A Celebration of Taste
Posted: December 7, 2001
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Creativity is rewarded. The 21 years of Beerfest have created a cornucopia of descriptions, and the best are harsh. From 1986: "The smell doesn't scare you away, but the taste won't make you stay." 1988: "If Elizabeth, New Jersey, was beer, it would taste like this." 1989: "The black lagoon overflow, replete with dismembered corpse flavor. " 1980: "Grows on you like slime mold."
Not that some beers aren't appreciated. "This might be boring after ten of them," said a beer judge in 1985. "Large consumption may improve your health," said one in 1981. "Makes the Budweiser horse look like a donkey."
The Kricheffs love data, and there are pages of Beerfest statistics handed out in the early, sober hours of the event. The highest score ever went to New Amsterdam, rated 86.7 points out of 100. Pilsner Urquell has appeared four times without a top-three finish, which is a record, and Hacker Pschoor Oktoberfest finished seven times in the top three. It holds the record for most appearances by a beer.
No fewer than 10 beers have been judged in one evening, no more than 13. The fests average eight judges.
On this crisp evening not long after September 11, Bob chose an appropriate theme: American beer. This theme, like the 10 beers poured, remained a mystery until the unveiling in his father's den, over single-malt Scotch.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale won this evening, besting a group that included Sam Adams Octoberfest, Anchor Steam and good old Budweiser, among others. The Sierra Nevada was hedonistic, with a creamy, heady, flavor and a chewy complexity perfect for a cool evening.
But this wasn't about winning and losing. It was camaraderie at its finest, and a good-natured experiment that encouraged people to open their minds and think with their taste buds. Take the same format and substitute cigars for the beers, and you have an evening fit for an aficionado. It would also work with Scotch, Bourbon or wine.
If you decide to follow in the footsteps of the wise Kricheffs, and I hope you do, make sure you mirror their final move. At evening's end, a lineup of taxis were waiting outside to get everyone home safe and sound -- in hopes that they will return for next year's Beerfest.
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