Licking Wounds from First BJCP Event

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by GreenKrusty101, Jan 27, 2013.

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  1. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (721) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Entered 4 beers...high 37 low 27...31.5 ave.

    After taking some time to think about it, there was some useful feedback. 2 of the 4 beers were hoppy ones brewed in September and bottled in early December...they were definitely over the hill. The BarleyWine scored the best (Brewed in August) and the Oatmeal Stout was just too tame @ 4%...even though it had "phenol alchohol present".

    Some observations:
    1. Don't overfill your bottles even if you have a beer gun and force carbonate. The score sheet is pre-printed with that attribute even though they alegedly don't subtract points for that...bad first impression. Doh!

    2. Don't put anything in a beer that could get mistaken for diacytl. I used some invert sugar (Lyle's Golden Syrup) in an American Pale Ale that got pegged that way.

    3. Don't use chico yeast unless you have to... judges generally think it is bland.

    4. Don't think your beer will be judged necessarily against only beers in the same sub-category...they seemed to combine some eg. my American Barleywine finished 2nd, but was beat out by a 80 schilling Scottish Ale that ultimately won Best of Show. Didn't hear a winner for the American Pale Ale sub-category either and one of the judges mentioned an American Brown Ale won it.

    Was this representative of BJCP events you've entered? I'm a glutton for punishment and if the timing is right will probably enter a comp in Feb., too.
  2. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Poo-Bah (2,077) May 21, 2010 Texas

    How many entries were there? How big a competition? Could that have something to do with why they combined some categories?
  3. weatherdog

    weatherdog Initiate (0) Nov 7, 2007 Illinois

    As a BJCP judge, if you think a 31.5 average is bad, and the lowest you scored is a 27, then you have you recalibrate what you think 'bad' is.

    Seriously, those are scores to be happy with. I'd say I average giving out about a 27-31 score. Even with saying that, scores are useless. They change from person to person ad from competition to competition. The feedback is 1000x more useful to you as a brewer. It seems as if you've taken the time to read through the sheets and take away some important notes.

    As your your point #4. The reason why there isn't a APA sub category winner is because that really doesn't exist in most competitions. Your APA was judged in category 10 which includes American Pales, Ambers and Browns. The judges most likely tasted all 3 styles in the same flight and decided that the American Brown was the best beer representing category 10. If it's a smaller competition it's not uncommon to combine the least popular categories to save on time and number of judges required (judges are hard to come by!). So it's not surprising that your Barleywine was in the same flight as a 80 shilling. Just something to note if you're unfamiliar with the competition set-up.
  4. barfdiggs

    barfdiggs Initiate (0) Mar 22, 2011 California

    One big point: Don't pay too much attention to your scores, just read the feedback.

    While there are guidelines about exactly how to score, some judges don't follow them (The specific rubric for scoring within each category: Overall impression, etc.). Everyone judges differently, some guys are misers and wont score above a 35-39 (even for a perfect beer), other guys will take off points for things that are quoted as optional in the style guidelines, etc. etc. If it makes you feel any better, I've had beers win their categories with scores in the mid to low thirties up to mid/high forties, and beers not place that scored in the low to mid forties.

    If the judges comments were valid, and insightful, then I think you got what you were looking for (I usually drink my beer while reading the comments). Also, you placed, which is a great sign. I've definitely picked up some great feedback from judges about the overall balance of some of my beers, and also had confirmation regarding flaws in some of my beers that I seemed to be the only person to notice.

    EDIT. I should have read your post and just liked it.
  5. OddNotion

    OddNotion Devotee (478) Nov 1, 2009 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    My sentiments exactly!

    In all honesty, your scores look pretty good to me. When I entered my first (and only) event I was able to take a lot away from it - and I received similar scores (nothing as high as 37 though!) but I am very critical of my performance in competitions. Mainly, I needed to focus on fermentation/yeast management. So this year I began using a stir plate, yeast nutrient, an oxygenation system, and a fermentation chamber. My beers have vastly improved in my opinion but I have not submitted any more beers to competition yet. I am not sure about your setup or process but read through the comments the judges gave you and read between the lines to see what part of your process you can improve.
  6. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,105) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I want to echo the thought of: “just read the feedback and see if you placed.”

