I entered Low Country Pale Ale into the NHC on a whim this past March, with little expectations beyond personal growth. When entering I spent some time considering the implications of doing so. I like to brew for the same reason that I like to surf: it's inherently satisfying on a stand alone basis and by its very nature is non-competitive. Surfing in a competition is the antithesis of what makes the activity rewarding. Like most things beyond formulaic interpretation, beer brewing and surfing encompass a "beauty in the eye of the beholder (participant)" mentality. To be blunt, drinking and enjoying beer is a vastly personal experience. Something I enjoy may not serve your palette well, but my piquancy hardly deserves relegation into obscurity. The reality is that we don't have to enjoy all the same things. We can have different tastes, and each can be valid. Assigning a score to surfing is comparable because the individual's personal enjoyment (that rapt moment of bliss-i.e. the most important thing) is unaccounted for. I don't intend to trivialize the role that categorization plays in standardizing our experiences and providing context for discussion. The truth is that I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.
I appreciate the feedback that I received from NHC judges. Their interpretation of the beer I submitted is different (but equally relevant) from my own. I'm honestly uncertain about what sort of take-away I might get from this experience. I'm not particularly disappointed in the result; I'd just like to get more somehow. I feel like I get more valuable feedback from drinking beers with Lewy. So why should I pay a stranger to do something that seems more superficial? I suppose my personal satisfaction (on a wave or at the bottom of a pint glass) is cheapened by categorization in some way. But if I don't have a point of reference, then what's the use in discussing it?
Low Country Pale Ale received a 30 and a 27, with an averaged score of 28.5. I think the judges did a good job of identifying strengths and faults in the beer; I learned a lot from the experience. Take a look at the judges sheets below: