A beer judge is responsible for evaluating, scoring and most importantly, they are tasked with providing unbiased and constructive feedback for thousands of Americas aspiring homebrewers and Seasoned Brew-masters alike. They have gone through hours of studying (and drinking!) to refine their palettes and educate themselves on all of the different beer types and characteristics of each respective style. Despite all of the initial work that is involved in getting certified, Amazingly there are 4,995 active volunteer judges in the Beer Judge Certification Program.
Before You Get Started
There is such an overwhelming interest in becoming a volunteer Beer Judge
through the BJCP – that high-level judges can’t keep up with Exam the schedules of new
applicants. Because of this – I’d encourage everyone to spend some time and research the
style guidelines, attend some homebrewing competitions and get involved with the community
to find out if this is something that you genuinely wish to pursue.
Brew Some Beer!
Chances are that if you are interested in becoming a beer judge, you have already imerged
yourself in the craft of homebrewing your own beer. For anyone that hasn’t though – I
strongly encourage you to buy a starter kit and brew a few batches of beer of your own
before tackling either of the exams. As an aspiring beer judge, a big part of your role on
that judging panel is to provide feedback for the many homebrewers who have spent their time
money and energy on crafting that beer. The simple process of going through the brewing
process on your own will not only give a proper appreciation for all the homebrewers and
their beers you will one day be passing judgement on – It will also give you insight into
the brewing process. An experience that will help you connect the dots between how off
flavors can be produced, and why – allowing you to give truly meaningful feedback and value
to all of the brewers entries during a competition.
Join A HomeBrewing Club
If you are serious about becoming a certified judge, One of the best ways you can leverage
yourself for success prior to the exams is by finding a Homebrewing Club in your area
Talk to fellow beer geeks, share tips, advice and brew beer? What’s not to love here? Aside
from the obvious perks of surrounding yourself with like minded people – Homebrewing clubs
can be a great resource for studying for the exams. Many will offer study groups, or taste
testing groups to help you prepare for the course. If your homebrewing club doesn’t offer
these particular perks – don’t be afraid to network with your club members and coordinate
some study sessions of your own.
Here are just a few resources to get you started:
Steward and Volunteer
If you are still on the fence at all about whether becoming a beer judge is for your or not,
There is no better way to answer that question than to experience an actual competition for
yourself. By volunteering as a Beer steward at local competitions you will get a first hand
account of what it is truly like to be a Judge.You’ll be expected to serve the judges their
samples, sort score sheets and generally take care of the details during a competition to
keep things running smoothly. It should probably go without saying, but this is a great
opportunity to also chat up some of the veteran beer judges and get any questions you may
still have answered.
Competitions are almost always looking for free help – If you are interested in serving as a
beer steward you can contact your local homebrewing event organizers or homebrewing guild
for more information.
Time to Study!
You can buy Beer Tasting Kits to purposefully add common “off flavors” to a beer, Setup
tasting exams by judging beers and filling out the official score sheet and begin re-
enforcing your beloved new encyclopedia of beer terminology and styles information by
constantly evaluating the beer you drink. This is a great way to prepare yourself for the
exam and re-enforce the wealth of knowledge that is the BJCP style guidelines,
descriptions and definitions. Lastly, be sure to check out the “Resources” section later in
this post for some great information.
The Road To Certification
As a certified beer judge, you will seek to refine your ability to detect off-flavors,
define the beers appearance, aroma, balance, flavor & how well its many characteristics align
with the BJCP style definitions.For the un-acquainted, Being a beer judge may sound like a
rather…well to put it bluntly, an awesome way to drink free beer and meet like minded
people. And while I couldn’t agree more, the certification process requires that you pass
both a written exam and a rigorous in person tasting exam. But more importantly it will
require hours of studying the BJCP style guidelines and committing them to memory. No
In order to become an official BJCP judge – You will need to pass both the written & in-
Beer Judge Entrance Exam (Online)
* 60 Minutes
* 200 Questions
* Pass / Fail
* Price: $10.00 -or- 3 Attemps for $20.00
Once you’ve successfully completed the online portion of the Exam, you are then considered a
“provisional judge”. You will have exactly 1 year to pass the In-Person tasting exam to
become a certified Ranked Beer Judge. During this time, I highly recommend that you take
advantage of your new found title and apply to be an official beer judge in local
competitions. The ability to network with fellow beer enthusiasts, judges and beer makers
will probably have the most influence in determining your success in the upcoming tasting
Tasting Exam (In-person)
* 90 Minutes
* Evaluate 6 unique beer styles & identify off-flavors
* 60% or better to pass
* No Stylesheets or reference material will be available to you
* Price: $40.00 ( $15 for re-tests)
Below is a list of resources that I’ve compiled to help get you orientated 🙂
- BJCP – StyleCenter
- BJCP – Score Sheet
- BJCP – Exam Center
- BJCP – Study Guide
- BJCP – Study Guide (PDF)
The Beer Judge School – Judging:
Tips From Current Beer Judges
In the interest of full disclosure – I personally haven’t gone through the BJCP or Cicerone
certification process yet. So in lue of actual first hand experience, I’ve collected some
insightful qoutes from a handful of now Certified Beer Judges. By all means if you would
like to share your experience as a judge or for studying for the exam, Please feel free to
contact me and I would be happy to add your contribution to this page!
If you’re on the fence about setting out to take the test, I would suggest you first steward or judge a competition to get a feel for it. Most competition coordinators will let you judge without BJCP rank. Of course, being a steward is also a great way to be part of the process, too. I signed up and judged Malt Madness last year, and it reassured my decision to drive for the test.
Jay Buchanan – whalesbrewclub.com
Find a study group. Many times local homebrew clubs will have a study session group. Ifnot, get a group together of your dedicated friends and make one. Studying with otherpeople will allow you to discuss, compare and have fun while preparing for the exam. Study, study, study. The good thing is I am not asking you to study the French Revolutionor algebraic parabolas. Drink as much beer as you can….but without getting drunk. Make your way through the BJCP styles and sub-categories. Read the style descriptions such as aroma, appearance, flavor, mouth-feel and overall impression.
Herman – thekegtap.com
It comes down to four main ideas: Have a good working knowledge of world beer styles, Know how to properly and completely evaluate a beer, Understand and recognize basic beer faults and Develop a vocabulary sufficient to communicate perceptions and ideas.
Gordon Strong – allaboutbeer.com
Although I practiced doing score sheets without guidelines ALOT, we rarely practiced with truly flawed beers and so I found that my timing during the exam was really off. I would definitely suggest people get together in groups and practice judging a mixture of classic styles and flawed beers without guidelines so they can get the hang of how the test will really be. I probably spent a whole 15min on that nasty pilsner. You could have each person bring one beer so people didn’t know if they were going to be good beers or bad beers.
Judge at real competitions. That’s probably the best thing you can do. I only judged one before the exam and wish I did more.
Billy Broas –HomeBrewAcademy.com
One of the things I did for my class this year was have an actual practice exam. Everything is exactly the same, 90 minutes, the same recommend beer styles (Lager, Ale, Dark, Light,two off flavors, one classic example that the BJCP recommends for the actual exam. I think that really helped out and would be a good thing to do for future classes the week before the actual exam.