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Ever gone to a beer festival where there's a competition component and wondered who has the enviable job of analyzing beer after beer and passing final judgment on them? I use to ponder that (especially when one of my favorite brews fails to place or some perceivedly inferior variety takes gold) up until this weekend when I was invited to help judge the fifth annual San Diego International Beer Festival.

The premier beer event at the San Diego County Fair (STILL want to call it the Del Mar Fair), this two-day festival will take place from June 24th through the 26th and feature beers from over 150 breweries from around the world. Those beers were the subject of extreme scrutiny at the hands of dozens of noted beer aficionados Saturday and Sunday at the Del Mar Fairgrounds' Red Star Café. Many of those individuals are Beer Judge Certification Program-licensed experts, which takes more than an affinity for suds; it takes a great deal of study, dedication and a passing grade on the certification exam covering the intricacies regarding the brewing process and profile specifications of over 70 beer styles.

These folks know their stuff and take imbibing more seriously than anyone on the planet other than commercial brewers (oh, and did I mention most every BJCP judge is an avid homebrewer). They smell, sip, savor dozens of beers over the course of a day (without getting anywhere close to hammered), take diligent notes and debate the subtleties of each brew as they decide where each falls in the overall rankings.

Want to see what their favorites were? The best way is to attend the festival (which is growing to be one of the best in San Diego, specifically for trying beers from outside the US). For times and specifics, check out - http://www.sdfair.com/index.php?fuseaction=events.beer_festival. And for a list of all of the participating breweries is also available at - http://bit.ly/kGd63R. Image

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