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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: tomsawyer on February 14, 2011, 06:45:04 PM

Title: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tomsawyer on February 14, 2011, 06:45:04 PM
This weekend I'm judging for the first time at a competition in KC.  I got my assignments, I'm judging porters, Belgian/French ales, and Scottish/Irish ales.  They don't tell you which particular styles within the category, in advance.  Needless to say I'm excited!  And just a little worried about doing a decent job of it.  I also entered four beers and this is my first time entering beer in a comp as well.  Talk about your rookies.

What do you typically do to prepare for judging a competition?

Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: jeffy on February 14, 2011, 06:59:30 PM
This weekend I'm judging for the first time at a competition in KC.  I got my assignments, I'm judging porters, Belgian/French ales, and Scottish/Irish ales.  They don't tell you which particular styles within the category, in advance.  Needless to say I'm excited!  And just a little worried about doing a decent job of it.  I also entered four beers and this is my first time entering beer in a comp as well.  Talk about your rookies.

What do you typically do to prepare for judging a competition?

Don't drink too much the night before.  Stay away from spicy foods that morning.  Eat breakfast.  Drink lots of water between samples.  Let your senses be your guide and try not to be intimidated or influenced too much by the other judges.

Have fun!
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tom on February 14, 2011, 07:03:38 PM
and review the style guidelines
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: dbeechum on February 14, 2011, 07:08:24 PM
And bring a knife to make the other judges back off when they challenge your opinions. It's not really a score sheet until it has beer or blood spilled on it!

What?
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: oscarvan on February 14, 2011, 07:15:34 PM
STOP THE VOICES!!!!!!
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tumarkin on February 14, 2011, 07:26:34 PM
+1 to all of what Jeff said. Also, don't wear any cologne. Put together a small judging kit with comfortable (padded grip) mechanical pencils, flashlight, corkscrew (stewards will have bottle openers, but watch 'em scramble if you come across a capped & corked bottle), etc.

Biggest thing for a new judge (or all of us) is to give solid, complete feedback. Use the score sheet as your guide & touch on ALL the elements mentioned. You don't need 'technical' descriptors, simple everyday language is great. Just describe your perceptions as completely as possible. If you feel confident in offering constructive criticism, please do so (regular posting to this forum is great experience for that). Don't make assumptions about what the brewer did, but offer possible actions to take in improving recipe or dealing with perceived problems.

Don't stress about preparation. Judging is fun, ask the organizer to pair you with experienced judges (especially if you already know them) though they usually try to do that anyway.


Good luck & have fun.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tomsawyer on February 14, 2011, 07:50:27 PM
All good advice except that one about not drinking too much on Friday night, but that might be the most critical one for judging Saturday morning.  We have a session Friday evening, then Saturday morning and early afternoon.

Hadn't thought of a flashlight.  Will bring a corkscrew, that should be good for popping corks and fending off pushy judges.  They know I'm new and supposedly put me with more experienced people.  Then again, almost anyone would qualify as being more experienced.

Question, is it common for newer judges to keep a hard copy of the BJCP guidelines handy?  I'll have thoroughly reviewed my categories but I would feel more secure having it available.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tumarkin on February 14, 2011, 08:05:59 PM
every competition I've ever judged at provides the style guidelines to the judges at the tables. you have to judge the beer against the guidelines, and most of us haven't memorized the whole damn thing.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: bluesman on February 14, 2011, 08:35:35 PM
every competition I've ever judged at provides the style guidelines to the judges at the tables. you have to judge the beer against the guidelines, and most of us haven't memorized the whole damn thing.

+1

I use the BJCP App on my iphone...just make sure your battery is charged before you go.  :)
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: denny on February 14, 2011, 08:38:54 PM
I print up labels (Avery 5150) with my name, judge rank, and email on them.  Saves having to fill it in on every sheet.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: mrcceo on February 14, 2011, 09:10:36 PM
I'm in the same boat as you this Saturday.
A suggestion I received was to take a marker with you so you can write the entry number on the sample cup in case you want to go back to it again.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: alikocho on February 14, 2011, 09:30:23 PM
I'm in the same boat as you this Saturday.
A suggestion I received was to take a marker with you so you can write the entry number on the sample cup in case you want to go back to it again.

