In this space where the judging takes place at the International Brewing Awards and mindful of the sense of silence the chief of judges sits on a chair, alone, silent, watching, observing like a father prior keeping an eye on his younger charges. And then the murmurs seem to have stopped and I am aware of a silence, a sudden silence as the judges laser-beam their concentration on the job in hand. The silence passes and small bush-fires of conversation flare up, ‘this is the one I have a problem with’, ‘it could be a conditioning issue’, ‘it was in the middle that I thought that there was some slight diacetyl’, ‘this is my favourite’, ‘overripe fruits’. And now the chief of judges is off his chair, patrolling the tables, words here and there, the watchful father and as the morning goes on the conversation ebbs and flow and I’m put in mind of some lines from Arnold’s Dover Beach: ‘Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,/ Listen! you hear the grating roar/ Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,/ At their return, up the high strand,/ Begin, and cease, and then again begin.’
Today though the time for contemplation and evaluation is gone and the medals are due to be announced and the mood will change to one of jubilation and commiseration and meanwhile most of the judges have flow, returned to Portland, Cornwall, Patagonia, Bavaria, while the beers they judged, the ones that win, will gleam and preen themselves for this is the moment of their glory. Brewing champions indeed.
Brewing Champions, my history of the International Brewing Awards will be published in the next few weeks.