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tnlandsailor 02-20-2006 02:40 PM

The BJCP Exam
Well, I just finished taking the BJCP exam on Saturday (2-18-06). Just thought I would post some comments.

For those of you not familiar with the test, it is 10 essay questions (closed book) and judging of 4 beers. You answer all 10 questions and then every 30 minutes or so, the exam proctor drops off a beer for you to judge (also closed book). You have to complete the whole thing in 3 hours.

Was it worthwhile? If you had asked me a day before the test, I would have said no. Studying was hard for me. I couldn't see the point of memorizing all those beer styels and writing essay questions. Today, I've done a complete 180 and think it was more than worthwhile. I know the BJCP guidelines better than I ever have, and can now appreciate the subtleties between the styles. I also feel a huge sense of accomplishment. I think I did relatively well, hopefully well enough to reach the Certified level, but we won't find out for about 8 - 10 weeks.

Was it hard? Hell yes. Essay tests are always hard. They test you more thoroughly than a multiple guess test could ever hope to. In hindsight, the essay format is the only way to go. It's the only way to really test how well you know the styles and all the other aspects of brewing. And let's face it, it SHOULD be hard. Not just anyone should be able to be a certified beer judge. It should take effort, commitment, and skill. If it was easy, then what good would it be? Also, since judging is in essay format, you should be able to express your comments and evaluation in this fashion.

If you prepare properly, it should be a matter of endurance and time management, not struggling to remember answers. Either you know the material, or you don't. When I was finished, the 10 essay questions took up 15 hand written notebook pages, plus 4 fully filled out score sheets for each of the beers judged. Needless to say, I was exhausted afterward. I was writing up to the very end. I think the test is structured so that you have to manage your time well. I don't think there will be many people finishing 30 minutes early.

For anyone entertaining the idea, I would totally recommend taking the exam. Start studying now, go to the BJCP website and download the guidelines and study guide. Talk 5 or so of your brewing buddies into taking it too. It won't be easy, but you will be better brewers for it.


anthrobe 02-20-2006 03:27 PM

Good to know. I have been pondering that idea for quite some time now:D

drengel 02-20-2006 03:40 PM

i've bee wanting to take it as well. was it hard to get it administered in your area?

Dude 02-20-2006 03:48 PM

Okay, this seems like a good opportunity to bring something up that I've been wondering about for a LONG time.

Isn't this jusdging stuff HIGHLY subjective? Can't another's views toward a style of beer sway the final marks? Personally, I think beer judging is a load of crap. In the few comps I've seen done, You can have 3 judges doing the same beer and be 10 points different. Then you can have those judges absolutely not back down on thier assessment. It is mostly BS IMHO.

I've considered taking the BJCP exam. I definitely think it will help me make better beer, but I'm not convinced that the BJCP guidelines are what is best for deciding on what a good beer and what isn't.

Rant over.

anthrobe 02-20-2006 03:50 PM


Originally Posted by Dude
I definitely think it will help me make better beer, but I'm not convinced that the BJCP guidelines are what is best for deciding on what a good beer and what isn't. Rant over.

Well said.

drengel 02-20-2006 03:54 PM

yeah its defnitely highly subjective but unfortunately the way things work. someone knowing a lot about politics doesnt mean they won't vote a jackass into office ya' know.

one thing i don't care for about the system is that it rewards too heavily for sticking within style guidelines. what about good beers that try new things. they shouldn't just be relegated to an experimental category.

SteveM 02-20-2006 04:12 PM

I guess maybe the flip side of this is that standard judging norms contribute to consensus on what make each style what it is. Think of a dog show - there could be a really cute little fuzz ball dog that all the judges like - but it won't win the Golden Retriever category. If they like it enough and it breeds true, they could add a Little Fuzz Ball Dog category. So that liking (or not liking) a particular style category, or a particular beer within a category, is in fact subjective. But the norms aren't and probably should not be, so that compliance with the norms should be at least in theory objectively judged.

Toilet Rocker 02-20-2006 05:23 PM

drengel's comments sound exactly what I would expect sam caligione to say. well put!

Any judgment has a subjective edge to it (music, movies, beer), especially when you put a numerical value on the interpretation of the senses. I'm sure that the knowledge will improve one's brew too.

Baron von BeeGee 02-20-2006 05:35 PM

I would guess (not knowing one whit about BJCP judging) that the point of the certification is to at least normalize the styles with the judges so that there is a clear understanding of what an APA is vs a German smoke beer, and to then give the judges the tools and vocabulary to learn how to judge the beers which is obviously quite subjective. I don't think the point is that every judge so judge beer 'X' within a tenth of a point of each other, but at least they all understand in a concrete manner what the style is meant to be, and how to individually employ the tools of judging to arrive at their own results.

Looking back, I wrote a lot of words and still don't know if I got my point across. In any case, I'd look forward to Dennis coming back and clarifying what he got out of the exam specifically.

And good luck, hope you get the cert!

Dude 02-20-2006 05:43 PM

I believe the judges have to coem within 7 points of each other on a beer.

7 points is a ton, IMHO, and while I'm reasonably confident that MOST judges can get within this threshold of each other--I still think it is WAY too open for one judge's opinion to influence another.

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