And so starts the judging for the 2008 barleywine festival. Russ Wigglesworth has the honor of herding all of the judges and stewards into a never attainable timeline. Starting with 50+ barleywines for mostly the US in the first round, the second round of double blind judging will trim the list down to a more manageable 7-9 beers for the third and final judging.

Judges, by definition are judgemental. It’s what they are here for, and some take it very seriously. Thus is the case here as well. In the 8 years I’ve been a judge at the barleywine festival, I’ve run into all sorts of them. Some hate everything, some can only seem to taste one off taste or another, some declare they know exactly what each beer is. Most seem to be good judges though.

My round, 9 beers, just 2 worth passing, neither spectacular.

After the first round, the initial list of 55 beers is trimmed down to 26, 7 picked twice, final 11, 2 picked twice

After the second round, it’s down to a whopping 11 for the final judges to pick a first, second, and third.

Making it to the finals is a rather difficult journey for any beer. At minimum it means you had to get 2 groups of wildly ranging pallets to agree that it was worth passing on to the next round. To win requires that you then also get past the final table filled with some generally strong pallets, but even stronger personalities.

This year is no different. Final judges include Tom Daldorf from Celebrator, Jay Brooks from the Brookston Beer Bulletin, Donna Bettercourt, Bryan L Gros, Kevin Pratt, Mike Riddle, Virginia Jamison. Tom quickly takes charge trying to urge the judges to their decisions.

30 minutes in final before first beer thrown out, 5 more quickly follow and were down to 5. For the early stages the beers are thrown out for whats wrong with them. Now, the serious debate starts. Judges start to discuss their favorites.

Of final beers, 1 from my round make it.

Judges decide 1st place nearly unanimously.

2nd and 3rd are more difficult. The discussion comes down to more of the intracacies of the style.

The judging in general at the Barleywine festival is much looser than most. Since the goal of the earlier rounds is simply to pass beers on, no scores are really needed. The final round is no different with the judging consisting mainly of debate on the merits and problems with the final round beers.

1st Glacier Big Woody
2nd Midnight Sun Arctic Devil
4 firestone walker abacus blend