Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Organising a Beer Festival Judging

Although I've judged at many beer festivals and events I've never been chief judge.

Now that time has come.

The organisers have asked me first to define the categories. The festival is four months away and the brewers need cajoling into entering – and they need to know the categories.

Style and category definitions are often the source of bafflement, and sometimes argument amongst those involved. Tedious pedantic semantic arguments occur: "That beer's not a Strong Bitter, it's an Old Ale" etc. ad nauseum.

I'd like to keep the bickering to a minimum and get a pat on the back for my organisational flair – and I'd like your help in doing so.

What are your thoughts on what the categories should be for a British beer competition overwhelmingly dominated by cask ale?


  1. Malty Pale
    Bitter Pale
    Sweet Brown
    Farty Brown

  2. Pale and Dark, divided out by ABV zones: <4, 4-5, >5.

  3. @BN

    You just read my mind!


    What about Pongy?

  4. Great! Can I be on the panel then?

  5. @BN

    Can you do Lancashire in March, bearing in mind it probably won't pay?

  6. I don't get out of bed for less than a half of mild and a Cornish pasty.

  7. 2 categories, drinkable grog & undrinkable muck.

    If the grog is free, I'll do it.

  8. Beer can be categorised on four axis:



  9. that should be two axis or four quadrants. D'oh

  10. Pale and Dark, divided out by ABV zones: <4, 4-5, >5. <<<

    I like it! Although what about the little brown jobs in the middle? And I'd probably have another category at the top end for stronger beers.

  11. You are all wrong - it's just beer.

    However, BeerNut's idea is good. Can I make a modification?

    Pale and Dark, divided out by ABV zones: <5, 5-8, >8.

  12. @HK Dave

    I expect it would look like this:

    abv <5, 300 Entries
    abv 5-8, 3 entries
    abv >8, 0 entries.

  13. How do you draw the line on beer colour?

  14. I could brew one over 8%, problem solved.

  15. It wouldn't qualify – you're not in Lancashire.

  16. How do you draw the line on Lancashire?

  17. I'm told it's also including pre- '74 Lancashire, so you're included Jon.

  18. Surely you dont draw the line at Lancashire but a big red X though it ;-D

  19. Either by colour: lemon-yellow, burnished gold, hight-fibre-poo-brown, almost black but actually very very very dark blue.

    Or by strength: <4, >5. Nothing between 4 and 5 allowed.

    Or by Trumpton fireman: Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb.

  20. Your problem is that the public, and probably many brewers, who are not geeks slicing beers into thinner and thinner categories, have pretty conventional expectations of what beer styles are. So, dull though it might be, you probably couldn't do better than a fairly traditional set of judging categories: "mild" (to cover all strengths and colours - if the brewer SAYS it's a mild, it is); "pale ale/bitter" (to cover everything from standard British amber/brown to DIPA); "golden ale"; "porter/stout" (ie anything that's very dark to black); "speciality" (anything the brewer doesn't think fits into one of the other categories); and "strong" (anything over, probably, six per cent abv). Oh, and "lager" if anybody brews one. That gives you a manageable five (or six) categories that should be perfectly clear to everybody.