    I have not entered a completion since 1998. I was entering my beers with the goal of obtaining ‘good’ objective feedback (so that I could improve my beer making) but I found that the BJCP competitions did not provide that for me. There was discussion on a past thread that BJCP judging has improved since that timeframe. Below is a link to a very interesting and highly participated thread on Competition Feedback.

  7. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,351) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Others have pretty well covered it... you did well, especially for a first competition. I would take issue with the chico statement though. I would bet that chico yeast APAs and (American) IPAs take more ribbons/medals than any other single strain in these styles.

    Some judges have been known to mistake roastiness as astringency (phenols/tannins). But I must confess I've never heard of a phenol alcohol. (LOL) Could have meant Fusel alcohol maybe?
  8. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,315) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Chico has done well for me.

    Are you sure you did not have diacetyl in that beer? Find a friend or local pro with a low thresold to taste it. All ways good to have an extra bottle to taste when reading a sheet like that. Sometimes they are correct and then you need to think over procedure.

    When you enter, hope for good judges. ;-)
  9. samtallica

    samtallica Initiate (108) Jul 22, 2010 North Carolina

    I've only entered one competition and my highest score was 38.3. You'll often hear people talk about 40+ beers because they are generally considered perfect. A 37 point beer is very, very good.
  10. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,315) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    If you read the reviews of commercial beers in Zymurgy, those often score 38 +/-.
  11. teal

    teal Initiate (76) May 3, 2012 Wisconsin

    I'd have to enter 3 beers to get an agg in the 30's I'm guessing.

    I've not entered and won't enter until I can get my fementation freezer done but like the others, I'd ignore the score, look for the feedback.
  12. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,351) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Actually, 50 would be perfect, and it's 'never' given out any more, or so Jamil says. I don't know if he's right. I know I've never met anyone who got a 50. A lot of people do talk about 40 though as some sort of dividing line. I'm not sure why though... 38-44 is the BJCP 'excellent' range, while 45+ is the 'outstanding' range. I will say though that scores in the 40's are more pleasant to see than scores in the 30's. So maybe it's a psychological thing, with 40 being a nice round number.
  13. samtallica

    samtallica Initiate (108) Jul 22, 2010 North Carolina

    Well of course the highest possible score is perfect. I was just trying to point out that you're doing extremely well if you manage a 40+ beer. I think I may enter a few beers into competition this year because I know I've gotten better in the 2 years since I entered the last one.
  14. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,351) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    I agree.
  15. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Zealot (524) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    Your points sound good to me. Most good commercial beer scores in the mid 30's when used as calibration beer and anything over 30 is pretty good stuff. As noted, no beer is perfect and one of our jobs as judges is to find fault, even if it's a great beer. Your wounds are pretty minor. The lowest score I've ever given is a 13, because we were instructed not to give lower scores. The highest, a 43, several times. The average score I hand out is probably about 28-30.

    I got a score of 39 for a rye ale with zero headspace, fermented with Chico yeast a few years ago. Also a 45 for a gusher last year (my best ever). If the beer is good, it will score well. If not, well... the worst beer I entered in competition got a 19 (what do judges know?:slight_smile:) .

    Finally, the judge should put his email address on the scoresheet. Contact him and discuss the beer.
  16. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (721) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    There may have been diaceytl in that beer, but I don't think it was from fermentation issues. The more I read, a lot of food ingredients have diacetyl in them, maybe the Lyle's golden Syrup is is used for baking and the Brits really don't mind it in their food or beer. I think I have a fairly low threshold for diacetyl, but a true butterscotch flavor is not necessarily the same thing.
  17. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,315) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Golden Syrup is invert sugar.
  18. reverseapachemaster

    reverseapachemaster Aspirant (244) Sep 21, 2012 Texas
    Beer Trader

    Lyle's does not taste like diacetyl. There's a fairly equal probability that you have some diacetyl in the beer as you did the judge had no idea what he was talking about.

