having forgotten to pull the drapes in my bedroom when retiring the night before, I am awakened at 7am by an unbelievable sunrise spreading over the south side of chicago. it’s going to be a nice day, i just know it. we drove to navy pier in time to catch millrock (Teisl, you took second place again, are you trying to prove H. Perry right?) and watch the finalists set up for the big day.

trevor corlett from madcap coffee in grand rapids opened the morning with his cherry-sweet coffee from finca vista hermosa, so nice. he had to repull some shots, but at least we now know the geography of michigan really well via his hand! a great performance and i look forward to visiting these guys’ new cafe…just not on a sunday.

jesse crouse went next. jesse used to be over by dere at intelligentsia millennium park, but is now the Director of Poetry at the roasting works. his guatemalan la maravilla coffee is tasting super, and his routine (second public competition performance ever) is so much smoother and more polished than yesterday. his deconstructed con panna, with pistachio cream, is described as being evocative of the green of the coffee farm itself, and yeah he says “herbaceousness”. love this guy!

mike phillips, reigning GLRBC champ and trainer for intelligentsia broadway is third, and we are all sure today will rage hard since yesterday’s weird shot-misstep ain’t gonna happen again. it doesn’t, and things look great, though to my ears we’re getting a bit more Serious Mike than i’m expecting. how does it taste? i dunno, everything was long gone before my greedy hands could approach.

les stoneham from cincinnatti’s laterza wins hero of the day award for donating his macbook pro (so heavy…so heavy…) to us to throw together a truly janky, last-minute (like, it came on just as heather perry finished introducing the judges), constanly-breaking ustream feed so that 20-30 awesome dedicated coffee friends could watch the competition today. thanks to les for giving us the technology, and thanks also to the awesome and generous milwaukeeans at WebBeams for donating us a wireless signal all day, and to neil oney for literally holding a laptop in his arms and pointing it blurrily at the competition so the greater coffee community could have snarky chats about chemex).

les as a BARISTA on the other hand, super relaxed, extraordinarily tall, and purely pro as he ran through his routine based on a daterra villa borghese.

fifth up was a man you may have heard of named scott lucey. it’s a pity milwaukee is so far from new york and san francisco and portland and oslo and san salvador because you should really all stop in and pay a visit to that magical land on lake michigan, full of countless warm and real people, true rust belt road salt and bleak-beautiful light, and all the cheese you can drink.

scott’s even more confident about his performance today, and you can tell because the first thing he does is hand out dry ground samples of melo’s colombian coffee and urge the judges to “get your schnoz” right in the cup. his shots are where he wants em, the tulips are still holding up their petals proudly, and the breath-drawing liquid swords again go off without a hitch. and maybe lucey’s secret weapon is under the drinks themselves: yesterday’s tablecloth got dirty and laundry wasn’t easy to come by in the flurry of things. a chicago native, i tried to think of places quick and easy to replace it, but by 1am lucey had solved the problem already. i got a text message that said: “i’m going to use the hotel bedspread!” …there’s no problem a clean top sheet and a little hardworking midwestern ingenuity can’t solve.

scott pulls maybe a dozen shots for the audience while chattering with emcee kyle glanville about where best to purchase grapefruit juice, and all is calm and smooth until I’m told the feed is down, and i spend most of chris de marse‘s routine trying to fix it. this is less traumatic perhaps than yesterday’s news that dan streetman got pooped on by one of the convention center’s stray bird flock (chirp! chirp! overhead all weekend!) the day before!

they don’t keep us in suspense for long and the announcement of the winners comes quickly and emotionally. third place: trevor corlett. whoa! second place: jesse crouse. whoa!! and then it’s mike and scott, friends, side by side, an awful moment with an audiencewide throat-lump, but you can’t have a winner without a loser. announcer mike ebert opens the last envelope and smiles, “well, I always did think of Milwaukee as sort of a second home….” and it’s scott lucey. after six competitions and a whole lot of heart.

liquid swords, or as we’ll now call it, liquid SIXES, rang up high scores like a fucking slot machine. i tell scott his 687 points make up the highest score of anyone in any region all year, and he responds (and this is why we like the no-ego barista) with only a confused, “………..okay.”

from grand rapids around to chicago and up 94 to milwaukee, then, it’s a lake michigan sweep for the GLRBC. we’ll see you in portland then, with our mitten maps and poems and machetes and stolen bedsheets. yeah!

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