Passed the BJCP Entrance Exam!

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AlexKay

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As the title says. 180 questions in 60 minutes, thumbing through the BJCP Style Guide in order to make fine distinctions between a Dunkles Bock and a Doppelbock and other stuff like that.

Wasn’t sure it was going to come together. I’m pleased with myself.

Judging exam is scheduled for July. Anyone been through this with advice on how to prep?
 

Qhrumphf

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1) If you can judge in competition between now and then, do so at every single available opportunity.

2) practice filling out proper scoresheets for every beer you drink, as quickly as you can do so while also doing it correctly. This means complete, descriptive sheets with proper feedback.

In the gap between my entrance exam and first tasting exam I judged a few times (3 or 4 I think, it's been some years) and filled out *hundreds* of sheets on my own.

Perceptive and scoring accuracy are only 40% of your exam grade. The rest is filling out the sheet the right way. You'll have an average if 15 mins per beer on the exam. You should not need that long to fill out a Master level sheet for each beer.

Feedback is where almost everyone scores most poorly on the tasting exam. You need to provide accurate, actionable feedback that also doesn't make assumptions about what the brewer did. And you need to address both stylistic and technical fault in this manner.

Cheers
BJCP Grand Master
 
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AlexKay

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That’s super helpful … thank you!

I’m emailing around trying to volunteer as either a steward or a judge. I’m hoping to do the one or the other twice between now and then.

I figured I would fill out scoresheets for all of my homebrew first, and see where that left me.
 

estricklin

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1) If you can judge in competition between now and then, do so at every single available opportunity.

2) practice filling out proper scoresheets for every beer you drink, as quickly as you can do so while also doing it correctly. This means complete, descriptive sheets with proper feedback.

In the gap between my entrance exam and first tasting exam I judged a few times (3 or 4 I think, it's been some years) and filled out *hundreds* of sheets on my own.

Perceptive and scoring accuracy are only 40% of your exam grade. The rest is filling out the sheet the right way. You'll have an average if 15 mins per beer on the exam. You should not need that long to fill out a Master level sheet for each beer.

Feedback is where almost everyone scores most poorly on the tasting exam. You need to provide accurate, actionable feedback that also doesn't make assumptions about what the brewer did. And you need to address both stylistic and technical fault in this manner.

Cheers
BJCP Grand Master

First off, congrats @AlexKay ! I think its so awesome you've started this journey. I personally have never judged, but have competed a lot, and I always appreciate the effort the judges put into it. @Qhrumphf your comments about feedback are so spot on. I realize this is about passing the test specifically but I couldn't help but comment. I never minded when I thought a judge was inexperienced, or just didn't agree with me about my beer, but getting comments that were assumptions about how I made the beer really struck a bad nerve with me. I wanted to know what the beer tasted like, not how they thought I "should" have brewed it. Even if I got a good score, it kind of made me discount what the judge had written.
 

CascadesBrewer

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This might also be a good resource:

Gordon Strong filled out scoresheets for a number of commercial beers and that site has both the completed scoresheets as well as an audio of his tasting and scoring process. A few downsides: this was done for the prior beer categories (before 2015) and it is hard to say how close a bottle of those beers would compare to the bottle that Gordon had back then.

My girlfriend and I have thought about jumping into this, but it is just intimidating given that there are over 200 beers judged.

MANY years ago I was in a group that starting prepping for the BJCP exam. We had a small study group and the plan was to meet and discuss each category and sample/rate commercial beers from that category. I only made a few sessions before I moved away.
 

riceral

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When I took the judging/tasting exam, I put "I-Q" at the top of every blank score sheet before we started tasting. It stood for "Intensity" and "Quality".

Intensity would be the descriptors for how much of something: low, low-medium, medium, medium-high, high.

Quality would be what I was describing the aroma or flavor to be. For hops: floral, pine, dank, spice, herbal. For malt: grainy, cracker, biscuit, coffee. Taste would be along the same lines: coffee, banana, clove, smoke, toffee, dark fruit.

In each of the descriptors, when possible, I would use the IQ to help describe what I was tasting and smelling.

And don't forget other descriptors (usually off-flavors or aromas): DMS, astringency, light struck/skunky.

It really helped with my score.

Good luck.
 

Bobby_M

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Two things. Go through the styles and the commercial exemplars and see which ones you can find locally that you've never had before. Focus especially on the styles you don't like. Two, fill out as many scoresheets as possible. Nothing works like practice.
 
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AlexKay

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This might also be a good resource:

Gordon Strong filled out scoresheets for a number of commercial beers and that site has both the completed scoresheets as well as an audio of his tasting and scoring process. A few downsides: this was done for the prior beer categories (before 2015) and it is hard to say how close a bottle of those beers would compare to the bottle that Gordon had back then.

