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Old 03-05-2013, 10:55 PM   #1
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Default Reflections on BJCP Entrance Exam

Today I passed the BJCP Entrance Exam. I thought I would share some observations about the test in case anyone studying for it or wondering what it is could get a gauge from.

To get an idea of where I started from:

1. I have been brewing, extract to all grain, for roughly five years now.

2. I have read, cover to cover, more than a dozen books over the years listed by the BJCP. As well as healthfully perusing these forms (which are an incredible wealth of information by the way).

3. I am an attorney with a background in philosophy, so the chemistry of beer is far beyond my skill set and training. Phenols? Esters? Diacetyl? Those are hard enough to get a handle on, once you start throwing numbers into chemical compounds it is over for me.

The number of questions you have to answer on the BJCP Entrance Exam is 200 in 60 minutes. The questions are random, so my thoughts on my particular exam my not be applicable in any given set.

My first observation is that you really need to study the style guides more than anything else. The majority of my questions dealt with particular beer styles and the characteristic ranges for them. This shouldn't be an amazing revelation as what you will be doing as a judge is judging within the styles. However, I would say that you need to pay close attention to a given style's carbonation levels, color range, ABV, bitterness, etc... The questions did not generally ask for an IBU range, but will subtly ask something like: is an english pale ale low in bitterness, high in bitterness, medium, medium low, medium high? This is tricky because it not only means you need to know IBU ranges generally, but make a subjective overall comparison of where a pale ale's bitterness falls on a scale of low to high.

Secondly, do not be U.S. centric. I live in the U.S. and I prefer the more extreme styles found in the U.S. Have I brewed beer styles from Britain, Belgium, German, etc...? Yes, but my main stay is good ole U.S.A. flag waving, push the limits, kick some beer-communist ass interpretations of the classics. I would say only about 10% of my questions dealt with U.S. beer styles and overwhelming focused on British and German styles, with a healthy dose of Belgium thrown in. I was at a major disadvantage having not broadened my brewing horizons.

Thirdly, if there are variations on a given style you should know them very well. I had an inappropriate amount of questions about the differences between south English brown ale versus american brown ale versus porter versus robust porter versus Baltic porter. Some of the level of parsing reminded me of taking the Bar Exam all over. Not fun.

Fourthly, know your flaws and their causes. There were quite a lot of questions dealing with what process could cause this flaw, which ingredients contribute these potential flaws, what suggestions would remedy this particular flaw, etc... You need to know your process very well, but more importantly is knowing what happens when that process goes wrong.

Finally, don't stop with the BJCP. I cannot think of a better pairing of two judgeships than a Beer Judge and a Barbecue Judge. I'm only half joking. An attorney for another office is a certified barbecue judge and the process for being certified is apparently worlds easier. You can find out more here: http://www.kcbs.us/. I bet no fancy snob wine sommelier is a BBQ judge (well probably, but still).

I highly encourage anyone to try out for the BJCP. Its fun, challenging, and unique. Most of all it will probably help you be a better brewer.

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Old 07-15-2013, 08:42 PM   #2
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Thanks for sharing, I know this is a few months old but I appreciate the insight since I'm planning on taking the entrance exam within the next month.

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Old 08-11-2014, 08:16 PM   #3
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Sorry for the resurrection, I just wanted to add my thoughts.

I took the entrance exam and passed it yesterday. I've been brewing a while, brewed a very wide array of styles, and tasted examples from every BJCP style, so I thought I had a pretty good grasp, in addition to having done off-flavor training courses and what not. I did keep the guidelines as a reference while taking it (it's implicitly open book) and had to refer back a number of times. It was harder than I thought. Had I taken more time to study (I studied a little bit, but not as much as I should have) it may have been easier. But it's by no means an easy test. I'm expecting the seated exam to be much harder.

I didn't expect questions on actual organization of competitions (whether directors are allowed to judge and what not), and was thrown a few of those. It wasn't listed as an area where I was below passing at the end, but if you've never judged or stewarded at a sanctioned competition make sure you study that part too in addition to the style guidelines. I'd briefly read through it a while back, but having only judged unsanctioned comps (club competitions and the like), those questions threw me for a loop. But I'll be judging a sanctioned comp this weekend for the first time (as a BJCP Provisional judge), so hopefully that'll help me out down the road when it comes to the exam.

So now I've got myself on the wait lists for a number of the formal seated exams throughout the mid-Atlantic region over the next couple months. As long as I can grab a seat prior to August 10th of 2015 then I'm good.

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Old 08-11-2014, 09:31 PM   #4
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Get yourself on a few waiting lists if you have to. I know that many times the seats fill quickly, but from what I've heard from some testing coordinators, it's actually rare to have a full class. People back out at the last minute all the time. I was in the mid-20's on a waiting list and didn't expect to get in, but did. The test still had a couple of empty seats.

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Old 08-11-2014, 09:34 PM   #5
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I would agree. I was on about 12 waiting lists. I got an e-mail for the first one that a spot was open, but I had a conflicting date, so had to pass on it. I was number 12 on the next waiting list, and got into that exam. The exam was full, but they went pretty deep into the waiting list to do it. Sign up for a few, I would be surprised if you don't get into one of the first couple you try...

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Old 08-11-2014, 09:35 PM   #6
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I'd heard that (about the wait lists, and the last minute no shows). Already ahead of it. I'm on at least 4 lists already (and will keep getting on more). Looks like my lucky site will probably be Pittsburgh in December, as the wait list isn't big (I'm #6 in line according to the coordinator), and I've got a friend in Pittsburgh I've been meaning to visit anyway. So I'll probably be camping out that weekend should there be a last minute seat.

Meanwhile, back to scouring HBT for suggestions before tackling the BJCP's study guide.

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Up Next: Bluebird Bitter Clone v2.5, Scottish 60/-, Rye American Pale Ale
Primary: Robust Porter, Kitchen Sink Brown Porter, Bluebird Bitter Clone v2.0
Souring: Lamebic, Flanders Red, Brett. C. Old Ale, Sour Stout, Brett C. Wild Bitter, Wild Cider
Polypins: Dark Mild
Bottled: English Cider, Belgian IPA, Spiced Winter Warmer, Malt Liquor
In the "cellar": Brett B. Tripel, Quadrupel, Tripel, Brett C. Oaked English Barleywine, Lamebic

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