    There's no way to assess the qualifications of the judges to accurately detect flavors. Your judge might be a well qualified BJCP judge or a new judge recruited to fill seats. Even experienced judges can be wrong. You also never know what they are judging the beer against. Do they have a particular beer in mind as the one and only true definition of the style (e.g. Dupont Vieille clones are generally the ones that do well in the saison category) or are they judging against their own preferences or are they thinking broadly about the style definition? Plus, it's incredibly subjective. One person's 30 is another's 20. Not incredibly helpful in my opinion.
  19. Keyman

    Keyman Initiate (0) Dec 4, 2012

    I sent my very first entry in yesterday. After doing that I was going through some of the paper work. I though I read the rules over pretty good. Now I found I made two mistakes and I hope they don't get bent over it. First was I forgot to remove the green dot stickers on the bottle caps and second I used a small piece of tape to place the lable on the bottle instead of rubber bands. I guess I will learn the hard way. I guess I would be happy with these points given above.
  20. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (721) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

  21. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (721) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    "Lyle's does not taste like diacetyl."...not to you or me.
  22. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,351) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    How much Lyle's Golden Syrup did you use? I could see maybe a very slight caramel/toffee flavor from impurities in the sugar, but that would take a buttload of syrup I think. It's hard for me to imagine detecting a flavor that faint and misidentifying it as diacetyl. It seems kind of unlikley that whatever the judge thought he was tasting was due to the syrup.
  23. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (721) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Seems unlikely to me to, but same non-diacetyl producing yeast (US-05), same ferment temps, same 3 weeks in primary...only real difference was the 11 oz of Lyle's for a 10 gal batch. I've used Lyles syrup and treacle many times and usually a lot more (11 oz per 5 gal batch). If you've ever tasted it right out of the bottle, I think you might imagine how someone could get butterscotch/diacetyl from it. It was the only really unique ingredient for that batch.
    Some people can taste very low ppm diacetyl.

    I will admit I do not know this for sure, but it seems plausible to me.

    I like the taste...but won't use it for a comp again, unless I want to test this theory out : )
  24. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,620) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    Lesson 5: Don't be subtle or delicate, and
    Lesson 6: Personal preferences vary, so don't get too bummed out by every comment the judges make.

    Two judges said that smoke level in my smoked schwarzbier was barely detectable, but for my own preferences, it was as smokey as I would ever want; it didn't taste overwhelmingly like a smoked sausage. So my beer scored in the low 30s and didn't win anything. But I liked it.

    In the case of the Lyle's syrup, maybe it imparted some flavor, which you thought rather interesting, but it took the judge unexpectedly and he thought it an off flavor. He searched through his rolodex of off-flavors and the closest he could come up with was diacetyl. He might have been wrong about it being a true beer flaw, but it was something that didn't work for him. If you like your beer and you have more at home to enjoy, you are still the winner here!
    warchez likes this.
  25. warchez

    warchez Aspirant (213) Oct 19, 2004 Massachusetts

    I have always found feedback useful when I get it from a couple different competitions; from different regions of the country. Submitting a couple bottles to one comp you may do well or you may not. But when you look at a couple scoresheets that came back from california and maybe from ohio, if you see trends in the comments you have a better sense of how valid that diacetyl (or whatever flavor) comment is.

    I don't do it this way every time I compete. But when I have been working on a recipe and I like where its at, or I am stuck on whether its tasting different; that's when I'll enter it in 2 maybe three comps as close together as possible.
  26. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (304) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    The numeric score, itself, gets far more attention than it deserves. In fact, the score has meaning only to the panel of judges (typically, 2 to 4 judges in a panel) that assigned that score. It's how the beers in that flight are ranked against each other. The best beer (or two or three...) from each category then advances to the Best of Show round, where the 'best' beers from each category are judged against each other by a panel of high ranking judges (lower ranked judges are welcome to observe, but they can't judge that round). The score does not enter into this portion of the competition. The BOS judges likely don't even know the scores.

