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Dyster's Brewmaster Buddy Now a Convicted Federal Felon, Embezzler

By Frank Parlato

Judge Dyster gets ready to judge.
It takes a good deal of judging to know the subtle differences of various kinds of beer.

Some years back, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), awarded a National Beer Judge certificate to Paul A. Dyster of Niagara Falls.

Dyster's judgeship occurred during the tenure of the BJCP's longest-serving president, the great Judge William R. “Bill" Slack.

For the record, the BJCP was started in 1985 when the American Homebrewers' Association (AHA) and the Home Wine and Beer Trade Association appointed a board to get judges for brew events that would help members sell more home brewing supplies. By 1995, the two organizations dropped the program.

Most thought the idea had died.

But a few of the beer judges got together and decided to try to keep the program going and make it of a higher standard.

They formed a membership-based not for profit.

Dennis Davison became the first president. Russ Wigglesworth the program administrator. The members elected a board of directors. But there was no guide or written standards to judge beer.

Around this time, a young home beer brewer of lanky mien, pleasant countenance and an insatiable thirst, by the name of Paul A. Dyster, who sold beer supplies at flea markets in Niagara Falls, entered the world of aspiring beer judges.

He worked hard and by testing copious and varied quantities of beer, in fact every brand he could get his hands on, he soon learned to tell one from another, even if he had to make a couple dozen judgments right in succession in a single night.

So he applied, took the test and became a certified beer judge in 1997.

Young Judge Dyster went right to work, expanding his judging, every night; improving his judicial skills.

Meantime from out of Nashua, New Hampshire, another man came. A wizened man, a beer sage of long repute, patient and grey: Judge William R. "Bill" Slack stepped forward and become the BJCP president in 1998.

Judge Slack had a vision. As president, he dispensed with the role of vice president and assumed the responsibilities of treasurer. He did the work of three men.

He mentored and made new judges. He collected fees, allowing the BJCP mail, even bank statements, to come right to his apartment. He did banking, arranged printing and, during his leadership, precise beer judging guidelines were established. The folks who had once dropped the idea, the 30,000 member AHA, made a 100 percent turnaround and agreed to use BJCP guidelines for their sanctioned competitions.

A member guide was published; the beer judge's exam was standardized; a beer study guide was created, beer judge logo polo shirts were designed and offered for sale, and the website replaced the newsletter.

Within no time, there were thousands of certified judges judging, or at least studying hundreds of thousands of bottles of beer until late every night.

Last but not least, under Slack's mentoring leadership, young Judge Dyster was elevated from a certified beer judge to the august rank of National Beer Judge in 2002. About this time, also, Judge Dyster was elected to the City Council of Niagara Falls, being the highest ranking beer judge on the council.

It was expected that in short order, Judge Slack would elevate this promising Judge Dyster to the highest judicial post of all, Grand Master Judge, the supreme court of beer judges.

But times change and so do people. Judge Bill Slack, after heading the BJCP for six years, making it known throughout the home brewing world, "owing to the pressure of his many other commitments," stepped down in 2004.

Judge Bill was warmly thanked for his tremendous services by the board.

And contemporaneously, Judge Dyster stepped down from the council and went to work full time as a beer judge and beer supplies salesmen. He lived, breathed, and drank his work.

But for Judge Slack, trouble emerged when the new treasurer, Al Boyce, asked him for the money in the BJCP bank account.

There was nothing in it, Judge Bill said.

The board of directors found it surprising. Judging by the number of new judges, who each paid a fee to join, and the fees from the hundreds of events, the sales of polo shirts, of badges, of study guides and annual membership fees, the board estimated there should be around $64,000 in the account.

Judge Slack must have felt hurt. Not since 1998, just before he became president of the BJCP, when he was arrested for pointing a shotgun at a teenage telegraph carrier trying to collect money for his delivery route, had anybody questioned his word.

The judge cut off communications. The board, in what some have called a petulant mood, went to federal authorities.

Three years passed.

In Niagara Falls, Paul Dyster, the city's highest ranking beer judge, became the city's highest elected official, the first national certified beer judge to become mayor of a city.

And Judge Slack, once the highest ranking beer judge in the free world, was indicted by a grand jury for embezzlement.

Appearing with a public defender for his arraignment, Judge Slack faced 20 years in a federal penitentiary where they do not, as a rule, serve quality beer.

He took the plea offer. Federal Judge Steven McAuliffe sentenced him on Dec. 16, 2008 in U.S. District Court, to five years probation, an “intermittent” sentence of one week per month for a year at a federal prison, and restitution of $43,139.

Since then, the BJCP, whose history pages have been practically rewritten to expunge the very memory of Judge Bill Slack, continues his tradition of certifying new judges and register events. Despite the effort to efface his memory, the great brew jurist, who weighed the evidence and pronounced judgment upon beer, Bill Slack will be long remembered.

As for Judge Dyster, who rose from the ranks, and promised to uphold the great traditions of Judge Slack, it is said in these parts that Dyster was better than his word.

He did it all, and infinitely more. And, in time, Judge Bill Slack got out of jail and finished his probation, but it is not known if he ever made full restitution.

And Judge Dyster became as good a friend, as good a beer master, and as good a beer drinker as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or county in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him after he had judged three dozen beers right in a row, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them, for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have no understanding of beer except in less attractive, cheaper forms.

His own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him.

Judge Dyster had further intercourse with various other Spirits, but mainly he judged beer and lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, except when judging beer, which began at noon every day, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to judge beer well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Judge Bill Slack observed, when he first took over the BJCP:

God Bless Us Beer Drinkers, Every One!



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Dec 03, 2013