Getting quality judges for larger competitions can be tough and everyone judged their first flight at one point. Most judge many flights before they receive training or take the test to become an official BJCP
judge. There are also many highly experienced judges that passed the exam as Recognized many years ago, but chose not to advance even though they judge at a higher level. In fact, there are many highly experienced judges that never take the exam. When you get your BJCP Scoresheet
back and see that two non-BJCP judges were paired on that flight, you typically have no idea if they are new, experienced, or not willing to advance—so avoid assumptions that the competition did not vet out judges or did a poor job of pairing judges. If two non-BJCP judges are sitting together, a ranked judge more than likely validated their judging ability. Also, avoid making assumptions of their abilities to evaluate beer until after you read the quality of their scoresheet.
Judges are human and factors throughout a judging session can influence a judge’s perception, so be careful to weigh your brewing career on one judge’s comments. The BJCP provides the Judge Procedures Manual located on www.BJCP.org and people try to adhere, but things still happen. For example, someone not even judging may have put on too much cologne or perfume and walked by while your judge is trying to judge the aroma of your beer… Maybe the beer before yours was the 1st place in the flight and a 48 point Best of Show beer and you may have had the second place beer, but the sudden drop off from that beer to yours gave a lower impression; you were awarded with a 35 instead of 40—effectively moving you out of the medals. Perhaps the beer before yours had a severe flaw such as an infection and that the judge did not properly clean his or her pallet, so still falsely tastes or smells that same flaw in your beer. Or the beer was flawed and your solid 36 point beer was such a refreshment that they gave you an elevated 42. Plus, some judges perceive certain characteristics at a highly sensitive level while others do not perceive them at all. A couple of examples are Diacetyl and Esters, many judges have a difficult time perceiving Diacetyl (movie theatre popcorn butter) while others can pick it up in the most minimal amounts. Just like some get a light fruitiness in the Esters while other pick up Fruity Pebbles.
Judges can be wrong and I have said this many times: give me enough time and I will be wrong with one of your beers. Just keep in mind that I may have been wrong and gave you a 42 and the first place medal, when every other time you enter that same beer you get a 30-32. The key take away is consistency. Enter your batch in multiple competitions, brew the same recipe multiple times and enter each in multiple competitions. Enter your beers in different regions of the country. Save one bottle and sample it around the same time that judging for that competition would occur so you can compare against the scoresheet.
The key takeaway is that your BJCP scoresheet reflects the perceptions of only 2-3 people in a specific setting with multiple variables, so weigh it accordingly. You should be excited about all of the positive feedback and perceptions with which you agree. You should avoid being upset because the judges did not agree with your perceptions. Avoid making adjustments to the next batch until you receive consistent feedback. If you enter six beers in one competition and they all have a consistent comment trend—such as Diacetyl—then you should take action but do not adjust your recipe because one judge said it was too roasty for style.
Good luck in your next competition!
In future editions, I will discuss the mechanics of filling out a scoresheet, declaring a style when entering, and making adjustments to recipes.
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.