What's Better: Beer and Wine From America or Europe?
All photos by Susannah Skiver Barton
On Saturday, May 17, Brooklyn's drinkers ranked 64 beers and wines from the U.S. and across Europe in head-to-head matchups of various styles. Based on the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris -- in which a blind tasting revealed that California wines were on par with French classics -- the Judgement of Brooklyn asked attendees to taste and choose the best beers and wines found in the borough. Professionals in the wine and beer industries had previously ranked the night's pours, allowing the audience to compare their own palates with those of the pros.
A few weeks prior to the event, sommeliers, cicerones, and industry experts assessed the wines and beers blind in front of a live audience. Judges were told the overall category of each pour (for example, lager) and asked to score them according to various criteria within that classification. Brendan Woodcock, certified cicerone and host at Tørst, admitted that the quality of the beers made it difficult to choose a winner.
"We tried to be as circumspect as possible and approach it as, 'Here's our general guideline. It's in this category: Do we like it?'" he said. "Some of it became, 'Is it well-made for the category?' There was one particular example that I really loved, but I didn't think it was great for the category, so I knocked it down a little. It was hard -- it was good beers all around."
Only after the judging had finished were the competing beers and wines revealed -- and even the judges didn't find out the winners until Saturday night. While no continent-shattering surprises rocked the boat, the blind aspect of judging ensured that the best booze won. As Woodcock put it, "Blind tasting is the great equalizer. If you're going to let other people say that you're a beer expert, then you really have to be good at blind tasting because you never know when you're going to get called."
The winners: Best wine: 2012 Tensley Syrah, Santa Barbara County, CA, USA Best beer: Sixpoint Gorilla Warfare Coffee Porter, 7.5 percent ABV, USA
Beer Judge Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy's No. 43 & Organizer Michael Brooks of Bed-Vyne
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