My girlfriend and I have thought about jumping into this, but it is just intimidating given that there are over 200 beers judged.
That’s a lot of scoresheets! I’m definitely going to take a trip to the store and see if I can find a bunch of those to compare.

I can’t help but notice, though, that all of those beers get 40+ scores. Are they all really that good, or is there some inflation going on?
 

Bobby_M

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That’s a lot of scoresheets! I’m definitely going to take a trip to the store and see if I can find a bunch of those to compare.

I can’t help but notice, though, that all of those beers get 40+ scores. Are they all really that good, or is there some inflation going on?

It's impossible to know for sure if "commercial bias" had any influence but these beers are the world class standards for the style being described. I would be more surprised if they didn't score in the 40s. In one of my tasting exams we were served a PBR as an American Lager and the two national judges came up with a 45 consensus score. Obviously none of us knew it was a commercial beer at the time.

New judges are often scared to score a beer at the extreme bottom and top end of the ranges. If you evaluate a beer and are unable to offer any recommendations for improvement at all, that beer is at least a 45 but probably more. I often reserve 2-3 of the top end points for intangibles but you really should be explaining why you take any more than that off the 50.

One important note about that though... When you're taking the tasting exam it's best to avoid the extremes because you are trying to get close to the proctor judge scores. It's unlikely that they'll all agree on a 50 so if it's a great beer, low 40's is a better choice. You might be tempted to give a train wreck beer a 10, but 15 would be better.
 

Qhrumphf

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Exam admins are supposed to provide a broad range of scoring beers. Some do or don't follow that recommendation and the proctors may or may not agree with the admin's intention on any given beer. When I admin an exam, I try to put in one DEEPLY flawed beer (teens or very low 20s), one world class beer (mid 40s) and others middle of road (20s and 30s). Sometimes proctors agree, sometimes they don't (usually pretty close). There's a reason proctors evaluate the beers blind alongside the examinees, so the scoring isn't tainted with bias from the admin.
 
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AlexKay

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Ok, so I'm feeling like I can write a scoresheet that has good descriptions and feedback, but I'm not confident I'm really tasting what I'm supposed to taste.

Here's a scoresheet I filled out for a Vienna Lager (that I brewed):
Aroma (8/12): Malt dominates aroma, with faint fruity esters in the background. Hops are not perceptible.
Appearance (2/3): Brilliant amber. Head is coarse and dissipates quickly.
Flavor (10/20): Definitely malt-forward: biscuits, toast, toffee. Fruity esters or a small amount of acetaldehyde -- neither is to style. Bitterness is balanced, no hop flavor.
Mouthfeel (3/5): Crisp, light body, with medium high carbonation. Some alcohol comes through. Slight astringency in aftertaste.
Overall impression (5/10): Pleasant-drinking beer, but too much fermentation character for style, esp. esters. Watch fermentation temps. (cold!) and pitch rate (remember, lagers pitch at higher rates.)
28/50

and here's what a (certified) judge made of the same beer at a recent competition:
Aroma (7/12): Moderate sweet bready malt, little to no hops noted, very light fruit pear esters, no phenols.
Appearance (3/3): Dark gold nearing light amber, crystal clarity, moderate head, mixed bubble size, off-white color, moderate retention.
Flavor (14/20): Simple malt profile, very singular, bready little to no toast, low bitterness, floral hops, possibly very light esters, no phenols, balance is malty, finish is crisp and dry, some lingering malt sweetness but fruity sweet too.
Mouthfeel (5/5): Medium-light body, medium-low carbonation, not warming, not creamy, not astringent.
Overall impression (6/10): Very good beer, clean fermentation but has some light fruity character, malt should be more complex and have strong toast flavor, probably should have a more crisp finish.
35/50

What do y'all think? Did we drink the same beer? Do I know anything about what I'm talking about? How is my exam prep. going?

Thanks for listening!
 
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AlexKay

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Aaaand here's the comparison for a rauchbier:

Aroma (9/12): Smoke, smoke, smoke -- smoke dominates, but pleasant and to style. Light woody/herbal hops.
Appearance (3/3): Beautiful amber verging on red. Crystal clear. Head is small but dense and persists. Looks exactly like it should.
Flavor (18/20): Smoke is strong, lingers and with a sweet aftertaste. Lovely toast/biscuit melanoidans from malt. Bitterness balances malt + smoke nicely. Little hop flavor (appropriate for style.)
Mouthfeel (4/5): Crisp, drinkable. Medium carbonation. No alcohol warmth or astringency.
Overall impression (9/10): Lovely rauchbier! Thank you for entering it. Recipe seems spot on, with maybe a touch too much bitterness. Look at Cl-/SO4 2- ratio, perhaps adjust toward Cl-.
43/50

and here's the feedback from a (recognized) judge. (Also note, this beer scored a 41 average in a separate competition; waiting on those scoresheets.)

