1. Extreme Beer Fest. March 20 & 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass. Join us!
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

BJCP Judges and Testing

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by GreenKrusty101, Jan 19, 2013.

  1. Got an IPA that fell a tiny bit short of another one I am entering. Question: Would most BJCP judges know they were drinking a 6.4% beer vs a 6.2% beer if the IPA in question was entered as a Pale Ale? I don't think they have enough volume to test entries, but really...I am clueless as to what goes on at comps. In other respect besides the ABV, this is a hoppy, but not super bitter beer. Should I enter as a Pale Ale or IPA?
  2. bum732

    bum732 Advocate (630) Lesotho Feb 18, 2008

    There is no way a BJCP judge will be able to tell the difference between ABVs. Why not enter both categories?
  3. The only testing is taste testing. If you think it fits as 10A, enter it there.
  4. Not that I am encouraging you to enter your IPA into the APA style but ……

    There was discussion in a past thread that homebrewers sometimes purposefully brew their beers to be ‘bigger’ than the style guidelines (e.g., more alcohol, more hops, etc.) to give them a ‘leg up’ in the competition. The idea is that a ‘bigger’ beer will wow the judges and increase your chances of winning a medal.

    Again, I am not encouraging you to enter your IPA into the APA style but ……

  5. 10A it is...makes sense (to me)
  6. Or you can enter it as a 14B also and see where it does better.
  7. Probably better entering it as an APA even though it isn't.
  8. Unless the alcohol is evident in the taste, I'd be inclined to enter a borderline beer into the smaller category. But, just to be safe, you could always enter it in both. (you might win two ribbons for the same beer!)
  9. nedvalton

    nedvalton Aficionado (150) Alabama Dec 29, 2012

    I enter 7.4abv beers there most the time and have quite a few medals from it
  10. There is a 4 entry limit and I had 4 beers ready, so entering 1 in 2 categories seemed counter-productive. I want to get some knowledgeable feedback on as many different styles as I can.

    I still can't imagine entering a 7.4% beer in 10A, but I'm sure ABV is one attribute that is a little fuzzy to a taster.
  11. nedvalton

    nedvalton Aficionado (150) Alabama Dec 29, 2012

    It want as hoppy as i would like in an ipa so to me apa fit better. It got great reviews. Judges taste hops and malt not so much alcohol. Unless its crazy high or fusel
  12. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Advocate (540) Vermont Mar 10, 2006

    Yes, let your taste buds be your guide. Remember that there is no requirement for a beer to fall within all the ranges in the guidelines - they are guidelines, not hard and fast rules.
  13. I agree, but have read too many threads on BA here, where someone's beer was excellent, but got dinged 15 points for being in the wrong category/sub-catagory.
  14. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Advocate (540) Vermont Mar 10, 2006

    Judges are not infallible. For example, I have a pretty high diacetyl threshold and really have to be looking for it to spot light notes. Usually there is more than 1 judge and the consensus takes care of individual quirks - but not always. One judge (a professional brewer!) detected some citrus in my 100% Czech Saaz pils and asked if I used Cascade...

    I once heard someone ask, 'how would you judge a black pilsener'? The correct answer is that it loses 1 point for color if all else is appropriate, but most judges would probably be harsher.

    APA/IPA is a gray area though; I can't imagine a little extra hops/alcohol freaking anyone out.
  15. VikeMan

    VikeMan Advocate (740) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009

    First impressions are important. I once entered a brown porter that was really too dark for style. The judges' comments praised everything but the the color, but the scores were not consistent with the comments.
  16. That sums up the BJCP. Purely arbitrary divisions which don't relate to the real world. Who the hell knows or decides what colour a brown porter should be? I suppose it had better be brown but who cares what brown ?Beer quality is what matters.
  17. cmac1705

    cmac1705 Aficionado (245) Florida Apr 30, 2010

    I've struggled with this dilemma as well. What I've learned is that the BJCP guidelines for the Vital Statistics of a given style is almost meaningless to the brewer. They can't measure that.

    The only thing they can measure is taste. So the overall description of the beer is really what matters, i.e. if it tastes like "x" style then it should be placed in "x" style.

