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Sunday, January 20, 2008

So you want to be a Beer Judge?

I once congratulated Jerry Bailey—then owner of Old Dominion Brewing Company—on winning a Gold Medal for Tupper's Hop Pocket Pils at the Great American Beer Festival. The GABF is the premier judging competition for American beers—breweries large and small.

"Thank you," he replied. "We sold 30 more barrels this year than last."

In other words, all that prestige was more a recognition of quality from peers than plaudits and sales from the greater world at large.

Contrast that with last year's Beer Madness: a pick-your-favorite-beer contest with brackets like that of basketball's March Madness, printed in the Washington Post.

It was completely unscientific, and sometimes the comments by the 'judges' were just plain goofy (and drew the ire of some 'professional' judges), but it was a lot of fun. Folks at beer shops and pubs would clip each week's brackets and tape them to the walls.

Brooklyn Brewing Company 'won', and local wholesalers, caught unaware, initially did not have enough inventory to cover the surge in demand. Sales remained stronger for several months after the 'tournament' had concluded.

The Washington Post has just put out the call for judges for this year's Beer Madness:

Do you like beer? Are you 21 or older? If you answered yes to both questions, you're qualified to become one of five panelists in our second annual Beer Madness tournament. Woo-hoo! Send a one-sentence e-mail (bonus points if it's funny) to sundaysource@washpost. com by Wednesday explaining why you would make an excellent judge of beer. Include your date of birth (yes, we'll be checking IDs), home town and daytime phone number. Attach a photo if you'd like, but we will base our decision strictly on your beer-drinking credentials.

[UPDATE 2008.03.09: The initial brackets of Beer Madness appeared in the Washington Post Sunday Source this morning and on-line here.]

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