Did you know there are 34 different categories of beer? And that each category has different subcategories, aka styles? I was pretty surprised to learn that, and I am a pretty seasoned beer drinker! I mean, a hobby that requires me to drink, taste, judge, and make more beer to drink? That’s a no brainer. Since beer drinkers are evolving their style preference and pallets, brewers have had to evolve with us. We are constantly looking for the next best thing and they’ve kept up; giving us new flavors and strange combinations that you swear won’t work but then you take that first sip and you’re sitting there like “damn, this actually works”. Don’t get me wrong, I am mostly happy to just sit back with an IPA at the end of a hard day but I will almost always try the new thing on the menu. With that being said, there are still very specific guidelines that need to be followed in order to help our certified beer judges properly evaluate our hard work. Thankfully, we don’t have to navigate that alone. You can find an updated version of BJCP Guidelines right here… https://www.bjcp.org/docs/2015_Guidelines_Beer.pdf
Let’s dive in. What are the judges looking for while they smell and taste your beer? It’s so much more than “does it taste good?” First off, judges focus on the subcategory (the style) of the beer because that is where all the specifics come in. For example, just so we are clear, a Double IPA and an American Barleywine are in the same CATEGORY: “Strong American Ale”, but they are nowhere near the same STYLE of beer. Got it? Good!
Appearance: What color is your beer? Does the color presented match the style you made? How’s the clarity? Again, does the clarity presented match the style you made?
Aroma: This will be a pretty big factor in judging because it is one of the first steps of actually experiencing the beer. What does it smell like? Can you smell specific ingredients? Can you smell specific hops and the characters they give off like pineapple, lemon, pine, resin, citrus, floral, pepper, and stone fruit? Can you smell any “off flavors” such as butterscotch, green apple, and sulfur?
Flavor: What does this beer taste like? If you presented an IPA, does it taste like an IPA? Can you taste the malts and grains? Hops? Any other additions? Are there any off flavors; butterscotch (diacetyl), green apple (acetaldehyde), and caramel corn (dimethyl sulfide or better known as DMS). Is it sweet, bitter, salty, sour?
Mouthfeel: What is the texture of your beer? Is it silky, thin, thick, dry, oily, warm, cold?
So how do we learn more? A huge part of the Nevada Homebrew Competition is giving us a chance to become better home brewers by attending tasting workshops and learning from certified BJCP judges. During the workshops, we will taste everyone’s beers and go through the process of “judging” them with the scorecards used in actual competition. This is meant to be a time for constructive criticism, learning from each other, and how to make our beers better. We are very lucky to live in a time of genuinely great home brew, and even luckier to have a community that allows us to learn and grow together.
Stay tuned for scheduled Tasting Workshops