Spoiler alert: we did not get arrested. Much to the dismay of the Beer Buddha. Maybe next year, Jeremy!
We did, however, have an awesome time.
|David Graves and his Brew Cart! (check him out at thebrewcart.com)|
Tom and I drove up on Saturday morning and got to the Keg & Barrel at around 10am, per John Neal's request. We kicked back with Jeremy and met some of the folks from Lazy Magnolia Brewery and Raise Your Pints, a grassroots non-profit lobbying group to overturn the drastic and archaic beer laws in the state. After some wandering around and meeting folks, the awesome judging RV of judginess arrived and we judges were permitted to go on board and chillax until it was time to do our round of tasting (I was assigned to IPAs and stouts, which were at the end of the judging schedule).
|Waiting for the Judging RV to arrive and the beer judging to begin subsequently|
|Outside the Judging RV|
|Inside the RV!|
|Jeremy "BeerBuddha" Labadie|
So, the judging was taking longer than originally anticipated, and although we really tried to rush through my category of 19 different IPAs, the organizers took me off stouts so a different group could judge them simultaneously to the end of the IPA tasting.
|Blurry IPAs. SO MANY.|
The Tasting and Judgement (tm Original Version Iron Chef) was an awful lot of fun. I was tasting with Jeremy "BeerBuddha" Labadie as well as David "Soup" Campbell (who is on the board of Raise Your Pints) and it was just great, great, terrific fun. I learned so much and I even think that I contributed in a positive way! The first one I sampled, I was so scared that I didn't know what I was doing. I got more confident as we moved forward though, and I think the three of us got really good at parsing flavor characteristics. All in all, I would say that we tasted about 5 decent IPAs out of the 19 submitted.
So after the IPAs were finally finished with, the stouts finished up around the same time, and the organizers REALLY wanted to get this done ASAP. So we all tasted beers in the "miscellaneous" category, even Tom, heh. I tasted one beer that was honestly one of the best IPAs I'd had all day. I was confused why it wasn't in the IPA category, but I rated it quite high and moved along till we had no more miscellaneous beers left. Later, I was sitting with a fellow judge, beer journalist Dan Murphy of Mobile Alabama, and his wife and brother. Dan's brother (Sean) mentioned they'd decided to enter his Cascadian Black IPA in the miscellaneous category, and I immediately realized that it was the beer that I loved so much even in the craziness of the end of the judging! I babbled about how much I loved it, and Sean said that meant more to him than winning. Not that he actually had to take that consolation, because he totally won the Miscellaneous beer category.
Once judging was over, things started to get a little fuzzy. I horned in on a TV interview that Jeremy was doing (I doubt I'll be in the final cut of that, since I didn't have a mike on, HA), I had several illicit beers from sources that will remain unnamed (because I can't remember, not because I am withholding their identities from some sense of loyalty against an unjust system type of thing.) I wished I had business cards. I enjoyed breaking into the boy's club of beer brewing, business, writing, and tasting. I think the boy's club could use more of us beer drinking ladies, to be honest. Several of my fellow judges (seriously, stop me if I go too far and start using terms like "brethren") had really great kickass beer drinking wives/partners, and I wondered what it was that separates beer enthusiast from beer expert. And I wondered if it was gender, to some extent. I am certainly not making any calls of sexism- everyone there couldn't have been nicer to me and I never felt looked down on or treated differently - but it's just something that was hard (for me) not to think about, being the only hen in the rooster-house.
Vague larger gender issues thinkings aside - I had an awesome time. And the vague thinkings didn't actually detract from my good time, they were interesting and enjoyable because I like thinking about stuff like that. While drinking. It's when I do my best work! Oh, wait.
In conclusion: I was honored and thrilled to be around people who love beer and are passionate about beer and brewing. The fact that beer lovers and home brewers in Mississippi have so many legal hurdles to overcome has created a very enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and impassioned group here that are working hard to make a change and forging deep bonds in the community doing so. The fact that they welcomed a lady beer blogger that isn't from around these parts with such warmth and friendliness speaks to the enduring camaraderie of the beer culture in the South, especially in Mississippi on that gorgeous October Saturday where we were all breaking the law for the love of beer.