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Mar 10, 2010 06:29 AM


If anyone has taken this exam I'd be interested in hearing how you prepared for it.

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  1. One of our local master judges put together a review course. We met weekly for several months (about twenty or so of us) and studied. Each week a pair or threesome of participants presented the history of a given style or range and provided samples.

    Along the way, our leader covered the mechanics of the test and other things we needed to prepare for (write a recipe, scoring, etc).

    I also wrote notes for every beer I tried for that several-month period.

    It was a huge help. That said, I didn't trust my instincts during the tasting and didn't fare well. In my defense, the doctored beers were wicked combinations that are somewhat legendary among those of us who took the test that day (old dunkelweizen plus something Belgian = ??). I went back later and took just the tasting part again to get my score up to where I could advance to National if I ever manage to judge that much.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ted

      Thanks! Just skimming through the BJCP Study Guide is intimidating.

      1. re: californiabeerandpizza

        True. And it's a lot more confusing than it needs to be. Their whole 'guidelines' thing is so bloated it borders on downright comical.

        The identification of and education regarding the various flavor components is the best and most important part of the exam and that's where the main focus should be. The 'style' descriptives are a different story...learn them to pass the exam, but most of them shouldn't be taken too seriously.
        The main problem is that they've made every subvariant of every 'style' an altogether new 'style'. Of course, it's done that way strictly for competition purposes to open more categories in order to generate more entries. The 'style' guidelines are a fairly recent conciet anyway, and thankfully they have pretty much no bearing in the real world.
        Which is good, because they would only confuse consumers (they're already confused enough. LOL.).

        1. re: The Professor

          Having judged before, I'd agree that the style guidelines are there for competition purposes, but in that context that is a good thing. It really helps to bring some sort of objective measure to assigning score and medals to the entries. The printed guidelines are right there on the table as you're judging, and if there is a disagreement among judges they are very helpful in resolving the dispute ("you see: that trace amount of DMS os NOT out of place, it says so right there..."). And having competed back when a lot of what I was brewing had no substyle in which it could be properly judged I'd say that compiling more substyles is not a bad thing in and of itself (that is, in the very limited context of homebrew competitions).

          There is something to be said for having beer judges attain some minimum level of knowledge and awareness of what they are judging, and to have it standardized; it's only fair to the entrants that their beer will get as fair shake as possible. So I'll give the BJCP credit for that. But beyond the competition circuit I do believe that people take the guidelines and substyle hair-splitting way too seriously.

    2. I know you can purchase kits to doctor up some beers to give you hands on approach to pulling out the flavor variables that they look for in the test. Read up on all the styles and of course think all the beer you get to taste! Have fun.

      10 Replies
      1. re: CAMRA

        At the moment I'm undecided about preparing for, and taking, the exam. Seems like a huge effort with a lot of memorization of styles and sub-styles required. I have a lot on my plate as it is and the internal hard drive is running out of memory. I'll think about it while brewing this weekend.

        1. re: californiabeerandpizza

          Yeah, Brewing always brings out that quest to go for the BJCP. I think brewing helps bring all the flavors to life. What are u brewing? I just kegged a Pliny the Elder clone yesterday. Used One Pound of hops in 5 Gal Batch-Yum!

          1. re: CAMRA

            I just kegged my first batch of Wee Heavy for the year, which will now cold age for 8 months (while I brew the next batch)...and mine is the exact opposite of CAMRA's had a mere ounce of hops for the 5 gal batch!

            I love to brew (though I'm not a fan or supporter of the BJCP or their strange guidelines list) but yes...the process is satisfying and fulfilling, and the results (whether on the hop heavy or malt heavy side) are generally a hell of a lot better that any commercial brews I've tried recently.

            1. re: The Professor

              Just finished brewing a single IPA. Was your Pliny - clone from Vinnie's recipe in Zymergy?
              About to head out to the backyard and plant some hops.

              1. re: californiabeerandpizza

                It was a Vinnie recipe from Brew your own(?). I admit I tweaked it a bit with some diff hops and I used Pac-man yeast. So far so good. What type of hops are you planting (Cascade?) I keep telling myself I will start growing them, I'm just waiting for more varieties, Amarillo or Warrior maybe?

          2. re: californiabeerandpizza

            I actually took the test with an eye on getting back into brewing after a long absence. But I still haven't managed to get there. Just keep working on the house on the weekends that aren't otherwise occupied.

            FWIW, the test was in the same realm of difficulty as the civil P.E. exam was. That was more method than memorization. Definitely a lot to memorize for BJCP. I was about to say it's similarly difficult as the LEED AP exam, but really that's all memorization and putting up with their clever way to ask the questions.

            1. re: ted

              I'd like to take the test just to see if I can pass without any special prep - I've been studying beer daily for the last 5-6 years anyway instead of doing the things my employer and wife would like me to do. If I pass, I will be sure to lord it over all my non-certified beer geek friends and make condescending remarks about their lack of expertise whenever they say something that doesn't agree to the BJCP!

              1. re: LStaff

                "studying beer"

                That can mean a lot of different things :)

                1. re: jgg13

                  HA! That's for sure.
                  I've been 'studying beer' for 40 years and much of what I've learned doesn't jibe with the popularly accepted 'guidelines'.
                  But hey, it's all in fun anyway.
                  It is, after all, only beer.