    Imagine you have one panel judging Stouts and another judging IPAs. The Stout judges, for whatever reason, are in a low scoring mood, and they're assigning scores in the high 20s. The IPA judges are just giddy to be judging IPAs, so their scores are ranging from the high 30s to the low 40s. The calibration beer is used to align the individual judges' scoring tendencies on that day with the other judges in his/her panel. The beers are then judged and scores are assigned to rank them against the other beers in that flight (it's important to note that). The 'best' Stout (or two or three), as determined by the scores, is then compared to the 'best' IPA in the Best of Show round. The best of each category may have widely divergent scores - that's irrelevant at that point. The BOS medal/ribbon/certificate is then awarded to the beer that was judged to be the best overall - ideally, the one that best exemplifies the style it was entered into. It's easy to see how a Stout that scored 27 could beat an IPA that scored 45.

    This can seem overly subjective. The judges are not infallible, nor, for the most part, do they pretend to be. Some can taste diacetyl a mile away, many can't taste it if it hits them in the face. Some flaws are mistaken for others (oxidation, for example, can exhibit all kinds of symptoms beyond wet cardboard). By and large, though, the judges' comments are useful. Sometimes you need to read between the lines. Sometimes a flaw was arrived at by consensus (the consistency of the verbiage from three different judges can be comical). And sometimes, a judge just doesn't know what he's talking about - it happens. They're all volunteers spending an entire Saturday drinking beer and eating free food. Seriously, what are you expecting? :wink:

    You need to be aware of these limitations when you enter a beer into a competition. Personally, I tend not to enter beers into competitions that I'm not judging. I do it for the social aspect (it's a blast!), bragging rights, and, to a lesser extent, to feed the clubs' treasuries (competitions are the biggest source of revenue for many clubs)

    Regarding the judge's email address on the scoresheet - I'd be disinclined to challenge a judge's comments that I didn't agree with. Unless the beer was a real stand out, good or bad, the judge is not likely to remember it and, thus, is in no position to discuss it (I judged 80 beers over four weekends last month - forgive me if I don't remember your unremarkable Blonde). Though I've never seen it, I've heard of some pretty ugly emails from people who take this hobby waaaaay too seriously.
  27. wonderbread23

    wonderbread23 Initiate (0) Aug 4, 2009 New York

    There is no such thing... A phenol is not a type of alcohol.

    That being said, BJCP judges can be hit or miss. I've competed (a lot) and scoresheets vary widely in quality. You tend to get used to it and learn which ones to ignore and which ones to pay attention to.

    - Don't worry about overfilling -- it is an easy thing to point a finger at, but doesn't matter.
    - Chico yeast is great, I've won lots of awards using it.
    - Learn how BJCP categories work. American Ales are judged against ALL American Ales, not just your specific sub-category. In smaller competitions they'll sometimes combine categories. In theory, your beer has its merits judged against the style guideline, not the other beers. The beer that fits the style best in theory wins.
    PortLargo likes this.
  28. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Disciple (304) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    That's an important point. However, the beers are ranked against each other according to how closely they hit the target as described by the guidelines.
    As to overfilling, you're right. I make a note of it, but I ignore it when judging the beer. Indeed, noting high or low fill has almost become a joke. It's just there to give the judges something to do while waiting for the beer to be poured. That said, a low fill can result in low carbonation, which can affect the score, but it's not the fill level that lost the points, it's the carbonation level.
  29. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (721) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Thanks everyone for the feedback...I've put the razorblades down and am backing off the ledge. : )
  30. MacNCheese

    MacNCheese Initiate (0) Dec 10, 2011 California

    A tip, fill a extra bottle and keep it at home. If you have to ship it, let it sit warm while you think it's in transit, then refrige it and open it the day of the competition. Have this and be as subjective as you can, then have it side by side with a beer that was kept cold, or fresh poured off the keg. See if you notice an differences as transit/handling can affect the beer as well. This way you'll have a very clear idea of what the judges are drinking and if it's changed at all from your initial kegging/bottling. You sometimes might be surprised that what the judges are tasting and what your fresh poured pint taste like can be different.

