So, I found myself sitting at a table across from the head brewer and founder at Blue Moon Brewing Company (perhaps you've heard of it?), and we are tasting and discussing the merits of some homebrewed Porters in front of us. This was an unusual and unexpected treat for me.
I volunteered as a judge at the first night of the 1st round Mountain Regional National Homebrew Competition last night and was paired with a more experienced judge to work on the Porter entries. That experienced judge just happened to be Keith Villa. He is the originator of the recipe for Blue Moon Belgian Wit, and can be credited for bringing the Belgian Wit Style to the American masses. If that wasn't enough, he has a quite impressive resume in earning his PhD from the University of Brussells earning many awards for his beers, and regularly judges beers at the GABF, World Beer Cup, and Japan Craft Beer festival. He's been brewing professionally since the early 90's and a homebrewer since the mid eighties. He looks about 35.
I felt extremely foolish judging and talking about the beers before us, but Keith was very kind and extremely patient with me. It is like being asked to judge a local blues guitar competition and being paired with Eric Clapton or someone similar. I learned more than a few things last night from him, and will be a better judge as a result. My first judging experience couldn't have been better.
I am volunteering tonight and all day tomorrow for this competition. If I get paired with as nice as and as knowledgeable people as Keith, I will be a lucky guy. At any rate, it will be informative and interesting....but it won't be easy. There were more than a few mediocre or worse beers, and very few excellent ones last night.
When I think about a long and distinguished career such as Keith's, I wonder what could have been if someone told me when I was young that it was even possible to brew your own beer, or have a profession in brewing. I am certain that school counselors were prevented by law from making this suggestion to someone like me. I grew up after the Brewery on Gratiot (Stroh's. Detroit, Michigan) was already gone, but I always had a fascination. I don't know how long Detroit went without having any breweries. Maybe a decade? It wasn't a highly sought after profession in my neck of the woods, but even still....I am saddened by the thought as I sit in my beige cubicle.