The next course (Fitzroy, starts 01/02/2011)
Learn more about Beer Judging & the ABJCP?
Why learn how to judge beer?
Becoming a recognised beer judge will improve your appreciation of beer and teach you beer tasting and evaluation skills. You’ll learn how to give useful feedback on a judging sheet. It’ll also help you evaluate your own beers to select the most appropriate styles to enter them in at competitions as well as to learn what you need to change to improve your own beers.
Hasn’t this been done before?
In early 2005, a BJCP judge now living in Townsville (Andrew Walsh) organised the first program of the Australian Beer Judge Certification Program (ABJCP) with brewers in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide taking part. A key aspect of this was that Andrew was able to organise a BJCP exam at the end of the program. A web site was also set up to provide study notes and a discussion forum for participants (http://abjcp.craftbrewer.org/ but note most pages only available to course participants). The Melbourne study group consisted on ten Melbourne Brewers and two Bayside Brewers, who met one evening a fortnight at The Brewer’s Den warehouse in Ferntree Gully for a total of ten sessions. (More details below.)
What’s the BJCP?
The BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) is an American non-profit organisation that runs a program of certifying beer judges, preparing style guidelines, and generally promoting beer literacy. Judges are graded at levels from Apprentice, through Recognised, Certified, National, and Master, up to Grand Master. The level at which you’re graded depends on your mark in the BJCP exam and the amount of judging experience at BJCP-registered competitions. Competition organisers have now started registering local competitions such as VicBrew 2005, Beerfest 2006, and Bayside Oktoberfest 2006 with the BJCP. Most BJCP judges start as Apprentices (exam completed) or Recognised (scoring 60-69% on the exam).
Since then three further study groups have been run at the Grain & Grape warehouse in Yarraville.
The Study Course
The study course used in 2005 was based on a Study Guide and Style Guidelines developed by the BJCP (available at www.bjcp.org). Each of the ten study sessions consisted of discussion of a technical topic and tastings of a group of beer styles. The technical topics were:
• Malts and Adjuncts – malting, kilning, types of malts in various beer styles
• Water – minerals, pH, hardness, effects in various beer styles
• Mashing – enzymes, mash schedules
• Wort Production – sparging, boiling, fining, carbonation
• Hops – varieties, IBUs, hopping schedules
• Yeast and Fermentation – characteristics of different yeasts, by-products, bacteria
• Troubleshooting – what causes positive and negative attributes and how to fix them
• Recipe Formulation
The beer styles covered were:
Light Lagers, Amber and Dark Lagers, Bitters and Pale Ales, Brown, Scotttish and Strong Scotch Ales, Stout and Porter, Barleywines and Old Ales, German Ales, Wheat Beers and Rauchbiers, Strong Belgian and French Ales, Other Belgian Ales, Doctored Beers with known faults.
The BJCP style guidelines list commercial examples, a sufficient number of which were available locally from specialty bottle shops (such as Purvis and Acland Cellars). One of the members of the group took responsibility for purchasing the beers each fortnight. Occasionally home-brewed beers were brought along if they were considered to be good examples of the style or bad examples with a clear fault.
How was the course run?
The format for the Study Group was not formal lectures. Rather it was expected that you would read up on each topic using the study guide, books, magazines or the web. The study group sessions consisted of discussions about the technical topic to share the knowledge within the group and compare individual brewing methods and experience. Similarly there was discussion during the tasting part with an emphasis on understanding how the beer matched the BJCP style description and improving your ability to describe tastes. The sessions worked best when someone acted as facilitator to ensure that everyone contributed to the discussion. Our experience is that a dozen is a good maximum size for a study group, otherwise there’s not enough time for everyone to contribute to the discussions. It’s also useful to have an upfront registration fee for the course (e.g. $50 that can be used for later beer purchases) in order to get a commitment from participants and be able to plan the amount of beer that needs to be bought.
The BJCP exam
The exam is a 3-hour closed-book exam with 70% being ten essay questions and 30% beer judging of four sample beers provided during the exam. It tests knowledge of beer styles (describing and differentiating), technical knowledge including brewing techniques, ingredients and troubleshooting, and communication skills. In the beer tasting section it tests perception, descriptive ability, and ability to give clear and useful feedback. The exam sheets are sent back to the BJCP in the US for marking, which takes several months. The BJCP provides detailed feedback on how well you answered the questions as well as suggestion on how to go about improving your judging skills further.
How much study do I need to do? Can I do the course and not
do the exam?
The amount of study is up to you, but the exam is quite tough. As usual, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it. Only half the participants in the first course sat the exam. But even those who didn’t sit the exam found the tasting sessions and discussions very useful in improving their own knowledge of brewing processes and beer styles. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to taste 6-8 beers of a given style at one time.
What’s the difference between the ABJCP and the BJCP?
The ABJCP is a group in Australia facilitating the running of BJCP exams in Australia. They are also working to have some distinctly Australian styles such as Australian Pale Ale adopted by the BJCP.
How much does it cost?
The all-up cost is about $200-$250. This is made up of about $12-15 per session for the purchase of beers for the tasting portion of the study course, $US50 for sitting the exam, and about $50 for other materials and expenses. Of course, there’s also travel and possibly buying more beer to taste at home.
The date/venue for the next BJCP course is yet to be determined..
Register your interest now by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, go directly to bjcp.org.
Mark Hibberd (Bayside Brewers VicBrew)
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