyles. The contestants received a shortlist a few weeks beforehand.
When I first saw that shortlist I wasn’t a Diplom Biersommelier yet, but studying for StiBON level 2, and I was flabbergasted! Holy crap on a stick! The difference between a German pilsner and a Czech Pilsner? And then a Kölsch as well? Not to mention they were áll blond beers, and certainly back then I didn’t drink that much blond beers. Was THIS expected of me? That I could blindly recognize the difference between these beers?
Now, a year in, I realise it cán be done. I ALSO realise, it’s not easy, it has never been, not for anyone, nor will it ever be and there is no one who can do this in a jiffy. I realise this was not easy for the contestants either and no one scored the full 180 points. Also, styles change over time and beers change over time as well. And as said before, they can be debated, but you need some framework all contestants can work towards to, a frameworks that says: this combination of aspects we call this style. And that’s without the off flavours. You should be able to taste through them…
Back to the 2018 championships, after three rounds five contestants turned out to be the best by far: Maurus Wijman (Tastewise), Dennis Kort, Pepijn van der Waa, Hubert Hecker and Jurgen. After a short break they had to present a beer in the finale and after final judgement Pepijn won the day! He was closely followed by Dennis and Hubert and together they will travel to Rimini for the World championships in September this year. Maurus, Uwe and I will join them to encourage them.
As said I wanted to write something about the next Dutch Championships and our own training, but turns out my intro on the Dutch Championships became a post on itself, so I will get back to that next week probably.
Do you think you would be able to blindly recognise above beerstyles?