Remember back when you were studying math or history and you would rather shove an ice pick in your eye then complete another equation or read another paragraph? Me too. But, what if I told you that studying didn’t have to be so damn boring and now you can study something that you enjoy and are passionate about. I’m talking about beer!
BJCP Beer Judge
In January, I began my journey of becoming a Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) beer judge. Twelve guys, including myself, set down on the path of becoming better beer drinkers. I know….it is hard work. To be honest, it was hard work. Every other week we would gather at a group member’s house and study a few different styles (i.e. american/german lagers, APA and IPA, etc.). By the time the exam came around, we had made it through all the categories and sub categories and were well versed in all that they should, and should not bring to the table. All in all, we drank a lot of beer.
In addition to drinking many beers, we also developed our palate through two sensory training kits offered by Siebel Institute. I, and my group members, recently took the exam and are now just waiting to hear back the results. Overall, it was a great time both preparing and taking the BJCP Tasting Exam.
You may be asking, “how do I become a beer judge?” Well here are some of my tips on preparing for the BJCP Tasting Exam.
- Find an exam being offered in your area on the BJCP website. They offer exams roughly 2-3 years out so you should not have trouble finding one. Contact the person to reserve your space.
- Find a study group. Many times local homebrew clubs will have a study session group. If not, get a group together of your dedicated friends and make one. Studying with other people will allow you to discuss, compare and have fun while preparing for the exam.
- Study, study, study. The good thing is I am not asking you to study the French Revolution or algebraic parabolas. Drink as much beer as you can….but without getting drunk. Make your way through the BJCP styles and sub-categories. Read the style descriptions such as aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel and overall impression.
- Memorize the styles. I cannot suggest this enough! While memorizing the styles may be tedious and at times not fulfilling, it will help you immensely with both the entrance and tasting exams. Understanding the styles is critical.
- Understand and know how to brew. I do not believe that beer judges must brew, but it helps if you know what to do. Either way, you need to be re-reading through John Palmer’s How To Brew. This book alone will give you a great base knowledge of the process, ingredients, and more. You need to know brewing because you will be responsible for giving feedback on how to improve the beers you judge.
- Take the entrance exam. The BJCP entrance exam is an online 200 question exam that is to be completed in 60 minutes. This is a tough one. Understanding brewing processes (grain, water, fermentation, etc.) along with a solid understanding of styles is important. While you may be taking it on the computer which makes it an “open book” test, you will have no time to research questions. This was one of the most difficult exams I have taken, mostly due to the time limit.
- Read as much about the exam as possible. There are some amazing websites out there that provide a great number of resources in preparing for the exam. Simple google searches will give you more than enough to sink your teeth into.
- Wake up on exam day and totally destroy the damn thing. You will be given 6 beers to judge in 90 minutes (15 mins per beer). The style of beers you will be given are not known in advance, so preparation is key.
So, there is a quick and dirty list of things to consider if you are up for the challenge. At the end of the day…it is beer! So, there is no pressure. Have fun, study something you love and rock that exam like a 9th grade mathlete.