    So I basically just said what everyone else said.
    GreenKrusty101 likes this.
  18. nedvalton

    nedvalton Aficionado (150) Alabama Dec 29, 2012

    Every judges palate is different as well. I had an american barleywine take 2nd with a master level judge. Then the next comp got told it would better fit in dipa. So its all up for debate. Depends on the day
  19. A big part of what is being judged is the brewer's ability to tweak individual characteristics consistent with the published guidelines. If a brewer is unable or unwilling to get the color right, then he loses a point. It's really pretty simple.
  20. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Advocate (540) Vermont Mar 10, 2006

    I think the guidelines are attempting to describe the real world in terms of the beers that are out there, and group them into categories for convenience, not unlike taxonomic categories in biology. These attempts inevitably fall short but they are trying (they are overdue for another revision). The intent is not to have a pissing match about what color a porter should be, despite the attitudes of some judges! The commercial beers that call themselves porter, and are widely recognized as porter, determine the color. BJCP guidelines are descriptive, not prescriptive.
  21. It really shouldn't be necessary for judging to be so involved with minutae.Porter has been around for 300 years so it's a little presumptious to say what it should and shouldn't be like.Why not simply loosen up the guidelines and accept the continuous variety within a style and that styles themselves are pretty arbitrary? There are goodness knows how many different stouts and porters in the guides, why not simply accept the truth that they are all basically the same sort of beer?
  22. hoptualBrew

    hoptualBrew Savant (485) Florida May 29, 2011

    I know your not encouraging one way or another but I just wanted to offer up my opinion on this. I think the OP needs to define the purpose of his entries. If he is entering his beers purely to aim for medals without focusing on critique to style, then I wouldn't hesitate to enter the aforementioned "IPA" into the Pale Ale category. On the other hand, if he is trying to hone in on perfecting a recipe to style, it wouldnt make much sense to submit an IPA into the Pale Ale category because the 'valuable' judge feedback wouldn't be accurate.
    skivtjerry likes this.
  23. But whose style would he be honing his recipe to? You just can't tie down a style like that.BJCP are no more authoritative than anybody else except of course for their own competition rules and criteria.
  24. VikeMan

    VikeMan Advocate (740) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009

    He would be honing it to the BJCP guideline. But you knew that.
  25. I edited my post while you wrote. :)
  26. hoptualBrew

    hoptualBrew Savant (485) Florida May 29, 2011


    I know you don't personally agree with the guidelines put forth by the BJCP, but it does objectify and provide a bell curve of style traits that contemporary homebrewers & even professional brewers utilize. It's not the end all, be all, set in stone guide.. But it is, for most, the slate off of which beer in the US is currently brewed. So if your gonna play in the game, it's more useful to play by the rules than to object and disregard them. I do understand where your coming from though.
  27. pweis909

    pweis909 Advocate (715) Wisconsin Aug 13, 2005

    I like to think of the BJCP guidelines as a target in a contest. The size of the target, how far back you stand, how many rings there are, how big the bullesye is, the value of points for each concentric ring -- all of this was determined to facilitate the contest. It's all essentially arbitrary, but once the rules are set, who wins the contest is no longer arbitrary. That's what the BJCP guidelines try to accomplish. Of course, since we all have differences of sensory perception, there will always be some degree of arbitrariness in the results, but that is a separate issue from guidelines.
  28. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Advocate (540) Vermont Mar 10, 2006

    They don't claim to be. BJCP guidelines are for BJCP-sanctioned competitions. If anyone reads something else into them, that's his problem. If you polled all the BJCP grand master judges, I think you'd find that much (most?) of their personal brewing falls 'out of style'. It's helpful to have rules, and know them well, so you know how to break them properly:)
    GreenKrusty101 likes this.
  29. I fail to understand why so many people get their panties in a knot at the mere mention of the BJCP Style Guidelines. They're simply the rules that have been set forth for BJCP competitions. The documented styles loosely (but not too loosely) correspond to the generally accepted contemporary interpretations of the styles as they've evolved over the centuries, as objectively as practical. When a beer is judged, it must be judged against some standard. That standard is the guidelines' documented description of the style that the brewer said he brewed. Scores are determined by the judges' opinion of how closely the brewer conformed to the style as described in the guidelines (essentially, the beer is scored by how close the brewer got to the target he said he was trying to hit). Do people really think it makes sense to judge an outstanding Golden Strong, for example, against a Vienna Lager? That seems far more arbitrary than brewing an American Brown Ale and not dinging it because it's a pale straw color - the brewer was either unable to get the color right, or he consciously decided to not follow that rule. Either way, he rightfully loses a point.
    pweis909 likes this.
  30. udubdawg

    udubdawg Advocate (505) Kansas Dec 11, 2006

    I would ask about the hops before I told you what category to put this beer in. Alcohol-wise it's in the IPA range, and not that far out of the APA range. So I would let the intensity of the hop aroma, flavor, bitterness, and malt backbone decide where it goes.

    I've been frustrated by fellow judges constantly asking for more hops in my APAs, to the point that I recently entered one of my IPAs and immediately won gold with it. *shrug* We're not perfect though generally speaking I feel the judging I receive improves in quality every year.

