I was fortunate enough to be involved with the International Commercial Mead Competition and the Home Mead Makers Competition this weekend, February 8th and 9th, 2008,  in Boulder, CO.  There was a call to the local homebrew clubs for volunteers and it sounded like fun so I signed up to help steward the competitions.  A Steward in a competition are glorified bus-boys – hey, somebody has to do it!

What an amazing experience!!

Let me qualify this entire post by saying I don’t know a damn thing about mead except it’s made with honey and falls into several different categories depending on what else you put in it – grapes, spices, malt, etc.  It’s also classified by it’s sweetness and whether it has carbonation (still, petillant, or sparkling). 

Despite being a mead noob, I knew I was at a very special event when I went in and saw table after table loaded with bottles of commercial mead.  Each entry had 4 bottles per entry at about 140 entries.  It was a long day with a lot of logistics considering it was a blind judging, there was a lot of numbering of glasses and renumbering of meads that went on to a second round or best of show round.  The beauty of it was the judges only need a few ounces leaving the remainder of the bottles for the stewards to sample.  When a mead was advanced a new bottle was opened.

I have gained a respect for judges in large competitions.  They were very thoughtful and the process was fairly democratic in that they would discuss their results and had to normalize their results.  They took their time on each entry, giving it the respect the person who entered deserved.  They provided detailed writeups so the mead maker can either adjust their recipe (or not) but at least they know what the judges were thinking.

I went to my room at 1:00am the first night after spending an entire day sampling meads. I got a signed book from Ken Schramm, “The Compleat Meadmaker” and got to hang out with a lot of very cool intelligent people.  I never felt drunk in the normal wine sense – I was very dehydrated that night and the entire next day.

The home brew competition was extremely well organized and they were able to judge 189 entries, making this the biggest mead competition ever.  Several gushers livened up the day.  I was wore out from the commercial competition so I didn’t sample much home brew, but we were able to take home a 6 pack of the anonymous left-overs for sampling later.

We were also able to take home 8 commercial meads the first day (2 of our own choosing) and a few more the next day.  The volunteers were very lucky this year – and I now have a few meads to cellar.

The awards ceremony were touching and a lot fun.  Some people were floored when their names were called – which is always exciting. The international entrants had amusing stories to tell regarding getting their meads to the competition and the hassle they had with the customs inspectors. 

Can’t wait till next year – I’ll be first in line to be a bus boy, opps, I mean Steward!