As homebrewing advances and grows at an amazing rate, so do competitions. And with the advancement of online content, homebrewers continue to make better beers. When you combine more competitions with more brewers and improved beers, the result is tougher competitions. Considering the trend, a single medal category in nearly every competition will have 15-30 entries, with some reaching well over 50 or 60. Most competitions will divide medal categories with more than 12 entries into flights of 6 to 12 each. So, a brewer must first be in the top 3 of the first round in order to get the opportunity to place in the top 3 of the medal category. Which means when you enter a beer and get past the first round, your beer is then greeted with a wonderful second or third or forth set of 3 entries to compete with for the medals.

Based on my experiences, the number of poor quality beers in any given category is reducing. A few years ago, I could expect 1 to 3 beers in a flight to have a severe flaw. That is simply not the case today; I may judge 10-15 flights in a large competition and only experience 1 or 2 beers out of all the flights that have a severe flaw. Which leaves nearly every other beer in the category to be of Good, Very Good or higher quality. A Very Good beer is one that is “generally within style parameters, some minor flaws” and receives 30 to 37. Most commercial examples will fall in the upper range of Very Good; you should be happy with a Very Good score. Many beers that are Very Good walk away with a medal. So if you brewed a beer, which consistently receives 38 to 45, then you probably have—or will have—many awards in your trophy case. It’s grown more difficult and I am honored every time that I win an award for my beers.


Now that I have discussed the difficulty of receiving an award, it’s time we move onto the importance of the scoresheet. The BJCP Scoresheet is divided into 5 sections, Aroma, Appearance, Flavor, Mouthfeel and Overall Impression. A judge is expected to describe his perceptions for the first 4 sections before providing an Overall Impression that generally includes some feedback for improvement. If the judge did his or her job appropriately, you should have received a scoresheet that clearly tells you the top characteristics along with the level of each characteristic that they perceived at that time. Those last three words “at that time” are the most important words of this dialogue.


When you get your scoresheet back you should have received a wealth of information about your beer. You should know if the judge perceived your intended characteristics or those that you perceive. You should know how well your example fit the parameters of the style you declared. You should know what adjustment you may want to make the next time you brew that recipe. And you will be that much closer to a first or second award.


In Part 2 of this series I will dive deeper into “at that time”


Cheers, James
BJCP Grand Master Judge James Lallande
Guest writer and Grand Master BJCP Judge James Lallande brings you a series of educational blogs about the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), the judging of beer based on style guidelines, and becoming a better brewer through improving your knowledge of styles based on guidelines that give you a great place to start down your path to that perfect beer through learning how to analyze a great beer.