Aroma (8/12): Woody smoke character, not burnt, slight graininess. No noted hops. Smoke is clean and not hammy and (something something)
Appearance (3/3): Dark copper, brilliant clarity, off-white head that lasts. Nice lacing on side of cup.
Flavor (14/20): Very smoky but balanced with the bready malt, not harsh. Almost hidden is a slightly floral like jasmine. Clean finish, no lingering harsh smoke or burnt character. Light orange character too, almost undetectable.
Mouthfeel (3/5): Medium body, good carbonation, (something) creamy for a smoked beer. No astringency, clean finish that dries and leaves a touch residual smokiness.
Overall impression (7/10): Very nice example of a rauchbier. Good balance in the malt with a soft smokiness, especially in the upfront aroma. Not (something) and clean. Malt character comes through the smoke well. Well balanced, I found this to be a very good example.
35/50

Am I on the right track here?
 

Bobby_M

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Ok, so I'm feeling like I can write a scoresheet that has good descriptions and feedback, but I'm not confident I'm really tasting what I'm supposed to taste.

Here's a scoresheet I filled out for a Vienna Lager (that I brewed):
Aroma (8/12): Malt dominates aroma, with faint fruity esters in the background. Hops are not perceptible.
Appearance (2/3): Brilliant amber. Head is coarse and dissipates quickly.
Flavor (10/20): Definitely malt-forward: biscuits, toast, toffee. Fruity esters or a small amount of acetaldehyde -- neither is to style. Bitterness is balanced, no hop flavor.
Mouthfeel (3/5): Crisp, light body, with medium high carbonation. Some alcohol comes through. Slight astringency in aftertaste.
Overall impression (5/10): Pleasant-drinking beer, but too much fermentation character for style, esp. esters. Watch fermentation temps. (cold!) and pitch rate (remember, lagers pitch at higher rates.)
28/50

and here's what a (certified) judge made of the same beer at a recent competition:
Aroma (7/12): Moderate sweet bready malt, little to no hops noted, very light fruit pear esters, no phenols.
Appearance (3/3): Dark gold nearing light amber, crystal clarity, moderate head, mixed bubble size, off-white color, moderate retention.
Flavor (14/20): Simple malt profile, very singular, bready little to no toast, low bitterness, floral hops, possibly very light esters, no phenols, balance is malty, finish is crisp and dry, some lingering malt sweetness but fruity sweet too.
Mouthfeel (5/5): Medium-light body, medium-low carbonation, not warming, not creamy, not astringent.
Overall impression (6/10): Very good beer, clean fermentation but has some light fruity character, malt should be more complex and have strong toast flavor, probably should have a more crisp finish.
35/50

What do y'all think? Did we drink the same beer? Do I know anything about what I'm talking about? How is my exam prep. going?

Thanks for listening!
Just be careful about character + intensity for everything. Sometimes it can feel laborious and redundant but it's especially important for the exam.

Example: "Malt dominates aroma". That's appropriate commentary if that's what you got. You should still remark on what the intensity is. It may be the dominant thing in the aroma, but it can still be medium-low or medium-high (or whatever it is). Also try to be more descriptive of some of the different malt expressions if possible. Cracker, Biscuit, Caramel, Honey, Grainy, Nutty, Melanoidin, Yeasty.

"Faint fruity esters". That's good for intensity but you should be more specific as to what esters you perceive. Stone fruit, dried apricots, cherries, mango, etc.

When you describe balance, you can remark on whether it's down the middle or leans bitter or sweet but you should also comment on objective bitterness level. You can have a beer that has Medium to High bitterness still fall onto the slightly sweeter side in the balance such as in the case of an under attenuated double IPA.

I try to avoid vague words like "some" in favor of "low" or "little to none" or "low to med-low".
 

copachono

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i just read this post, in fact im about to take the tasting exam for mead, and im quite nervous, and i believe its like all of you say my firend who its also a Beer BJCP judge always told me, never forget usgins scales while describing, also describe with reminders, like it smells like apples, or waxy, or any other describer, also never put anything you are not sure of, and always always be sure when writting, always describe things like you are really sure of it and not like i believ it smell like bananas, the right way would be, it smell like banana to me.
 
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