Judging the Best of Craft Beer Awards
by Jason Barker
It all started with me scanning the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) competition website
in search of judging opportunities to get more points so I could reach the next judging rank of National. I see there is a new competition in Bend called the “Best of Craft Beer Awards” featuring only commercial beers, no homebrew. Hmmm, this sounds different and I‘ve been looking for an excuse to weekend in Bend with the wife so this was perfect timing.
I contacted the event organizer to register as a judge and learned of a huge bonus, they were willing to put us up at the Inn at the Seventh Mountain Resort for 3 nights FOR FREE INCLUDING MEALS**… uhhhhh, ok I guess that’s a good deal, what, aren’t you going to fly us to Bend too?! The news of this offer spread quickly through the BJCP judges in Oregon.
As I write this on Monday morning after the event, I have to say what a wonderful and generous experience this was. We judged for 2 days at the Seventh Mountain resort and had full access to all the facilities during our time off; think hot tubs, swimming pools, outdoor ice skating, outside fires and the stunning central Oregon scenery, all for the price of tasting beers and writing down what we think of them. Not a bad trade huh? It isn’t all fun and games, I mean its serious business when you’ve whittled down 13 American Amber Ale entries to just 3 and now you have to decide who’s getting the gold medal. Brows begin furrowing, attitudes degrade, lifelong friendships are dashed, and opinions flow like wine, errrr beer, while we judges argue as ferociously as Israel and Iran at a peace conference. But it must be done; people MUST KNOW WHO MAKES THE BEST AMBER ALE THIS WEEKEND! Then it’s back to reality and those friendships are rekindled over yet another beer except maybe this time it’s an English Barleywine.
We had a chance to visit at length with old beer friends from around the state and to meet new ones from the Bend area. There were reps from several Oregon breweries and brewing related businesses that really enjoyed picking our brains about the process of becoming a BJCP beer judge and what it means to decide gold medal winners at such a competition. BJCP judges are in short supply, we are in demand! I’ve been judging for about 3 years, and every single competition I’ve participated in has been short of BJCP judges.
Please consider becoming a BJCP judge. It doesn’t take a magical tongue of gold nor do you need to become a snooty beer snob. Just be willing to taste every style of beer imaginable and critique them objectively. Not every competition that we judge will comp you room and board, it’s rare in fact. But it shows that breweries need knowledgeable people to help them assess their beers, just like we as homebrewers do.
The very first step to becoming a BJCP judge is to find a local competition and ask the organizer if you can judge as a novice. You will be paired up with an experienced BJCP judge who will walk you through the process live during the competition. There are many technical aspects to becoming a BJCP judge but don’t get overwhelmed, just be willing to judge a category of beers (American IPAs for example) objectively according to the BJCP guidelines. Don’t like super hoppy beers? Fine, you can generally pick the style of beer you’d prefer to judge in the beginning. Once you’ve judged as a novice a couple times you’ll decide whether to continue and take the next step towards certification, or maybe it’s just not for you. Either way, I promise you will learn a TON about beer, beer styles, beer making, and my favorite, making new beer friends.Enough for now, we have an appointment to tour Ale Apothecary Brewery this morning. Fun!
**”Meals” turned out to be such ho-hum entrees such as steamed lemon salmon, tri-tip beef, mushroom chicken, smoked salmon and trout, lamb, lobster brioche, sage rubbed game hen, duckling with baby greens, gruyere au gratin potatoes, wasabi ahi tuna, etc. Oh and there was a Good Life Brewing beer on tap at all meal times, you guessed it, for free.
Go here to learn about becoming a BJCP judge or just ask a board member!