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Beer Judge Certification ProgramBJCP Test Prep Aids

This is a list of unofficial resources Thomas has developed over the years to help people prepare for the BJCP exams.

5 Common Mistakes on the BJCP Tasting Exam – Drawn from my experience as an examinee, grader, judge and contest entrant. If you’re prepping for the tasting exam, this is the one article you need to read. Although it sounds like hype, assuming you’re otherwise adequately prepared, this article will boost your score by 5-10 points and pretty much guarantee that  you get a passing score. If you’re already well prepared, this article will help you get a score of 80+. PDF Version

Apprentice to Master Scoresheets in 5 Steps – A more elaborate version of “5 Common Mistakes,” which gives detailed examples of the differences between unacceptable, borderline, adequate and great scoresheets. I’ve actually seen all of the mistakes mentioned in this document. Useful for folks taking the BJCP tasting exam who have a bit more time, or who learn better from examples than lists. Also useful for new exam graders who want to learn the rationale behind assigning exams to a particular “scoring band.” PDF Version

Comparison of BJCP Beer Substyles – A handy crib sheet for prepping for any of the exams, whether qualifier, tasting or written proficiency. It covers most of the differences between the different beer styles in a particular category, misses some of them. A good exercise for an advanced student would be to catch the things I’ve missed! PDF Version

7 Steps to Great Beer Judging – I seem to be big into numbered lists. This one is an outline intended as a crash course for people who are judging for the first time. Possibly useful for people prepping for the tasting exam, since it explains how to write a decent scoresheet. Designed as a companion to the Instant Beer Troubleshooting Guide. PDF Version

Instant Beer Troubleshooting Guide – A “cheat sheet” designed for people judging for the first time which goes into a bit more explanation about off-flavors in beer than the official BJCP Beer Faults Web Page but not quite as much as the BJCP Beer Exam Study Guide. Intended as a companion document for “Seven Steps to Great Beer Judging,” this guide helps absolute novice judges give decent feedback based the most common origins of the most common beer faults. Possibly useful for people taking the tasting or online qualifier exams who are still a bit shaky on their troubleshooting skills. But, not a substitute for actual study and judging experience. PDF Version

How to Prepare for the BJCP Qualifier and Tasting Exams – This one goes into a lot of detail, perhaps even too much. Lots of useful advice, but painfully geeky and not for everyone. For advanced students only. PDF Version

Tom’s Unofficial Guide to the BJCP Written Exam – Pretty rough, since it was cut and pasted in a hurry from a much more complete study guide I wrote, but never released, on how to prep for the legacy BJCP exam. It owes a LOT to Al Boyce’s BJCP Exam for Dummies, but has been reworked to address the new written exam format and to reflect the changed purpose of the written exam (i.e., an exam for judges aiming for the higher BJCP ranks). It deliberately doesn’t include specific recipes for the recipe question, just outlines of what you need to cover. Design your own! PDF Version

BJCP Beer Style Flashcards – Part training aid, part polemic against actual and percieved faults in the 2008 style guidelines. It breaks out each style in the guidelines in tabular form by aspects of Aroma, Appearance, Flavor and Mouthfeel. More oriented towards the old “legacy” exam, but still some utility for the new exam formats. Warning: This is a big file at over 1 Mb, the PDF is even bigger. PDF Version

Acceptable Characteristics in Various Beer Styles – A table which lists which traits are acceptable in certain styles of beer, even though they could be considered faults in other styles,  Limited usefulness due to the format, but could be helpful for folks prepping for the written or tasting exams, or as a crib sheet for people taking the online qualifier exam. PDF Version

Al Boyce’s BJCP Exam for Dummies, 2013 Edition (PDF ONLY) – Not by me, but a very useful resource for anyone taking the written exam. Keep in mind that the written exam is designed as a test of advanced judging skills and that examinees are expected to show signs of independent thought. So, don’t just parrot the answers in this guide.

Washington Area Homebrewers Association BJCP Test Prep Materials – Originally designed for the legacy exam, now updated for the new format exams. Probably the best repository of BJCP exam prep and judge training documents on the web.