    When I sit down to judge if I don't know my judging partner I'll ask "Anything you're blind to or super sensitive to?" A judge should know their shortcomings and strong points, no judge is perfect. If I get a snotty response to a reasonable question I know I'm in for a long day.

    Judging homebrew isn't always fun and free beer. More often than not 75% of the beer has some fault to it and you spend your time detailing possible causes/solutions. I will say in the 5 years I've been a judge that the quality as a whole has gone up. Which really means people want and are learning to make better beer. But to get to that exceptional level requires another level of dedication/knowledge. All the best homebrewers I know make water adjustments and have some pretty killer homebrewing hardware. If you want to get out of the 30's and into the 40's start looking at your water composition.

    Also, enter your beer in several competitions and/or look up the 'classic styles' via the BJCP app and go get those beers. How does your beer stack up agains them? There are 2 types of brewing 1) for your taste and 2) for competition. I don't enter beers because I brew for my taste which rarely follows any sort of style guideline. Yet I do enjoy judging and studying for the BJCP taste exam because it forces me to go try beers I normally would never order/buy.

    Lastly, for any judge, if you are assigned to a style you're not as familiar with, I personally go buy several beers of the classics per substyle the week before the event and I read the descriptions as I'm enjoying the beer at home and re-educate myself as to what I should be expecting and I do not drink anything use but that catagory for the week prior. I find this helps a lot.
  31. NiceFly

    NiceFly Aspirant (275) Dec 22, 2011 Tajikistan

    For the chemically challenged, Phenol is an alcohol. The chemical structure of phenol contains an alcohol group, hence the -ol designation.

    OP, the judge thought your beer tasted like listerine and butter.
    mountsnow1010 and GreenKrusty101 like this.
  32. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,620) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    I think I did shots of this at a party in college once.
    NiceFly likes this.
  33. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,105) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania


    Were you sober when you did it!?!:wink:
  34. beergumby

    beergumby Initiate (0) Jan 21, 2012 New Jersey

    How do you find out about these contests....Thanks
  35. samtallica

    samtallica Initiate (108) Jul 22, 2010 North Carolina

  36. MacNCheese

    MacNCheese Initiate (0) Dec 10, 2011 California

    There are also tons of competitions that aren't affiliated with the BJCP. A BJCP event simply means you're using their style guidelines and judging parameters and, most likely, have become recognized as a judge within their system and judges are working for points etc...

    Breweries also run their own homebrew competitions usually based off of popularity. So if you don't care for brewing to style there are a lot of other options out there too. The BJCP is not the end-all be-all of homebrew judging.
  37. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,620) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    Too sober. If you ever find yourself drinking shots of listerine, cough medicine, or similar foul concoction, it would be safe to say that you have not had enough to drink.
  38. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Zealot (524) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    If the brewer scanned his scoresheet and sent it to me, I'd likely remember it, unless he waited a couple of months. I've never gotten a nasty email from a brewer, but other club members have showed me some pretty crazy stuff (I'm a little jealous; surely I've pissed someone off).

    edit: This would not necessarily be 'challenging' the judge. If crusty explained the Lyle's to me I might reconsider my evaluation... can't change the score but at least I'd be better prepared the next time.
  39. MacNCheese

    MacNCheese Initiate (0) Dec 10, 2011 California

    Why on earth did you even enter hoppy beers that were already 4 months old?
  40. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,351) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Just guessing, but perhaps because that's what he had? FWIW, I once entered a 4 month old IPA and it did quite well.
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