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Dyster Experienced in Judging Beer

By Frank Parlato

Paul Dyster, with plenty of beer, in his office.
Niagara Tradition is a well regarded brewing supply store in Tonawanda. It is owned by Mayor Paul Dyster and operated by his wife and son.

It might be unfair to suggest that Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster does not possess the qualifications to judge how to spend $20 million per year in casino money that is intended to create an economic boom town through development.

However, it is true that he has no development experience, no private job growth experience, and little or no proven capacity to earn much money in the private sector based on his published resume. The only business experience for Dyster, who was just re-elected to a second term, seems to be as the owner of Niagara Tradition, a small, beer (homemade) brewing supply store in Tonawanda, operated by his wife and son, Bert, that he took over from his brother and sister-in-law when they divorced.

But there is one qualification that might make Dyster qualified as a man who could judge the best ways to unload $20 million each year in casino money.

He is a judge himself: a certified beer judge.

Dyster received his certificate, along with a lapel pin, and badge, from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), the leading (and perhaps the only) organization in the US for certifying beer judges.

The organization was once sponsored and managed by the American Homebrewers Association, a member-based organization that educates, and promotes "one of the coolest hobbies in the world-homebrewing," but the BJCP went independent.

Dyster first became a Certified Beer Judge in 1997.

Then, when the BJCP was under the leadership of Judge William Slack, Dyster rose to the rank of National Beer Judge in 2002.

Still ahead is the elusive but attainable rank of Grand Master, the supreme court of beer judges.

Dyster is one of only 4,591 certified beer judges, and one of only 694 national judges.

To become a judge, a person pays a fee and takes an exam proctored by a certified judge who gets 30 percent of the take on fees.

The exam includes true-false, multiple choice questions, and essays about the technical aspects of brewing, beer styles. During the taste part of the test, candidates drink four beers, and describe them as they would in a real beer judging competition.

Points are taken off, if you slur your words.

Like any judge, Judge Dyster is expected to know the difference between Vienna Lager, Munich Dunkel, Schwarzbier, or Traditional Bock, by taste, body, appearance, and smell.

You must know when homemade beer is foul, infected, chunky, flat, and look out for the bathtub ring around the inside of the bottleneck.

But just knowing is not enough. A beer judge has to articulate it. He must do better than merely say "this beer tastes good," "this beer is bad," "it's a party beer," or " something wrong with this beer."

A beer judge must use his five senses "to communicate clearly a description that is specific, mentioning strong and weak points in a given beer," advises Grand Master Judge David Teckam, who sells an online video for aspiring beer judges.

Judges, like Dyster, learn to say, "this beer has a contamination problem based on the medicinal flavor."

Or "this is what I would expect in an American IPA due to the fresh citrusy hop character."

Or "this is a classic example of a Doppelbock with its rich maltiness."

If a judge is stumped and does not know the beer, he can get away with a knowing look and a standard line, like "crisp, complex and well-rounded yet refreshing."

But this is no substitute for "drier and crisper than a Bohemian Pilsener, it has a bitterness that tends to linger more in the aftertaste due, I suspect, to higher attenuation and higher-sulfate water. Overall it is light in body and color, and with higher carbonation. The color is pale, the finish dry. I would say this is brewed in the North German Pilsner tradition."

One of the best ways to learn how to judge beer is to drink it. Certified beer judges, including Dyster, have judged over 868,936 beers and the BJCP has sanctioned over 5,559 competitions.

Bar hopping is also a major part of a judge's work.

It is an unpaid position.



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

Nov 26, 2013