I can see why you'd do this, but the aroma of the marker might interfere with your perception of the beer. Anyway, it's better practice to finish judging a beer and move on.

As to having the style guidelines to hand - absolutely. In fact, the BJCP guide tells judges to review the style guidelines at the table.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: Hokerer on February 14, 2011, 09:37:11 PM
I print up labels (Avery 5150) with my name, judge rank, and email on them.  Saves having to fill it in on every sheet.

Yeah, I like getting those kinds of scoresheets.  I can actually read the judges name and such unlike a lot of the handwritten ones.  Do beer judges take handwriting lessons from doctors?   :D
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: mrcceo on February 14, 2011, 09:47:19 PM
I'm in the same boat as you this Saturday.
A suggestion I received was to take a marker with you so you can write the entry number on the sample cup in case you want to go back to it again.

I can see why you'd do this, but the aroma of the marker might interfere with your perception of the beer. Anyway, it's better practice to finish judging a beer and move on.

As to having the style guidelines to hand - absolutely. In fact, the BJCP guide tells judges to review the style guidelines at the table.

I should clarify. The marker should be a grease pencil.
 
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: jeffy on February 14, 2011, 10:12:37 PM
I print up labels (Avery 5150) with my name, judge rank, and email on them.  Saves having to fill it in on every sheet.

This is also a good idea.  Some competitions will print them for you, but if not, there's a template somewhere on the BJCP.org website.  It's called "judge scoresheet label template"
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tomsawyer on February 14, 2011, 10:19:12 PM
More good stuff.  I might just look like I know what I'm doing.

How many beers are typically judged in a session and how long do you expect we'll have per beer?  They said they have more entries than last year, but they've enlisted more judges.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: kerneldustjacket on February 14, 2011, 10:23:00 PM
Be as descriptive as you can...it's far better than just saying things like "nice head" or "good aroma" or "I like the flavor."
What is it about the head that looks nice? is it Frothy? Dense? Mousse-like? What about the aroma? Is the aroma hoppy? Malty? Caramel-like?
What flavors do you perceive...malt? hops? roast? wheat?

Having said that, I feel that the hardest part of judging is finding the right descriptive language to describe what you perceive, so don't feel awful if you have a case of writer's block.
Developing a good "judges vocabulary" will take time and experience...and will always be a work in progress.

Oh, and don't be too serious about it, it should be a fun thing to do...not something like a trip to the dentist! (no offense to any dentist's on the forum!) ;D

More good stuff.  I might just look like I know what I'm doing.

How many beers are typically judged in a session and how long do you expect we'll have per beer?  They said they have more entries than last year, but they've enlisted more judges.

EDIT:
Never more than 12 beers to a flight...typical might be 10. A good pace is to do one entry in ten minutes. Or at least in my experience...
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tomsawyer on February 14, 2011, 10:26:52 PM
John I understand the concept of descriptive vocabulary completely and I want to do justice to the brewer who paid to enter their beer.  I found out during the BJCP test that its easier said than done.  I may make myself a list of precise descriptors for each category, just as a crutch.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tom on February 14, 2011, 10:48:13 PM
The 2nd round beer "checklist" scoresheet has a lot of descriptors you can use.
http://www.bjcp.org/docs/Beer_checklist.pdf
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: kerneldustjacket on February 14, 2011, 11:01:36 PM
John I understand the concept of descriptive vocabulary completely and I want to do justice to the brewer who paid to enter their beer.  I found out during the BJCP test that its easier said than done.  I may make myself a list of precise descriptors for each category, just as a crutch.

Well then you're way ahead of most first timers! So that means no worries, you'll do far better than average.

I made a list of descriptors for appearance...to help describe color, clarity, head appearance, and carbonation...it helped just to go through the process of thinking up the terms, let alone writing them down.

And Tom, you're just the sort of judge I'd want to have judging my beers.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: johnf on February 14, 2011, 11:26:07 PM
Since I'm on the committee for this competition I can offer some specifics.

Judging is by BJCP category with the exception of 27 and 28 (Cider and Perry) which are combined for judging.

