As part of the immersion process of my ongoing studies in the art of homebrewing, I am now training to judge beer at brewing events. I’ve not decided if I want to get a certification to become a certified beer Judge, like attending a Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), but it is always an option.
BJCP is the ultimate tool for perfecting as well as learning styles of beer for judging ales and largers, as well as meads, specialty brews and others. Click on the BJCP link for more information about the judging requirements.
I decided that in order to be able to perfect my craft, learning the nuiances of each style was the best way to achieve the desired results in what the baseline was for a particular style, and then adapting it to my particular pallet.
I heard a concept today while I was training about how there are 2 types of people with regards to how people identify food and drink. Those that taste a dish and say Yes, that taste like the dish I was expecting, others will break down the ingredients in the dish and identify with the subtleties of the dish . Using Fettuccine Alfredo as an example, there are some people that will say, Yes, that is what Fettuccine Alfredo is supposed to taste like and others will taste the cream, Parmesan, and can even discern between the addition of Romano and white pepper.
The ability to distinguish between aromas, flavors, and other characteristics of a craft brew can be learned. It does help if you have a good sence of taste and smell to be able to pick out certain aromas and flavors of the style of beer you are sampling.
One method that has been used to aid in the senses is through the use of the Sensory Training Kit. As the names suggests, the kit comes with pre-measured “standards” representing some of the most important flavors and aromatics found in beer. The standards are in a ready-to-use liquid form, making them as easy to use as possible. These standards help you train your senses by sampling 24 variants that you find in most beer.
Judging does have it’s benefits. Today, there are great kits and extracts to help aid in brewing a truly palatable beer. Therefore, I am excited to sample other brewers creations, building my palet profile, and learning as I hope to teach. In the interim, and depending on where I will be judging, I am fully prepared to taste some really bad beer.
I’ve heard stories from those that have been judging for decades, about beers that shoot out of the bottle like a rocket. Chunky beer. Flat beer. Beer with hop rings around the inside of the bottleneck. And beer so bad, that you have to ask the Head Judge, if you can disqualify the beer on visual inspection and smell. It’s all part of the process, and the skills it takes to be able to critique the beers, while offering subtle suggestions on how to improve the the next batch, are what in my opinion makes a good judge.
Over time, and training, you can start to really define what makes up a style and how it reflects the guidelines set for that particular style of beer by the BJCP.
Our training started off with general guidelines on how the North Texas Homebrewers Associations follows the BJCP guidelines. In this training session, we were broken up into 3 teams of 4 judges, sampling 4 different styles of beers by sub categories.
Using the standard BJCP score sheet we rated each entrant on aroma, appearance, flavor, mouth feel (overall smooth finish) and overall impression, while following the guide to insure that sub category criteria was accurately reflected in accordance with the guidelines. My team judged an American Ale as our style with a sub category of American Pale Ale. Since 2 of the 4 were commercial brews, we were able to start to develop an understanding of what makes up a good American Pale Ale or APA.
One of the samples was a craft brew, provided by a North Texas Homebrewer Association member, followed by a wild card. The wild card was a mis categorized sub category of American Ale.
If you are interested in learning to judge, head over the the BJCP web site and sign up for the training.