Beer Judging

Something I’ve realized in the last while: it is possible to have many different passions, and they can be expressed in a multitude of ways. For me, cooking has always been a passion. Video games and board games are passions of mine, though they take a back seat nowadays due to how busy I seem to be. Beer is a relatively new passion of mine, and I always try to learn what I can (usually on the internet, and I’m sure the time I log on is slightly annoying to Erin…). I work in one industry, and have had thoughts about getting into the beer industry. But if I like food and cooking, why should I take the plunge into something different so hastily? The beer industry pays around the same as the cooking industry, so it wouldn’t be about money. Really, as I see it, these 2 passions are interchangeable.

I’ve recently set a guideline for myself regarding my passions: incorporate something into my life that pertains to that passion, without necessarily trying to pursue it as a career. Too many people get into one career because they are passionate about it, only to be chewed up and spat out, or leave in disgust because they don’t like certain aspects of it. I didn’t want to just jump into a job involving beer, rather I wanted to do something alongside my career that could keep the passion going. I settled on becoming a homebrewer and a beer judge. Now, I haven’t had the opportunity to document one of my homebrewing experiences yet, and I have only brewed 3 batches (one of which was a failure), but after the initial equipment cost, it is a relatively cheap endeavour, so I plan on brewing many more and chronicling it here on the website. As far as becoming a beer judge, well, where do I start?

The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) is designed to set guidelines for beer judges, it keeps things official, professional and in check. It all starts with an exam, and luckily their website contains most of what you need to study for it. With their study guide a reasonable amount of reading on its own, it’s the recommended reading that gets a little out of hand…out of print books, back orders of magazines…the list goes on. Luckily, there are a two amazing books that outline a lot of what the BJCP wants you to know:

Tasting Beer, by Randy Mosher

I can’t tell you how invaluable this book is, to just about anybody interested in beer at any level. It’s got some history on beer, a section on various glassware, how to pair beer with food, an outline of how to judge beer, and details on all beer styles (complete with prime examples of the style). Though this book tells you about the brewing process, there is another book that goes about it in more detail…

How to Brew, by John J. Palmer

This book is a bible for any homebrewer, let alone professional one. Divided into sections based on experience, it helps to guide you through the process, troubleshoot problems, and move on to creating your own recipes. Needless to say, it has a ton of the information you’d need to know for the technical brewing questions on the exam.

Now, experience is everything, so the general recommendation seems to be that you should go and volunteer at beer judging events beforehand, and get the opportunity to taste and judge beers on your own or with a study group before you attempt the exam. I’m taking things slowly, I’ll admit, but after I’ve had the opportunity to analyse some beers on my own, I’ll get over my initial hesitation and keep an eye out for some events to volunteer, with the hopes I’ll be able to ask some judges various questions pertaining to the program.

After the “apprenticing”, and taking the exam, you’re put into a tier. “Recognized” is the level in which you basically have no event experience under your belt. You need 5 “experience points” to attain “Certified”, where you’ve judged in a few competitions. Then it moves onto “National”, where you’d need a minimum score on the exam of 80 (you are allowed to re-take the exam) plus 20 experience points, and “Master” which requires an exam score of 90, with 40 experience points. Basically, the higher you score and the more events your able to do, the more you can climb the ladder. I’m in no hurry, but it would be kind of cool to get to the “National” level at some point, and be able to go to events outside of the general area I live in. Only time will tell.

Should I mention the need to just go out and drink beer? No amount of reading will prepare the palate for the real thing, so naturally, I’ll have to continue drinking (responsibly, and for science!) and chronicling…at the very least for the sake of this website!


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