In multi-flight categories "queued judging" will be employed such that all of the beers in the category are pulled in order and each set of judges gets one and then when the finish gets the next one in the pull order. For most categories pull order would be in subcategory letter order (and in no particular order within the subcategories) but for fruit, smoke and wood aged, spice herb vegetable, specialty, and meads and ciders the head judge may choose to alter the pull order with the aim of pulling in increasing order of assumed palate impact (so a smoked hefeweizen before a smoked imperial stout, for example).

The average number of beers per set of judges does not exceed 10 in this case but in multi-flight queued judging the fastest pair may judge 1-2 more than the slowest pair (hopefully not a bigger discrepancy than that). As others have said ten minutes per beer is a good pace that everyone can strive for. Highly experienced judges working together can go quite a bit faster. Our two Saturday sessions are set 4 hours apart. Most judges will finish in under 2 hours so this isn't a terribly aggressive schedule (by design as the afternoon session must start on time since we have the brewery tour after). In our case we gave some consideration to the palate impact of a particular category when deciding how to split it into flights. For example 10 sour ales were split into two flights. I can't think of a real example off the top of my head but had we had 10 English Brown Ales we would have kept those in one flight.

We will have around 1 printed set of guidelines per every other judge. Given how many phones I see out lately at competitions I believe this will be more than sufficient.

We will provide labels to judges. We will also provide round stickers that you can write the entry number on and stick on your cup so you don't have to use a sharpie or grease pencil.

Every flight has a Certified or higher judge and most categories have a National or higher judge so you will be paired with more experienced people. Feel free to ask them questions, almost everyone I run into is happy to help other people.

Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tomsawyer on February 15, 2011, 01:11:48 AM
Since I'm on the committee for this competition I can offer some specifics.

Judging is by BJCP category with the exception of 27 and 28 (Cider and Perry) which are combined for judging.

In multi-flight categories "queued judging" will be employed such that all of the beers in the category are pulled in order and each set of judges gets one and then when the finish gets the next one in the pull order. For most categories pull order would be in subcategory letter order (and in no particular order within the subcategories) but for fruit, smoke and wood aged, spice herb vegetable, specialty, and meads and ciders the head judge may choose to alter the pull order with the aim of pulling in increasing order of assumed palate impact (so a smoked hefeweizen before a smoked imperial stout, for example).

The average number of beers per set of judges does not exceed 10 in this case but in multi-flight queued judging the fastest pair may judge 1-2 more than the slowest pair (hopefully not a bigger discrepancy than that). As others have said ten minutes per beer is a good pace that everyone can strive for. Highly experienced judges working together can go quite a bit faster. Our two Saturday sessions are set 4 hours apart. Most judges will finish in under 2 hours so this isn't a terribly aggressive schedule (by design as the afternoon session must start on time since we have the brewery tour after). In our case we gave some consideration to the palate impact of a particular category when deciding how to split it into flights. For example 10 sour ales were split into two flights. I can't think of a real example off the top of my head but had we had 10 English Brown Ales we would have kept those in one flight.

We will have around 1 printed set of guidelines per every other judge. Given how many phones I see out lately at competitions I believe this will be more than sufficient.

We will provide labels to judges. We will also provide round stickers that you can write the entry number on and stick on your cup so you don't have to use a sharpie or grease pencil.

Every flight has a Certified or higher judge and most categories have a National or higher judge so you will be paired with more experienced people. Feel free to ask them questions, almost everyone I run into is happy to help other people.

John, could you be more specific?  ;)

Seriously, thanks for the heads up.  I'll work on a time frame of 10min per beer, that should be plenty for 10 beers in 2hours.  I'm really looking forward to the competition, the tour, the talks, the BBQ and the wine.  And if theres beer thats good too.

I forgot to mention the best part of this weekend, I get to call my wife a wench for two days straight, to her face.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: ajk on February 15, 2011, 06:12:26 PM
Don't drink coffee the day of the judging.  According to Carr's Sensory Evaluation Techniques (http://www.amazon.com/Sensory-Evaluation-Techniques-Fourth-Meilgaard/dp/0849302765), it can impact your palate for up to an hour.  Smoking is bad, too, but according to the book, its effects don't last quite as long.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tomsawyer on February 15, 2011, 06:28:58 PM
I suppose if I don't over-indulge the night before I'll need less coffee in the morning.  Can't do without at least a couple of cups though.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: markaberrant on February 15, 2011, 09:36:09 PM
I print up labels (Avery 5150) with my name, judge rank, and email on them.  Saves having to fill it in on every sheet.

