Author Topic: BJCP Tasting Exam: Wow! That was hard!  (Read 1800 times)

Offline gsandel

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BJCP Tasting Exam: Wow! That was hard!
« on: January 22, 2013, 09:21:31 AM »
Took the tasting portion of the exam this weekend.

How'd I do?  To answer that question with a question: Does anyone know if you can re-take an exam before you get the results of your last one (especially if it takes 6 months to get results)?

I thought I was ready.  I thought I could pick out stuff in beer.  I thought I had a vocabulary.  I even thought I knew how to add properly.

What I learned is that I have absolutely no sense of smell unless it is overpowering...something that would kill the average person.

My ultimate impression was for the first beer (or two) I was seeing all kinds of phantom (real and imagined) flaws.  It turned out that there was at least one flaw to the first one, but I threw the book at it.  After that I settled down and could generally get the overall impression for each beer down, but couldn't describe (or detect) aroma...and I would assign points to each catagory and the beers would all score darn near 40 (or above) when in my head the beer should have been around 30 ....I ended up scoring in the mid-upper 20s and the upper 30s and 40s for just about everything (had to figure out how to deduct on the first one and last one).....and I didn't have time to go back and look at anything (at least one adding error).

With the 15 minutes and no reference guide, I couldn't pull a decent adjective out of my head to save my life (and what was with my handwriting...yikes)!

So, I will be surprised to pass.  And am looking to re-take...although I would rather have a root canal.
You wouldn't believe the things I've seen...

Offline james

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Wow! That was hard!
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2013, 09:59:07 AM »
Congrats on taking the exam, that is a big step!

There isn't anything stopping you from retaking the tasting before you get your results back.

Judge at any comp you can find
Put together a study/tasting group
Judge any beer you can find and try to do it in the time limit

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Wow! That was hard!
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2013, 10:13:47 AM »
Speed and descriptors come with practice, so do as james suggests and judge beers.  Even if you judge every beer you drink at home, you'll be better off than going in without much practice.  I'd even recommend judging a few samples the night before as a little warm up.  Also, if the proctors allows scratch paper jot some notes down after the call for books to be closed but before the beers come - descriptors, flaws, whatever you don't want to forget.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Wow! That was hard!
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2013, 11:21:35 AM »
Yours sounds like my first foray into the old test, I was unprepared for the judging portion.  It does get easier with practice.  I actually went looking for good adjectives to use, in fact I developed a cheat sheet of them for comp judging.  Back issues of Zymurgy with the beer reviews are handy for that.

One thing I find a lot, is that a beer is served pretty cold and you have a devil of a time getting a lot of aromas at first.  I warm the beer in my hands and try to keep the top covered to capture aromas while I'm writing up the visual assessment, that part is like riding a bike.  Then i go to aroma, then flavor and back to aroma if I start to detect something while sipping.

Its like anything challenging, at first it seems really hard but with practice it becomes a lot easier.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2013, 11:23:37 AM by tomsawyer »
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Offline phunhog

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Wow! That was hard!
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2013, 08:19:53 PM »
What did I get myself into?? ???  I just passed the online test a few weeks ago and have a tasting exam in August.  How much did you study/taste/prepare? I am trying to do 2-3 hours a week of concentrated studying/tasting using all the materials on the BJCP site.   
On another note...does it really take 6 months to get your results?  Why does it take so long? Wouldn't the proctors know within a day or two of how you scored? My friends have gotten their results from the Bar Exam in a faster time frame than that!!

Offline mihalybaci

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Wow! That was hard!
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2013, 09:10:29 PM »
I retook the exam (though it was my first time with the new format) on Saturday as well. First thing I would say is practice writing scoresheets, especially if you've never judged (as a judge or apprentice) a homebrew competition, that's the only way to get a feel for the timing and the descriptive language. The BJCP exam pages have some really nice examples of scoresheets from experienced judges that are worth reading. Second, and I found this out the hard way on Saturday, if you're unsure of what a type of beer should taste like from reading the style guide, then go taste one if at all possible. There were two styles on the exam I took where I had a vague notion of what they should taste like, but it had been so long since I'd had a classic example that still I don't feel confident in my assessments. Overall, I feel okay about my chances, but I don't think I'll be hitting "national" any time soon.

