When you have my surname, and you are born in the 80s, there comes a point in your life when becoming a judge holds considerable value.
When I was 14 I was in a ten pin bowling team. I was pretty good; good enough to have my own bowling ball (not good enough to have my own bowling shoes though). My ball wall electric orange and inscribed in it was the name 'Judge Dredge'. I don't really know why I chose that name. I guess it felt imposing or important. I guess that made me better at bowling (I scored 226 in a game with that ball). I also knew there was very little chance, no matter how well I succeeded academically, that I would ever be an actual judge. That was until today...
Judging a beer competition is pretty much the coolest job in the world, ever. Seriously. If I tell my mates that I spent the day judging a beer competition then I get serious man points. I sit at a table, someone brings me beer, asks me to drink it and then requests that I objectively give it a score out of whatever. Essentially my job is to drink beer and find the best ones.
Today I judged the International Brewing Competition. I was faced with a total of 59 individual brews, starting at 10am and finishing at 5pm. The quality was varied. Some were excellent, some were poor, most slotted inconspicuously into the middle ground - forgettable. The best were wonderful but known only by number, the worst were undrinkable and lucky to be unknown by name. A bland quality flowed through many and I found myself writing the word 'dry' way too often; I wrote the word 'excellent' way to infrequently. But judging beer is good fun; it's social and friendly, it encourages you to talk about beer, it's incredibly interesting, it makes you look at beer differently and concisely, using only taste as your guide, and it makes you a more considerate drinker. It also lets you try a spectrum of beers and see just how wide a style can be spread, and that's fascinating.
Every little boy's dream is to judge a beer competition and I've now done it. The next thing on the list of boyhood dreams is either finding a dinosaur skeleton or flying to the moon.
P.S. I wrote this on my blackberry on the train home from London. I was quite drunk.