MASTERING BJCP – YOUR FIRST COMP
So its been a while since the last blog and I’d like to keep these episodes monthly so here I am sitting down at the pub with a beautiful pint of Siren Undercurrent and my mac out. I’m feeling extremely beery right now as we are well and truly into the festival season. Since the last blog I've worked at Ale Tales, a Belgian beer festival in East London (at the same venue as Brew Con, extremely good practice), the Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival, where I met some of the most amazing beer industry folk, a new festival in Birmingham called Lock & Key which had a beautiful setting, the London Craft Beer Festival (epic) and now I'm helping out at GBBF. So yeah, thats why I've taken a while to get the blogs out amongst other things, but I'm not complaining!
Whilst I've really, really enjoyed these events none of them have been the best beer event I’ve been to this year. I'm biased I guess but that honour goes to the exceptionally well run 'London & Southeast Craft Beer Competition and its subsequent Festival. This year’s event was held once more at Four Pure Brewery in Bermondsey, London. They are a great supporters of the burgeoning UK home brew scene and it really goes to show how more and more breweries are getting involved with their local home brew scenes.
So let's get started. I’m going to cover a few things in this post, mostly tied in with the comp. Last time we discussed the entrance exam, this month let’s talk about what you can expect from helping out at a BJCP registered competition, how the ranks & point system works and what you can do to further your beer education whilst gaining a few points.
Rosettes are for life, not just for Christmas
The LSECBC ran from Friday 18th May to Sunday 20th May. There were four separate judging sessions, Friday evening, two Saturday and Sunday morning. After the Sunday session the organisers of the event, London Amateur Brewers, held a Festival were every single beer entered into the comp was made available to sample, followed by an award ceremony. I’m very proud to announce that whilst my beers didn’t place a large number of our home brew club, Beer Boars, won both Gold & Silver medals in their categories – as well as placing in the Champion Brewer ranks. Special mention to the lads at Six Foot Brewing Co and to Fraser Withers who brought home the bacon yet again!
I had to work on the Friday evening but I popped by to drop of some equipment and there was a good 20 people volunteering to help set up the competition. There were 522 entries and processing all that beer takes time and bodies. It’s a great place to start off. Every comp depends on volunteers to get things moving. There is no money in running these events but the benefit to the home brew community and the feedback for each individual brewer plays an incalculable role in changing the often out dated perception of home brewing in the UK.
Spoilt for choice
On the Saturday I arrived mid morning to a solid forty odd judges already hard at work, with half as many stewards running beers for each judging pair. After a short while I was paired off with an experienced Certified Beer Judge and sent off to judge a selection of Wood & Smoked beers – straight in the deep end! My counterpart had flown in from Poland especially for the event, with the opportunity to garner 2-3 points enough to warrant the trip. I’m very happy to inform you that our analysis of each of the beers we judged was almost identical, and I managed to pick up a number of off flavours along the way that I would have struggled with a few months back.
Having judged a flight of eight beers, with some exceptional examples amongst them, we moved onto a second flight of Fruit Beers. Again we were fortunate to judge a few very high scoring fruited sours (my favourite), as well as some very good fruited wheat beers.
I should point out that the two off flavour sessions I recently attended have improved my ability to not only pick out faults but to offer valid suggestions to counter them on each brewer’s feedback sheet. If you run a club I’d highly recommend acquiring an off flavour kit and hosting a session at your club.
You can read more about that here - http://dev.bjcp.org/education-training/education-resources/sensory-kits/
Also if you want a quick reference to the most common found beer faults look no further than here - http://dev.bjcp.org/education-training/education-resources/beer-faults/
So all in all the event was excellent, we tried some great beers and we tried some beers that needed some work. I received some extremely helpful feedback on my own beers with suggested alterations and technical improvements that I look forward to implementing.
As wide a variety of beer as you'll get anywhere
Let’s get a little bit technical now and break down the points and rank system
Points are split between judging points and non-judging points. Judging pints are self-explanatory whilst non-judging points include stewarding alongside staffing & organising.
Judges earn points at a rate of 0.5 Judge Points per session, but the following limitations apply:
Judges earn a minimum of 1.0 Judge Point per competition.
Judges earn a maximum of 1.5 Judge Points per day.
So I earned 1 point as I judged two flights of beer on the Saturday. I would have earned the same had I judged just the one, but a further flight on the Saturday would have earned me a total of 1.5 JUDGING POINTS.
If I had participated in the Best Of Show judging I would have been able to earn an extra 0.5 points but the BOS panel should always be comprised of the most senior judges available.
Stewards receive 0.5 Steward Points (non-judging experience points) per day with a maximum of 1.0 Steward Points per competition. Participants may not earn both Judge and Steward Points in a single competition. Steward points are awarded separately from Staff Points
The organiser of the event can earn up to 6 points for an event like this with 500+ entries, but even a small club level comp with 1-49 entries can earn 2 points for the organiser (non judging points) and up to 1.5 points for the judges. Small comps, orientated to a limited number of styles, are a great way to improve your knowledge of specific styles but also to rack up a few extra points!
There are also a limited number of staffing points (non-judging) available to people who have helped the organiser of the event.
You can get a more in depth analysis here - https://www.bjcp.org/membergd.php
The ranks with the BJCP are determined not just by your experience points but by your exam results. As you judge more and more beers you are expected to improve your palate and be able to score higher in the BJCP Beer Judging Examination. This exam is a tasting examination that consists of completing score sheets for the six examination beers. Taking this exam is the event that triggers membership in the BJCP, and is what causes a BJCP ID to be created.
Someone who has passed the Entrance Exam, but not yet taken the Judging Exam. A Provisional Judge is not yet a BJCP member, and does not have a BJCP ID. Provisional is not a BJCP judge rank. This is me right now!
So the next step is to sit the BJCP Beer Judging Examination. My score at this exam will determine my next rank. A score of at least 60% will promote me to Recognised Judge. A score of 70%, couple with a minimum of five experience points of which 2.5 are judging (I have about 10 points, split 50%-50%) will see me promoted to Certified Judge. So that’s gotta be my target right?!
The next step, which for me will be my target of 2019 is National Judge. To move up to National rank one must have acquired a minimum of 10 judging points. I should be able to accumulate these, especially if I can judge at Home Brew Con in a month. There is also the Welsh Nationals coming up run by the Queen of The Home Brew Scene herself, Sarah Pantry. Sarah has been a prominent member of the home brew community for years now and is extremely vocal on online platforms with advice and guidance. She also won Best Of Show at the Nationals last year so she knows what she is talking about! We’re also looking at organizing a few smaller London comps between the growing home brew clubs in the capital, with rotating organisers
To reach National rank you need to not only have acquired 10 judging points but also scored a solid 80% on your Beer Judging Examination. Once these two requirements are met you are allowed to sit the Beer Written Proficiency Exam. If you average score between the two exams hits 80% congrats – you are now a National judge (for example 85% of Judging exam and 75% on Written exam).
The next levels after National are Master (50 points, average score of 90%) and Grandmaster (100 points, average score of 90%).
Grandmaster is the goal!
I’m setting myself the target of five years. I’d love to be the UK’s youngest Grandmaster BJCP Judge, and I hope you’ll come along the journey with me.