In a previous statement, I presented an overly simplified way to complete the scoresheet as a tool to help new brewers. For those of you that are BJCP Judges or experienced Non-BJCP, you will often be paired with someone who may have never judged or is not familiar with the scoresheet. Here are some tips to help ensure a successful judging experience and teach a new judge.
Rule #1 with a new judge, assume nothing. Read the guidelines out loud. Please do not assume or rely on memory of your style knowledge even if you are judging a style that you know inside and out. The style guidelines contain many ranges and some hidden subtleties; even the most knowledgeable judges, including those who wrote the style guidelines, refer back to them to ensure that the beer is within range or a certain characteristic is acceptable in low levels.
Ensure you have all of your judging supplies at the table so that when it’s time to start you can dedicate your time to working with the new judge and not be distracted by gathering other items such as pencils, scoresheets, towels and bread. Have 2 printed sets of the BJCP Guidelines; phones are great but the print is much easier to refer multiple times when you have a new judge and prevents you from relying on memory.
It’s time to begin; first question is what to judge. Ask your new judge what is the last beer they brewed or maybe bought. You are better off selecting a style with which they have experience, over a common example or your preference. Pick a single style and--if possible--pick a flight with a single sub-category. I often reflect on my first judging experience where I assigned New Entrants. This was a great experience but it was intimidating due to having many styles from which to choose the best 3 beers. Having a single sub-style means that you only have one full description to read--which will save some time. Many avoid judging with new judges because it takes longer; choosing a single sub-category is a way to save a good bit of time by not reading up to 10-12 beer descriptions.
Talk out the appearance; this one is the most objective and easy for a new judge to get the feel for the process. Follow the keywords under each section and encourage them to write exactly what they see. When you get to flavor and aroma, point out the strongest items such as “Do you smell the strong citrus hops?” “Is the malt a little caramel sweet in the aroma?” This gets them thinking and pairing up the vocabulary; avoid asking “What do you get?” for the first couple of beers. Again, write what you smell, then taste. As you point out to these various characteristics, refer back to the style guidelines notating where they fall in the generally accepted range.
Continue to mouth feel and then help them complete the overall impression with something as simple as giving the BJCP score range then say one aspect that they liked and one that they feel could be better. The new judge does not need to worry about overly detailed feedback, that’s your place at the table. Have them finish with “Thank you”, remember the brewer paid for you to drink their beer.
As you move to your second, third, and remaining beers, gradually reduce the leading questions and replace them by asking about specific characteristics, such as “What does the malt smell like to you?” You now have them thinking and matching characteristics to vocabulary.
Considering the new judge will take longer to complete the scoresheet, you as the experienced judge should help fill in the gap and provide a highly detailed scoresheet for your table and the brewer. Your evaluation will carry more weight, so be absolutely sure you provide detailed feedback to help the brewer make a better example of the style.
In closing, thank the new judge for attempting their first flight, then switch with another new and experienced judge pair so that both new judges get to work with a different experienced judge to observe two different styles of judging.