By Grizzly of Ironstar
Battlefield Reporter, Pennsic Independent
Pennsic is war and war is well...Pennsic isn't all about fighting, though. I know that we all know this. There's A&S, there's shopping and spending time with good friends and a fine drink.
I've often had friends stop me to tell me, "You have to try this"-some new beer or wine that they just discovered, one of a kind and you can't get it here. It's their special treasure and they want to share it with you! I know you've had this happen to you at one time or another.
Some people in the SCA take that a step farther and actually make their own wines, beer and cordials. Every year at Pennsic, the Interkingdom Brewers' Guild hosts the annual Brewers' Guild Competition. The name is misleading. Brewers are not judged against each other; the beverages are judged on their quality.
The purpose of the competition is not to pick out everything that is wrong with the beverage, but to point out what the brewer did right and how to improve their brewing skills. It's also a good way to find out who makes good beer and where they camp.
There are three different categories of brewing: cordials, wines and meads, and beer. Using several different criteria, the judges score the beverage on a scale of 1-10. First they look at the brewer's documentation, most importantly recipe and ingredients. Then they look at the presentation, the bottle, the label and the clarity. Upon opening the bottle they sample the aroma, look at how the beverage moves in the glass, and finally check the taste.
What really makes brewing stand out from other A&S competitions is the fact that as the judges are doing all this, the brewer is sitting at the table with them. In this manner they can see the process and witness first hand the judges' reactions and comments. The judges are very helpful with identifying what didn't go right with a beverage, explaining why the brew turned out as it did, and offering tips on how to improve it next time.
If you'd like to join the brewer's guild, it's as simple as making the brew of your choice and bringing it to the competition. For information on how to get started, you can go to www.greydragon.org/ikbg. Or contact master brewer Rhys Terafan Greydragon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just remember, the reasons for these events are to help each other to become better brewers, to spend time with good friends, and to drink finer and finer brews.