In a lot of ways it was a surreal moment. Listening to names being called for southwest brewers cup winners, sixth place, fifth place, fourth place, third place, all were called. There were two of us left. Two names to be called. The MC called out “from Bellano Coffee San Jose, Patrick Domres”. All I could think was, “he didn’t say my name, he didn’t say my name, that wasn’t my name.”
It wasn’t weeks of practice that led to this moment, it wasn’t months, it was a full year. One year earlier was the 2013 southwest competition held in Santa Cruz, CA. I didn’t make top six in that competition, okay let’s be honest here, I didn’t even come close. But I took the feedback from that experience and worked harder for the US competition 2013. Again, I didn’t take top six there either, but I inched closer. I had to make a change in my approach, this wasn’t just making a great cup of coffee everyday, this was competition.
Thus began the next year of preparation. Playing, documenting, tasting, documenting. This was my routine as often as I got the chance. BigWestern, one of three large regional events that determined finalists into the US Barista and Brewers Cup competitions in Seattle this April. 36 finalists, 6 from each region, for US Barista and 18 finalists, 3 from each region, for US Brewers Cup competition.
BigWestern weekend began for me on Thursday February 20th. This year not only was I competing in Brewers cup but I was going to be a technical judge in the barista competition. Thursday began an intense day of judges training and calibration getting us ready for the weekend of judging. Throughout the weekend I had the great opportunity to tech judge eight baristas.Friday came and I was first up for first round of the Brewers Cup - compulsory round.
Now the compulsory round is also what we refer to as the blind round. All the competitors are given a 12oz bag of coffee. The bag is not labeled, we do not know where the coffee comes from, or who roasted it. No information is provided. Each competitor is expected to brew it to the best of his/her ability. At the end of the day all competitors were brought forward in front of the crowd for the finalists announcement.
Only the top six moved on. I was scheduled to go third the next morning. I had my coffee ready - Klatch Coffee’s Kenya Makwa AB. I had my brew method determined - notNeutrals Gino Dripper. I knew my ratios, timing, full recipe. I had no idea what I was going to say. I went home that night and wrote my outline.
Early saturday morning I met with Heather and performed my routine for the first time all the way through. This was the moment that “drill coach Heather” went into full effect and it was awesome. Rehearsing and fine tuning the next few hours. Walking out on stage it all came together, it felt good, I put it all out there, and just let go.
That afternoon Klatch took over the pour over bar at the BGA Cafe onsite. Heather & I brewing Kenya Makwa for everyone to taste. Klatch also had baristas Liz & Gabe serving up our new Natural Organic Bolivia. As well we had our Nitro Cold Brew available on tap all weekend long.
Sunday came and I was tech judging back to back from the start of the event until announcements. I walked out of final calibrations just as they were calling the top six brewers cup finalists up on stage.Simply hoping that I was in the top three so that I could move on to US competition I had a sigh of relief the moment that fourth place was announced.
Then it started to sink in once third place was announced, the possibility of actually placing first. And then, my name was not announced.All I heard was “and your Southwest Brewers Cup Champion is…” and lots of cheering and screaming. Never hearing my name over the crowd.I did. I won. First Place SouthWest Brewers Cup Champion.
And the next day, started cupping coffees to find the perfect coffee to use for US Brewers Cup Championships April 24th - 26th in Seattle, WA. Watch out Seattle, the brewmaster is coming.