WAHA BJCP Tasting Class Binder – A folder of documents pertaining to the tasting exam from the WAHA site. Lots of good info.

Judging and Sensory Analysis Aids

How to Judge Beer – Not really a test prep document, more like “Obsessive Nerd’s 50 Page Guide to Beer Judging.” Guaranteed to make something as inherently sexy and fun as beer tasting incredibly tedious. For amusement purposes only, and only by the easily amused. PDF Version

Beer Flavor Wheel – A flavor wheel for beer in graphic and tabular form. PDF Version

Beer and Wine Flavor Wheel – Two flavor wheels in tabular form. Loads of fun! PDF Version

Complete Beer Fault Guide – An e-book which goes into extensive detail about every sensory element found in beer, or pretty damn close to it. Extra Geeky. PDF Version

BJCP Competition Data Collection Project – 2013 NHC First Round

This year Janis Gross from the AHA was kind enough to send me an anonymized list of all the beer, mead and cider entries entered in the NHC 1st Round contests, nearly 7800 entries! I crunched the numbers and broke out the beers in each category by percentages, as well as trying to make some sense out of all the specialty entries in categories 16E, 20-23, 25-26, and 28. My data is here (Excel format). My analysis of the data is here. (PDF FormatHint: Homebrewers like hops.

Siebel Off-Flavor Kit Training Aids

The BJCP provides its members with discounted Siebel Off-Flavor Training Kits, and also sends them out for free to folks who are running BICEP Training Sessions or organizing Tasting Exams, but it doesn’t provide any instructions on how to use them. These documents are my attempts to fill that gap.

My preferred method of using the kit is to hold four different training sessions, each covering approximately six off-flavors. Class format starts with a short (5-10 minute lecture) while an assistant sets up the pitchers, followed by a self-paced tasting. The short flights make the sessions manageable and keeps everyone’s palates reasonably fresh.

Supplies Needed

  • 9 pitchers – 6 for off-flavors, 1 each for water, dump and calibration beer.
  • Hard plastic cups or glass taster glasses sufficient for your class. You can reuse as long as you rinse, but each student should have at least 3 glasss – one for water, one for calibration beer and one for doctored beers.
  • Towels – cloth or paper. Spills happen.
  • Stirring rods (plastic chopsticks work well).
  • Oyster crackers, unsalted saltines, or white bread.
  • Plenty of water. Some of the off-flavors are nasty!
  • Beer – About 14 12-oz. bottles or equivalent. I use Pabst Blue Ribbon, Miller Genuine Draught or Full Sail Premium Lager for my doctoring beer, but any fresh, well-made, malt-focused, light-bodied, golden-colored beer, such as a Blonde Ale or Premium American Lager, will work. Avoid strong, dark or hoppy beers unless you’re doing advanced training.

Off-Flavor Notes Sheet – Hand out one per person at each tasting. PDF Version

Pitcher Cards – Part 1 (PDF Only) – Yeast Faults.

Pitcher Cards – Part 2 (PDF Only) – Infections.

Pitcher Cards – Part 3 (PDF Only) – Everything Else.

Off-Flavor Training Session 1 – Fermentation Faults Notes – Lecture notes for a guided tasting or study notes for self-paced traing or independent study. Covers most common fermentation faults. PDF Version

Off-Flavor Training Session 2 – Contamination Faults Notes – Lecture notes for a guided tasting or study notes for self-paced traing or independent study. Covers faults which can arise due to microbial contamination. PDF Version

Off-Flavor Training Session 3 – Hops and Aging Faults Notes – Lecture notes for a guided tasting or study notes for self-paced traing or independent study. Covers faults which can arise due to hops or oxidation. PDF Version

Off-Flavor Training Session 4 – Malt and Miscellaneous Faults Notes – Lecture notes for a guided tasting or study notes for self-paced traing or independent study. Covers malt-derived faults as well as “everything else in the kit.” PDF Version

Siebel Kit Contents – A table describing all the flavors and concentrations in the Siebel Kit. Much handier than schlepping through MSDS sheets, especially if you want to quickly determine active ingredients or find concentrations in order to titrate doses of a particular flavor. PDF Version