Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Water Water Everywhere

Saturday morning I got out of bed extra early to drive to Berkeley Spring, West Virgina to participate in the 17th Annual International Water Tasting Festival. After a day of sipping municipal, purified, still, and sparkling, I'll never think of water the same way again!

Submissions from all over the world were divided into 4 categories: municipal (aka tap water), purified drinking, bottled non-carbonated, and carbonated. A panel of 12 journalist judges compared the water based on 4 areas: smell, mouth-feel, clarity, and taste. While the judges were doing their thing, everyone in the audience got to make judgments of their own.

This is the Municipal water table. Entries were submitted in everything from old hooch jugs to pickle jars. There were mostly American and Canadian waters. Some were great - clean, crisp, no aftertaste - some were not so great. The Canadian waters were all very tasty! Of course Colorado water was also delish! Outter Banks and Los Angeles water was a bit chewy. But no surprise there, eh! Municipals were good to start with because the differences between them were varied. It was easy to recognize the four judgment areas, and apply them later with the more subtly nuanced bottled water.

After the Municipals everyone ajourned for the dinner break and came back wearing evening wear. I felt significantly underdressed in a cashmere sweater and jeans. Arthur Von Weisenberger, master of waters, was decked out in a tuxedo. This was serious business! We tasted the still and sparkling waters and picked out our favorites. And then it was time for the awards. While we waited for the awards to be tallied and announced I strategized for the Water Rush. About 500 bottles of water were available for the taking, but with a limited number of my favorite bottles I had to create alliances.

The water was around two columns, as seen above, and I was sitting on the front row smack dab in the center. I enlisted my friend Mery to hit the smaller right column, while I pillaged the other. The left column was larger, and so I made a similar deal with my neighbor to the left. We'd swap booty afterwards and made sure that everyone got what they wanted. This was all out war, and pushing and shoving weren't below the belt. At the end of the day, I had a backpack and a box jam packed with 35 bottles of water. And practically every one has a story or something special about it that will make it hard to drink.

While a little odd, this was one of the funnest events I've ever attended. The people were a little quirky - but everyone was open and friendly. It was refreshing to meet so many unpretentious and down-to-earth people. This is the kind of festival where people come year after year - comparing photos of their kids along with memories of stand out waters from years past. First timers seemed a little unsure at first, but by the end were laughing and chatting with new friends and vowing to attend every year. The entire event was a hoot!

I plan on going back every year.

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