The Session #21 - Savor it, the favorite
So what's your favorite beer? Your favorite band? Really? And your favorite color? Favorite animal? Favorite imported washed rind cow's milk cheese? Anyone who gets as rankled as I do by questions like these, ones which are supposed to reveal something deeper within the psyche of the answerer will appreciate this complete, pathetic, groan-inducing cop out: My favorite beer is the one that's in front of me. (Have fun with that one, therapists.) Cliché as it is, there are doubtless going to be about a dozen other smartasses taking part in this month's Session that have prepared the same answer (if they don't say "the next new beer I try"). But how many of them have such a pungent distaste for judging that they've never written a formal beer review in the manner so lovingly embraced by the BJCP and those much maligned beer review websites? Unfortunately, our host this month has asked us all to play along nicely, so that's what we'll be doing.
Now then, what's in front of me? Aha! It appears to be a N'Ice Chouffe from the good folks in the Ardennes, they with the kind garden gnome brewing assistants and bitchin' theme songs. Feel free to listen along as you read the review (you'll have to provide your own crackling fire and snoring dog sound effects).
For those of you new to the BJCP school of beer reviews, here's a quick summary of how this works. You're asked to break down the components of appearance, aroma, taste and mouthfeel, and then add an overall impression weighting to balance your score. The rub, of course, is that your impressions need to be reflected off the official guidelines that are outlined in the BJCP book. How accurate those guidelines are is a pretty hotly contested topic. And on top of that, as beers seem to be getting stranger every day (more on that later), the less useful the whole system appears. While I don't disparage the honing of one's critical faculties, there's just so much more to tasting than this white labcoat approach. Furthermore, while it misses out on the enormous influences of a more holistic, experiential tasting experience, it also manages to suck a bit of the soul and (for me at least) all the fun out of it. But I digress...
That said, let's do this thing:
What's it called? Exam Beer: N'Ice Chouffe Limited Edition 2007
What kinda beer's that? Subcategory: Belgian Christmas ale as brewed by small, subterranean earth elementals.
Anything weird in it? Special Ingredients: Thyme, curaçao peel, dark "candy-sugar". That's right, folks, I said thyme.
Check it out... Bottle Inspection: Looks fine to me. A little too closed and full of beer for my tastes, but that's easily remedied.
No, really. Appropriate size, cap, fill level, label removal, etc.: 750mL, filled to the brim and topped with a crown. Silk-screened label. Next.
Sniff it! Aroma (as appropriate for style) (out of 12) Comment on malt, hops, esters, and other aromatics: Wait, "as appropriate for style"? I didn't know there was a "thyme-infused artisanal Belgian Christmas ale as brewed by elves and/or fairies" style. There certainly ought to be. Smells heavily of punky dried fruits, sweet date and raisin and grape and a hint of pineapple and another hint of earthiness. Must be the gnome factor. No apparent hops. 10.
Look at it! Appearance (as appropriate for style) (out of 3) Comment on color, clarity, and head (retention, color, and texture): It's a dark, slightly murky brown. Looks like dirt. Gnomey! 3.
Give 'er a sip! Flavor (as appropriate for style) (out of 20) Comment on malt, hops, fermentation characteristics, balance, finish/aftertaste, and other flavor characteristics: Tastes pretty darn great. Oh, you want more? REALLY darn great. With a cherry on top. 20.
Mouthfeel (as appropriate for style) (out of 5) Comment on body, carbonation, warmth, creaminess, astringency, and other palate sensations: Highly carbonated, warming and sticky. Leaves the palate clean but only after after some subtle coaxing, like by yawning, suggesting we had to get up early for work in the morning, noting the time... 4.
And now feel free to skew the results to your personal prejudice. Overall Impression (out of 10)
Comment on overall drinking pleasure associated with entry, give suggestions for improvement: Suggestions for improvement? Sounds dangerous. What happens to people in fairy tales when they try to tell gnomes what to do? I'm not terribly sure, but it's apt to be something particularly nasty, probably involving tiny arrows made out of pine needles and acorn catapults and poisonous mushroom-tipped porcupine quill spears. No thank you. 10.
Tally ho. Total (out of 50) 47!
Clinical, no? That was exhausting. And it involved math. I can't wait to enjoy a beer again. Hope you enjoyed this introduction to the judging techniques of a certified beer judge, as it's more than likely the last time you'll see it referenced here...
The Session is a blog carnival originated by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. This month's party is being hosted by Matt at A World of Brews. For a summary of the Sessions thus far, check out Brookston's handy guide.