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Wow! That was hard!
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2013, 11:59:40 PM »
On another note...does it really take 6 months to get your results?  Why does it take so long? Wouldn't the proctors know within a day or two of how you scored? My friends have gotten their results from the Bar Exam in a faster time frame than that!!
It sometimes has in the past, but it is getting better.  If your score was only about how close you came to the proctors then it would be a relatively simple thing and they could tell you before you left.  There's a lot more to it than that, and the graders spend hours and hours on each exam.  It takes a long time, especially when the graders are volunteers with jobs and kids and other stuff going on in their lives.  It would be great if it was faster, but it is what it is.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline bluesman

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Wow! That was hard!
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2013, 06:25:05 AM »
I also recommend judging as many beers as you can, even if you need to do it at home. Just like anything else, the more you do it, the better you'll be at doing it. When I was studying for the exam, I judged as many commercial examples as I had time to using the BJCP scoresheet. I judged as much as I could without breaking my bank account.  :)

Practice makes perfect. You'll get better at it with experience.
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Offline Siamese Moose

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Wow! That was hard!
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2013, 07:25:55 AM »
It gets a whole lot easier with practice. Go to some competitions if you can. Our club has a program going to help teach judging (as well as to help new brewers with their beer). You can bring a beer to a meeting, and we'll have an experienced judge write up a scoresheet. Prospective judges are encouraged to join in, and get the opportunity to compare their perceptions with the primary judge. Then everybody sits down with the brewer to go over it, and the judges and brewers benefit. We do it without a time limit, so it's relaxed. Do this a few times and you won't worry about a time limit.
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Offline phunhog

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Wow! That was hard!
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2013, 10:49:02 PM »
As I study and prepare for the tasting exam I thought of something that might help me and possibly others. It is BJCP score sheets filled out for the commerical examples cited for each beer style.  My thinking is that I could judge one of the classic beer styles, fill out a score sheet, and then compare my score sheet to what other BJCP judges (ideally high ranking) scored the beer. It would help me compare my tasting/judging skills on classic examples. I realize this is essentially what the Commecial Calibration section in Zymurgy is about...it just seems like they rarely review BJCP classic examples.  So does anything like this exist?

Offline mpietropaoli

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Re: BJCP Tasting Exam: Wow! That was hard!
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2013, 07:04:03 PM »
I'm taking my tasting exam @ the end of Feb.  Publicly-posted commercial calibration would be huge, though I don't think it exists.  In fact, a reader wrote in to Zymurgy complaining that different judges were coming up with such different descriptors for the same beer.  [EDIT!!! If you are an AHA member, go on to eZymurgy and you can find a lot of different commercial calibrations!  One more reason to join if you aren't already a member!]

I passed my online exam in October, have judged one comp as a provisional (judged saisons with Dave Houseman in the afternoon, who contributes to the calibration column...such a great guy and a great teacher!) and stewarded two others prior.  I was particularly psyched when Dave and I would come up with the same score for a beer!

Also, one of my clubs does a non-sanctioned comp every month, which has helped me taste different beer, learn the styles (somewhat, as we do a different category each month), and learn to use descriptors. 

Finally, I have been trying to fill out a minimum of 5 scoresheets per week.  A couple of things I have found helpful as well:

-my proctor recommended taking one beer (eg Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout), and judging it in three different categories, ie "Oatmeal Stout", "Russian Imperial Stout", and "Baltic Porter".  That way, you can learn to ID STYLE flaws and not just technical flaws.  SS's Oatmeal Stout is a well-made beer, but it is probably not the best Baltic Porter.
-look through Ratebeer and BeerAdvocate for simple reviews of the beer you just did.  Like anything crowd-sourced, a lot of the 'data' can be crap, but you might catch a descriptor that you missed (make sure to save some of the sample when you are reviewing your scoresheet.
-Finally, I will quiz myself on some reverse-learning stuff (there's probably a more technical term).  Ie instead of reading the style guidelines for saison and biere de garde, I will try to write down the differences between a saison and biere de garde.  For example:

Biere de garde has (should have):
-malty upfront sweetness followed by dryness
-low esters, malt-focused aroma potentially with some toasty character
-clean lager character over some melanoidin

Saison:
-ester/yeast-forward aroma
-much more citrus/tart flavor
-similar dryness
-some hop bitterness (whereas the dryness in a BDG comes more from the fermentation)

This may be completely useless, but it helps me remember style characteristics.  Where I do get a bit fuzzy is on the difference between a German Pils and a Bo Pils (german has more hop bitterness, higher carb?), and a N. German Alt and a Dusseldorf Alt!

Wish me luck!
« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 07:43:11 PM by mpietropaoli »
Primary: Common Cider; Xmas FauxCAP
Kegged: Pliny Clone; Rodney's Weizenbock; RIS
Bottled: Putain Biere de Garde; 51 RIS; Glutang Clan Roggenbier
Cellaring: Biere de Mars; Flanders
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