We do this for all the judges at our competition, they love it!
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: denny on February 15, 2011, 09:38:13 PM
I print up labels (Avery 5150) with my name, judge rank, and email on them.  Saves having to fill it in on every sheet.

We do this for all the judges at our competition, they love it!

A lot of comps do.  I carry my own just in case.  It's a great time and hand saver!
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: bluesman on February 16, 2011, 01:24:25 AM
I print up labels (Avery 5150) with my name, judge rank, and email on them.  Saves having to fill it in on every sheet.

We do this for all the judges at our competition, they love it!

Over the course of a couple of rounds...it's a time saver for sure. I need to print some up and carry them with me as Denny has indicated.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tom on February 16, 2011, 02:41:07 AM
oh, and I don't have a beer with lunch
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: brewmasternpb on February 16, 2011, 04:16:55 AM
I just judged my first comp a week ago.  The previous pieces of advice were great, but I would also pick up a sample from one of the classic styles from your category....If you know your category ahead of time.  The comp I judged provided a classic example for the first session, but not the second.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tomsawyer on February 16, 2011, 01:23:58 PM
oh, and I don't have a beer with lunch

This just keeps getting worse!

Actually, do any of you find yourself catching a buzz when judging?  Should I be wary of that?  I'm no lightweight but some of these styles can be pretty strong.

As for classic examples, we don't know which styles within a category we're getting so I'd be trying several beers from each category.  I've done quite a bit of homework in the past though.  I'll probably just go with the style descriptions and trust my tastebuds in the end.  There aren't many beer styles I don't like, and I appreciate them all.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tumarkin on February 16, 2011, 02:05:02 PM
oh, and I don't have a beer with lunch

This just keeps getting worse!

Actually, do any of you find yourself catching a buzz when judging?  Should I be wary of that?  I'm no lightweight but some of these styles can be pretty strong.

As for classic examples, we don't know which styles within a category we're getting so I'd be trying several beers from each category.  I've done quite a bit of homework in the past though.  I'll probably just go with the style descriptions and trust my tastebuds in the end.  There aren't many beer styles I don't like, and I appreciate them all.

don't sweat it. in fact, most times the comp provides lunch for the judges/stewards which often includes a beer. when you're judging, you really don't need to drink very much of each sample. an ounce or less is usually enough - though some beers you'll sample more if really searching for something, discussing with co-judge, etc.

let's say you judge two flights in the morning. each flight is usually 10 beers or less (though not always). if you drink an ounce or less per beer evaluated, then you've consumed less than two beers over the course of the morning. You may judge more flights in that time, but if so, usually there are less beers per flight. ditto for the afternoon. so can you 'catch a buzz?' sure, it's beer after all, but you're not going to get sloshed.

though I do remember judging at a NHC where a judge at a neighboring table kept drinking his sample and asking the steward to repour... again, and again. I was told he was a local club member, not an experienced judge - and (thank the beer gods) this is very unusual.

as for the classic examples, many competitions don't use calibration beers. if they do, it's just one. just judge each beer against the style guidelines and you'll be fine.
Title: Re: First Time Judging Beer
Post by: tomsawyer on February 21, 2011, 03:26:53 AM
Thanks for all the advice, it helped calm the nerves a bit as I entered my first judging gig.  I enjoyed it and now I understand why the BJCP test is so demanding in terms of time.  Its a lot like the actual judging!  We did 7-10 beers per 2hr session.  The more experienced judges did a nice job of helping me out without trying to steer me one way or another.  I think I did a reasonable job for a first effort, although I will work on developing more positive comments.  The best judges seemed to have those at the ready at all times.  The 1oz per beer was more like 3, I wasn't buzzed but there was a certain amount of fatigue at the end of the porters and Scotch/Irish ales.  I also worried that the beers were served fairly cool and they really changed (for the better) as they warmed.

I'm looking forward now to seeing the judges' comments on my own entries, I think I'll learn some more about judging from those.