Judge Spotlight: James Tai

James Tai is a certified cicerone and veteran beer judge at our New York Bacon and Beer Classic. A Guinness Ambassador, he gets to schmooze with fellow industry experts, bars, restaurants, and distributors on a regular basis. As he puts it, “My job involves talking about beer with some of the most passionate people on the face of the earth.” Um...sign us up!

James Tai. Photo by Serious Eats.

James Tai. Photo by Serious Eats.

What inspired your interest in beer?

At the risk of sounding cliche - college. I was fortunate enough to attend school at a place and time relative to the craft beer industry. I drank a lot of Anchor Brewing and Sierra Nevada. Looking back, I'm extremely appreciative of that experience.

What is your favorite beer? Why?

With so many great beers, and every situation calling for a different style of beer, I will never have a favorite. We are unequivocally living in the Golden Age of Beer.

What is your favorite food and beer pairing?

It’s very hard to quantify a "best,” especially when the possibilities are endless. That said, I really enjoy having Korean BBQ Pork Belly (Samgyeopsal) with an American Amber Ale. The malt character and protein/marinade sweetness resonate well together, while the hop additions in the beer serve as a great counterpoint and palate refresher.

What are your top 3 NYC craft beer bars?

Wow - trying to get me into trouble here! Picking my top three is a futile endeavor, especially in a city that houses truly excellent beer joints including (taking a deep breath) Beer Street, Coopers, Jimmy's No 43, Blind Tiger, One Mile House, Top Hops, Torst, The Jeffrey, Covenhoven, Mission Dolores, La Birreria, Barcade, Mugs Alehouse, Taproom 307, Pacific Standard...And you're asking me for my top three?

What do you love about the Bacon and Beer Classic?

Not enough can be said about having great beer with the backdrop of a Major League baseball stadium--two things that go hand-in-hand. The energy of the crowds is so engaging and uplifting. And that's before even mentioning the food! It's rare that food is provided to sample at beer festivals, let alone some really inspired bacon dishes that great chefs have obviously taken the time to conceive. It's a great day all around.

Kate Levenstein