Back to Ask the Brewmaster.
Question: This Month's Question: I'd like to volunteer to be a beer steward, but I'm not really sure what that entails. What would I need to do?
Answer: If you've ever thought about being a beer judge, you probably know that it takes a fair amount on knowledge and some well-trained taste buds. A great way to start is to start off on the process is to volunteer to be a beer steward. Being a steward avoids the pressure of having to accurately describe the nuances of every beer that come to the table, but it offers a real benefit: the judges will usually let you know which of the beers are good, and give you a chance to taste them yourself. They'll point out the good and bad points, and let you see what makes a great beer. In addition to all that, you'll get a half an experience point if you ever do take the plunge and become a judge.
Simply put, the stewards are the people who bring beers to the judges during
a competition. Ideally, the judges shouldn't have to do anything except taste
and score the beers. Keeping that process going is your main task. Your responsibilities
can summarize as follows:
1) Make sure the judges have all the supplies they will need.
2) Find the beers that are in your category.
3) Check and adjust their temperature if necessary.
4) Present them to the judges in the order they request.
5) Take away the empties, caps and trash.
6) Collect the scoresheets and other paperwork and submit it to the organizers.
7) Taste the leftover beers.
Supplies: The judges will need a bunch of supplies to do their job.
These include cups, scoresheets, pencils, openers, napkins, bread & water,
dump buckets, summary sheets and competition evaluation forms. The Head Steward
should have all these things available; you just have to make sure they are
at the table. Go get more if they are used up.
Beers: The beers that the judges will be evaluating are listed on the Pull Sheets. This lists the style of beer and the entry numbers. Check the coolers to see that all of the beers are in their proper place. At this point, you should ask the judges what order they want to taste them. Some judges might want to use a special order; some will just say to work down the list.
Temperature: The beers will be stored in coolers, or case boxes. They will be cold, but you should check to see how cold they actually are. Ales should be in the mid 50' and lagers in the mid 40's for best tasting. If they are too cold, grab the next few beers out of the cooler and put them on the judges' table. If they are too warm, put them in the ice bucket. The judges will let you know if they are too cold or warm.
Presentation: When the judges are ready, make sure they have the next beer. Carefully carry it from the coolers to the table without stirring up the yeast sediment. Do not open the bottle! That is one of the judge's jobs. They usually take turns opening and pouring. Sit quietly and wait while they go through their scoring. Watch their swirling, sniffing and tasting. Then, listen to their discussion of the merits of each beer. This will take about 10 minutes.
Trash Collection: Once the judges have finished, collect up the empty cups and the bottle cap. Make sure they have plenty of fresh cups.
Scoresheets: After the judges have finished their scoresheets, collect them and check their math. You may want to bring a pocket calculator to do this. Sometimes they make an addition error. (Remember, these guys have been drinking!) If the math checks out, take them to the organizers' table.
The Empties: Now for the moment you have been waiting for! Typically, the judges will only go through half a bottle during their scoring. But please make sure they are done with the bottle before you try some. If it is a good beer, pour yourself a cup. Likewise, if the judges say it has a defect, try that too. The best way to learn the judging process is to try both the good and the bad, while listening to the judges' comments.
After the judges have finished all their beers, there is some additional paperwork. Make sure the judges fill out and sign the Flight Scoresheets, which list the winning entry numbers and all the scores. Also have them fill out the Competition Evaluation form.
If your judges finish early, check with the head steward to see if you can help out with anything else. Finally, sit down and have some lunch. I guarantee you'll be able to find some beer to go with it.