I first took the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Beer Judging Examination almost two years ago. At that point I had judged in three competitions as a Novice judge. I crammed for all of 17 days from the time I took the initial online exam until I took the tasting exam, and managed to pass with a 65. The whole experience was like high school all over again.
My score along with my level of experience at that time earned me the rank of Recognized. Since then others who are not familiar with the BJCP’s ranks have referred to me as a “Certified” judge. I am certified in the sense that I have a certificate, but the rank of Recognized is actually below the rank of Certified.
To move up in rank I need to obtain 5.0 experience points from judging in BJCP competitions, and earn a score of 70 on the tasting exam. In the past two years I had judged locally in Boston, Lowell, and Rhode Island, as well as at the National Homebrew Competition. With the required experience points in the bag, to move up in rank I need to retake the tasting exam and improve my score.
Late April I was scanning the BJCP website curious to see if there were any local exams on the calendar. Sure enough there was an exam on the agenda for the fall. I emailed the organizer Jennifer Pereira, who also organized the Ocean State Homebrew Competition, and reserved my spot. Like the Ocean State competition, the exam was at the Isle Brewers Guild, future home of the Narragansett Brewery and Newburyport Brewing Company‘s sister brewery.
After I took the tasting exam in 2014 I learned that most other judges spend a lot more time studying for the exam than I did. In my mind I was going to use the period of time to really buckle down and study. In reality I almost forgot that I registered. Sometime last month I checked my calendar to remember exactly when the exam was and started to study in between work, watching baseball, social media, and playing games on my phone.
My weakness when I took the exam in 2014 was the depth of my knowledge of the various styles. I remember not being sure if diacetyl is appropriate in a Dry Irish Stout (it isn’t). I did review the style guidelines several times, if not quite enough to have all of the styles completely memorized. I have also been working on finishing How to Brew per the recommended study I received with my 2014 exam score. Brad Smith’s seminar on off-flavors at Homebrew Con was also a great review of the various off-flavors that can be found in beer and the causes of them.
Most importantly I have judged a lot more since first taking the exam. Judging different styles is a great way to learn about them. The guidelines are right there to reference before tasting each beer. Tasting numerous examples of a style gives the judge an opportunity to taste different interpretations and to really appreciate the breadth of of a style. I have also been able to work with and learn from a lot of experienced and higher ranking judges.
I hope that experience makes the difference. From pulling up with the other judges after the exam was done, and learning from Jennifer what the beers we tasted were, I think I did okay. All I have to do is improve by five points which shouldn’t be that hard.
If I obtain the rank of Certified, I think that will be it for me. The next highest rank is National which requires 20 experience points, a score of 80 on the BJCP Beer Judging Examination, and pass the Beer Judge Written Proficiency Examination which includes five essay questions. Yeah, I can’t even….