Preparations for the host of events on tap at this summer's third annual Ohio Brew Week, the only week-long craft-beer brewing festival in the country, are underway in Athens, and some local beer aficionados are in training to become certified beer judges for next time around.
This year's festival will feature an estimated 75 brews from 22 of Ohio's microbreweries. They'll be served at 20 different establishments throughout Athens from July 14-19.
Brew Week offers patrons an opportunity to quench their thirst for local libations and celebrate the independent establishments that serve them. In addition to serving microbrews from across the state, many area taverns, pubs and restaurants will offer beer-flavored foods and activities.
This is the first year the Ohio Brew Week Homebrew Competition will be sanctioned by the American Homebrewers' Association and the Beer Judge Certification Program, the official certification organization for beer judges. The BJCP, in partnership with the AHA, administers the sanctioned competition program to provide guidance for competition organizers, uniform registration and results-reporting systems, and score sheets for judges.
In addition to the growing number of homebrewers who enter this competition, there is now an opportunity for beer enthusiasts to become certified beer judges for next year's event. Ohio Brew Week, in cooperation with Jackie O's Brewery & Pub, is offering classes on microbrews for people with an interest in enhancing their appreciation of craft beers and preparing for the arduous BJCP certification test.
Brad Clark, Jackie O's head brewer, is leading the beer-judging classes. Though he has not taken the BJCP certification test, he plans to do so this fall along with the students intent on becoming certified judges.
According to Jason Klein, a Diagnostic Hybrids research associate and BJCP teaching assistant, students learn how to judge beer based on its: aroma, appearance, mouthfeel, flavor and overall impression. As a homebrewer, Klein said he believes these classes will help to develop the beer culture in town by increasing the number of people who know about beer.
The classes also provide a means of recruiting local judges for the homebrew competition, said Clark, and they increase beer appreciation in Athens by providing an understanding of how to approach craft beers in a more educated manner. Becoming a certified beer judge is the most intensive way to train the palate, said Clark, since judges must be able to comment on a beer's flavor profile accurately.
It's too late to enroll in the first round of BJCP classes; however, Clark said he plans to teach another 10-class program prior to the next Brew Week.
Clark will also be brewing the Sparbock beer, which was crafted last year in memory of the late Jon Sparhawk. This year, Clark said he's alternating the original recipe to produce a beer that is a better representation of the bock style, by using a bock-yeast variety and simplifying the ingredients. He plans to make alterations to the original recipe each Ohio Brew Week to give this full-bodied beverage a new twist.
In addition, Clark launched a bourbon barrel-aging program with the Black Betty, Scottish Ale and Barbarlian brews at the end of March, which he will tap into during Brew Week. According to Clark, the barrel adds a bourbon-charcoal flavor with woody-oak tones and a hint of vanilla.
The official keg-tapping ceremony will kick off with this year's keynote speaker, nationally known author and beer expert Ray Daniels, who will speak on the history of microbrews and discuss beer-tasting techniques. Following a week of speakers, demonstrations, beer-infused foods and craft-beer specials, Brew Week culminates with the People's Choice Award during the Boogie on the Bricks community festival on Saturday, July 19.
Several new events will be featured this year to highlight the diversity of the craft-beer brewing culture, including the Ohio Brew Week BBQ Ribs, Chicken and Vegetarian Cook-Off Competition, held on Thursday, July 17, in conjunction with "Harley Days."
Additionally, last year former Athens Mayor Ric Abel declared the Tuesday of Brew Week Jon Sparhawk Day. According to Ohio Brew Week marketing director Melody Sands, everyone is encouraged to do something for the community to honor the memory of Jon Sparhawk, one of the originators of the microbrew festival.
Last year, proceeds from the first Ohio Brew Week Microbrew Cooking Competition were used to launch the Jon Sparhawk Memorial Scholarship and Community Fund. This fund will be used to award a scholarship to an Athens High School senior every year, said Sands. Some of the fund will also be used for "community beautification projects."
According to Ohio Brew Week director Dan Gates, "Ohio Brew Week is a green way to bring economic development to our community" through tourism particularly during the slower summer months. "People who drink craft beer drink it for the taste," said Gates, adding that Brew Week offers a flavor for every demographic.
For additional information on Ohio Brew Week 2008 visit: www.ohiobrewweek.com.