Pies from the Great Midwestern Pie Competition

What it’s Like to Judge the Great Midwestern Pie Competition

For one day, the world was his.

A few weeks ago, the world really was mine. I was a judge in a pie competition.  

My fellow judges and I were by no means amateur food judges. We, all of us, eat food on the regular so…yeah, qualified. I would say we fell smack-dab between casual Yelper and Bobby Flay. So, if you are wondering if we walked out of the rain and into Palomino, The Bay View institution and location of the Great Midwestern Pie Competition, with a bit of vim in our steps, we did.

Pies from the Great Midwestern Pie Competition
Photo by Brock Kaplan

That was until we walked right into the rapidly growing line of pie makers. There were a lot of pies. And when the pure bliss of pie consumption turned to the premonition of an inevitable stomachache, one could really begin to feel what it was like to be an Atlanta Falcon’s fan watching the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI. I was going to have to eat so much pie. I would need a drink or two, and at the very least a glass water. I gathered my stamina, grabbed a spoon (and a beer because this is Milwaukee) and got to work.

First pie, amazing. Second, even better. Third-fourth-fifth, wonderful-scrumptious-breathtaking. Pie after pie, hitting every note as if they were Fantasia Barrino in season three of American Idol. We had apple pies spruced up with not just a classic sprinkle of cinnamon, but also cheddar cheese. Pies made just around the block were brimming with tart Door County Cherries. Some were such heaping piles of chocolate one could ski down them if  so willing to risk dirtying their North Face jacket.

Each pie came with its own slip of paper for our 0-10 scores. I judged them individually by their inner and outer beauty as well as something I like to call the “wow” factor. These categories were otherwise titled crust, filling and appearance.

Pies from the Great Midwestern Pie Competition
Photo by Brock Kaplan

Hitting nearly all of these marks was a pie whose given, Christian name was “The Angry Mother,” a savory pie with even more soul then a quiche made by Aretha Franklin herself. And by soul, I mean it had a few handfuls of sharp cheddar and smoked gouda. Corn and tomatoes helped keep the filling honest with a hint at wholesomeness. The crust? More like your Nana’s fresh buttered biscuits, still warm out of the oven. This fierce game-changer was THE pie, and it took first in the Wisconsin-Based Category, forever securing its rightful place in the pantheons of pie-dom.

Although the Beet Street Harvest Festival is still young, this being only the second annual iteration, it is a must for anyone who wants to get one last look of falling leaves in Bay View before the snow flies. Put this mid-October street shindig on your 2018 calendar in big bold letters right next to your dog’s b-day. You don’t have to be a pseudo-professional judge to get a slice of the pie for yourself: the Great Midwestern Pie Competition not only sells slices of the professional pies to the public after the event, but it takes local entries, too.

If you really want the world to be yours, enter next year’s competition, grab yourself a beer and enjoy this one-of-a-kind Milwaukee event.