  31. How does one propose to improve upon the BJCP for USA homebrew competitions.
  32. Wow, did this thread blow up while I was out of town...

    "If he is entering his beers purely to aim for medals without focusing on critique to style, then I wouldn't hesitate to enter the aforementioned "IPA" into the Pale Ale category. On the other hand, if he is trying to hone in on perfecting
    a recipe to style, it wouldnt make much sense to submit an IPA into the Pale Ale category because the 'valuable' judge feedback wouldn't be accurate.

    Hey, I'll be honest...I'm trying to do both, but I give up and put myself at the mercy of the beer gods : )
  33. This is EXACTLY what my son told me, but it's got too much dark crystal and been aging too long to be a IIPA

    "Depends on the day" ...exactly again...hope I get a Grand Poohbah as the first tester : )
  34. nedvalton

    nedvalton Aficionado (150) Alabama Dec 29, 2012

    How long has it been aging?
  35. Brewed 8/14/2012...so a little over 5 months (we're talking about the barleywine here)
  36. nedvalton

    nedvalton Aficionado (150) Alabama Dec 29, 2012

    Yeah thats bw territory. I dryhopped mine after 12 month in secondary so i think that "hurt" it. It was a nice fresh hop burst to me and the first judges
  37. If people realised that's all they are then there's no need to get our panties in a knot.But many people take them as "official" style definitions.See any thread about,say,the difference between a stout and a porter and it isn't long before somebody posts the relevant BJCP guidelines.
    The problem is that they are of questionable accuracy in the first place and they may well distort brewing practice and nomenclature.You've only to look at the entries on Scottish Ales to see how old discredited myths are passed on with the result that people have a totally false impression of Scottish beer.A brewer might see the entries on Porter and Stout and from these decide which to call his brew despite the fact that there ceased to be any difference between the two a long time ago.And one would think the Czechs only brew one beer (and that's wrongly listed anyway)
    Why invent so many styles? The rationale is that it makes judging possible.Yet I have sat as a beer judge and one of my remits was simply "bottled stouts and porters"..........they came in all sorts and sizes but we judged each on its own merits.If the BJCP ran a beauty competition there would be a category for tall blondes, short blondes , blondes with curly hair, blondes with tattoos and so on.Of course that would mean more prizes :)
    "Do people really think it makes sense to judge an outstanding Golden Strong, for example, against a Vienna Lager?"
    The Champion Beer of Britain is judged regardless of style. Branches nominate worthy beers and these are then judged by a panel.There have been milds, ESB,Old Ale,Barley Wine ,IPA and bitter CBOBs.

    Regarding the actual situation faced by the OP, why on Earth can't the judges simply move the entry into a category they think is more suitable? If they feel it's an IPA just judge it as one.
  38. VikeMan

    VikeMan Advocate (740) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009

    Administrative nightmare. As an organizer, you might have, say, 800 or more entries. Before the competition, the entries in each sub-category are counted, and combined into tables/flights to evenly spread the workload. Judges are assigned to cover the tables, and are assigned in such a way as to ensure impartiality... for example, a judge cannot work a flight containing his/her entry(s). This all has been determined in advance, bottles have been sorted and numbered, stewards have been assigned, etc. Now, you suggest that judges decide for the entrants where to send their entries? In the middle of judging? Or that teh jusged working APAs go ahead and judge an ebtry as an IPA and send that score to the IPA table, to be compared against entries that were scored by a different set of judges? Just not practical.

    However, if you feel strongly about this, please join the AHA and suggest the change.
  39. VikeMan

    VikeMan Advocate (740) Pennsylvania Jul 12, 2009

    Uh huh. And these beers were not first judged within their own categories? Of course they were. This is funamentally no different than the way a BJCP competition works, with the top entries in each category advancing to the best of show round.

    And speaking of artificial dividing lines between categories, as you are wont to do, here are a few of the Champion Beer of Britain categories...

    Best Bitter
    Strong Bitter

    Seems a bit familiar.
    sergeantstogie likes this.
  40. A big part of what is being judged is the brewer's skill in achieving the result he was shooting for (though all we're really doing is ranking the beers in a category against each other - which, among these entries, is the 'best' IPA? for example. the raw score has meaning only within that flight). The obvious alternative to the guidelines is to have the brewer simply describe the characteristics of the beer, then have the judge decide how close the brewer came to the brewer's own description. Frankly, that's ludicrous, though it would render the OP's question moot. Think of the guidelines as a shorthand version of this, with the obvious advantage being that the entries can be grouped with similar beers in advance. As for the best beer, overall, regardless of stated style, that's what Best of Show is for.

Share This Page