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National Homebrew Competition

Judging

Posted on October 30, 2012 by Greig McGill

Today's post is a guest article written by head judge Graeme Mahy of 666 Brewing

When I tell people I’m a beer judge, I always get the same response – “wow, where do I get a job like that? That must be fun!”. Well, to be honest, it is fun! It’s also bloody hard work, involving lots of concentration, discussion, and writing of sensible comments. Want to become a beer judge? Let’s see what it’s all about.

So how does one become a beer judge?

Firstly you must have a good palate. You need to be able to identify the most delicate of aroma and flavours, both good and bad, and to be able to distinguish undesirable components in the beer. A good knowledge of the 90 odd beer styles (varies by competition and definitions used) is also important. Having actually brewed most of the styles is an advantage.

Next is the most enjoyable part, drinking and discussing as many different styles of beer as possible and trying the "classic examples" of each style. Remember that (in most cases) the fresher the better, as age, heat, and travel may have shifted the beer away from what the brewer intended and the style guide defined.

Judging experience is also important, but often hard to get. Start at local homebrew competitions and get alongside experienced judges and work your way up to Regional or National homebrew competitions. Show your interest for commercial competitions and before you know it you could be judging in the World Beer Cup.

Finally, you need to keep the judging experience regular and that experience can come from local competitions to international ones. Just remember though, judges don’t get paid very well (or indeed at all) so don’t go wanting to make a career of it!

A judging day

The day starts by trying to avoid a breakfast of fatty and spicy foods which can wreck the palate when you want it fresh to be able to provide the entrant the best comments you can. You then arrive at the venue bright and early, and ready for action! However the day doesn’t start quite as early as the Stewards. They’ve already started sorting the beers and making sure the first beer is ready for the judges as soon as they have been seated.

While the Stewards are getting the beer prepared, the judges will be told what beer style they will be getting. The style guide will be read out to ensure that everyone is aware of what they are expecting and what criteria the beer will be judged on.

Soon the first flight of beers will arrive. As a judge you’re already assessing the beer as it arrives at the table - how does it look? Has it got a nice foam head? Is it the right colour? How’s the clarity? Now the beer is in your hands, another quick check on how the beer looks followed by a usually quick discussion, with scoring and comments noted.

Next is aroma. Is it correct for the style? Are there any off aromas detectable? More discussion follows, sometimes with re-evaluation, then, as before scoring and noting important comments.

Now the flavour, balance, and finish. All of that in a mouthful or two! The most intense discussion usually takes place here before scoring and comments.

Finally the overall impression. The judges have a bit of leeway here to mark the beer on their subjective evaluation of the beer. That is, it may not be a technically perfect example of the style, perhaps clarity or lack of aroma let it down, but it was still an enjoyable beer so it may pick up a point or two here. More discussion follows, then scoring and comments. The score is then totalled and the beer may be re-evaluated if it's close to a medal, could be upgraded or downgraded to another medal, or the judges feel it's not quite worthy of the medal the scores say it should have.

The Stewards clear the glasses, then it's on to the second of what iss likely to be up to 75-100 more and an 8-9 hour day!

Still want to be a beer judge?


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