On this episode of Brewer to Brewer from All About Beer Tonya Cornett of 10 Barrel Brewing interviews her friend Ben Edmunds of Breakside Brewery. These two Oregon beer titans discuss their path to professional brewing before veering off into beer judging.
Edmunds is also the Competition Director of the Oregon Beer Awards and the pair discuss the importance of judging knowledge and integrity, how to give meaningful feedback, and the benefit brewers can gain from being a judge.
Tonya Cornett: Competitions can be very costly. It’s not only the entry fee, which seems to be going up, it is the time spent on fitting the beers into the schedule. It’s the day you spend labeling, it’s a special packaging, not to mention the increasing shipping costs. At a time when the bottom line is more important than ever, what advice can you give brewers to convince reluctant owners to submit beers to competition?
Ben Edmunds: You have to view it as part of a larger quality program. It’s about identifying whether or not your beer is as good or meeting the kind of criteria the standards of the industry are. I suppose that if you were a brewery who was entirely marketing based and said ‘we have such a good brand, such good branding, our marketing is so good that I don’t need anything, our hype is so good. We don’t need any outside validation.’ Then I suppose I’d say I don’t know that is worth spending the time, the labor, the shipping and the entry fees to do something like that, unless you are driven to just prove yourself to be able to hang amongst the best.
Tonya Cornett: We have all gotten judge notes that seemingly saying opposite things. These are notes after all, relative to the person who was writing. We all have different palates. What advice can you give for interpreting these sometimes cryptic notes?
Ben Edmunds: Regardless of what those notes, say, and whether you agree with any individual judge, or multiple judges, those 567 judges, whoever’s at the table that made the determination, that there were three more pleasant beers at that table instead of yours.
I’ll take any individual piece of feedback with a grain of salt, but I always take it very seriously. It’s not the beers that we wanted, but the beers they chose just pleased more people.
Tonya Cornett: I think the way you pass the first round is to be a technically sound beer. If you’re one of those few left on the table. That’s technically sound, you have a better chance of moving on. Because really, in the first round, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re nitpicking we’re trying to eliminate beers, and we’re trying to get those three forward to have the best chance.
Ben Edmunds: Frankly if you’re making a beer that’s not technically sound, even if it’s got great hop aroma, but has diacetyl or has a ton of sulfur on the nose or something like that, it will be reflected in their response.
This transcript has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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