It’s a beautiful day in Del Mar, with the sun beating down on the joyous crowds of the San Diego County Fair. Amongst the unique eats, novelty nutritionist nightmares, and carnival created entertainment, the big local buzz around the grounds came from Sunday’s Homebrew Competition. With 818 entries, this was one of the largest single day beer competitions in the world!
I volunteered as a judge by signing up at the last QUAFF meeting, and was randomly assigned to Category 13: Stouts, along with 7 other judges. This year there were 81 entries in this category, and around #39 I had forgotten most of what I’d planned to write for this article. As a former porter ponderer though, I found the Russian Imperial Stouts to be quite to my liking thanks to the slightly burnt notes.
Here’s what I found out about Russian Imperial Stouts after volunteering to judge the Stout category – inspired by brewers back in the 1800s to win over the Russian Czar, this is the King of Stouts, boasting HIGH alcohol by volume and plenty of malt character. Low to moderate levels of carbonation with huge roasted, chocolate and burnt malt flavors. Often dry. Suggestions of dark fruit and flavors of higher alcohol are quite evident. Hop character can vary from none to balanced to aggressive.
So not only was I drinking a truly un-American beer on this 4th of July weekend, but now I knew my piece of toast hours earlier and some saltines provided were really not going to help. So, I made the adult, rational decision and pulled out some taxi money from the ATM before getting to work.
In the end, the Top 5 in Category 13: Ken Schmidt, Jess Rothrock, David Vogel, Randolph Lewis II, and Stephen Waterman. The best of show winner for the homebrewing competition was Bob MacKay with an English Dark Mild.
The beers were unbelievable and being a judge was an amazing experience. It’s hard to hold off a smile when I say it was hard work because it was so much fun. Being such a small part of this event, I’d really like to give my sincerest gratitude to the hardworking organizers.
Ronnie is a craft beer enthusiast and host of How Can I Help? San Diego, a TV show and website resource dedicated to sustainable practices. The next episode, Planting Plants, airs tonight at 6pm on ITV Channel 16. The episode on green breweries, including interviews from NHC, airs next Friday the 15th at 6pm.