BJCP Update Part 4 – Meads/Ciders and Wrapup

After reading through the previous posts of the BJCP Update Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, we are finally ready to look at the non-beer categories of meads and ciders before I wrap up the presentation with links to Gordon Strong’s presentation slides (as a PDF file, graciously hosted by the bjcp.org website) and full video of the presentation posted to youtube by Chip Walton of Chop and Brew (as well as a few final notes of my own).  I will also point out the venues available for you to provide your own feedback and possibly influence the impending changes.  So, here we go:  meads!

Traditional Mead

  • This category remains unchanged with the three styles of Dry Mead, Semi-Sweet Mead, and Sweet Mead.
  • As before, all meads must list Descriptors for carbonation (Still, Petillant, or Sparkling) and for strength (Hydromel, Standard, or Sack).
  • As before (and true for all meads), the type of Honey used should be listed in the Descriptors only if there is significant character from that honey in the final product – if you list it, the judges will be looking for it and downgrade you if they can’t find that character.  There is never a need to list your ingredients unless the judges need to know to look for it.  In other words, don’t say that you used orange blossom honey if the final mead does not smell or taste of citrus!
  • It is interesting to note that all of the other mead categories (spiced, fruited, and specialty) have three Descriptors required:  sweetness, carbonation, and strength – yet the Traditional Mead category lists the strength at the style level.  The engineer in me balks at the same spec being listed for similar products at different tiers (style vs descriptor), however, many competitions have a large number of traditional honey-only mead and this is their way of saying they want organizers to split them by sweetness first.  I get it, but definitely have some mixed feelings about that – like I said, the engineer in me wants consistent logic in listing specifications of anything.

Melomel (Fruit Mead)

  • Our original two specific melomel styles still remain – Cyser (Apple Melomel) and Pyment (Grape Melomel).
  • Two new styles have been added to help break apart the growing number of “other fruit” meads:  Berry Mead and Stone Fruit Mead.
  • A final catchall style for Other Fruit Melomel remains.
  • As mentioned above, all meads must now list the Descriptors for sweetness, carbonation, and strength.  Fruit meads must also list the fruits used.

Spiced Mead

  • Metheglins (spiced meads) were originally listed as a single style under the Specialty Mead category.  As fruits lends certain semi-consistent flavour profile notes, the same can be said for the use of spices – and a growing number of meadmakers are using spices, often in combination with goodies from the garden.  To ease splitting up entries and reduce palate fatigue, metheglins have been split out to form a new Spiced Mead category with two styles.
  • The first new style is Fruit and Spice Mead.  Clearly, both fruit and spice character is required.
  • The second is Spice/Herb/Vegetable Mead.  As with the S/H/V Beer style, the intent is to list NOT as a S/H/V Mead, but as a Spice Mead, or an Herb & Vegetable Mead, etc.
  • Starting to get a bit repetitious, but yes, all spiced meads must list Descriptors for sweetness, carbonation, strength, and all character-bearing honey/fruits/herbs/spices/vegetables used.

Specialty Mead

  • As mentioned above, Metheglin is no longer a style under the Specialty Mead and has been moved to its own category (see above).
  • Braggot remains as the first specialty mead style.
  • A new Historical Mead style has been added.  With the number of new, experimental meads coming out now (largely fuelled by local mead superstar and fellow active member of Brew Free or Die, Michael Fairbrother or Moonlight Meads), this gives meadmakers a place to specifically identify more traditional meads to avoid being judged alongside the wild cornucopia of new flavors and styles in mead for fairer judging and less palate fatigue.
  • The Open Category Mead style has been renamed to Experimental Mead in order to be more consistent with the Experimental Beer style, and to more properly reflect the nature of most entrants in this style.
  • All Specialty Meads must list Descriptors for sweetness, carbonation, strength, and special character-bearing ingredients.  If a special technique was used that would create a different experience for the drinker, that should be mentioned too.

Standard Cider and Perry

  • Common Cider and Common Perry have been renamed to New World Cider and New World Perry to more accurately reflect the heritage of this style of cider/perry.
  • English Cider, French Cider, and Traditional Perry remain the same.
  • All ciders/perries must list Descriptors for sweetness and carbonation.  Like listing honey types for meads, you should only list Descriptors for your apples/pears if they make a distinct difference in the character of the final beverage.

Specialty Cider and Perry

  • New England Cider remains the same.
  • Fruit Cider has been more accurately renamed Cider with Other Fruit.
  • Apple Wine has been renamed Applewine, which is more consistent with its heritage.  This may have something to do with the ever-growing number of people brewing and entering EdWort’s fortified Apfelwine recipe over the last half-decade (which I have made several versions of myself, with outstanding results).
  • A new style for Ice Cider has been added.
  • Another new style, by popular demand from the judges themselves trying to avoid palate fatigue, is Cider with Herbs/Spices.  Yes, like S/H/V, this should be entered as Cider with Herbs, Cider with Spices, or Cider with Herbs & Spices.
  • Finally, Other Specialty Cider or Perry remains the same.
  • All ciders and perries must list Descriptors for sweetness, carbonation, and whatever character-bearing ingredients the judges need to look for.

Wrap-Up / Conclusion

So . . . that’s the full rundown of what Gordon Strong presented.  There were a number of things that he discussed that leave a lot of vagueness and the fact that this is still relatively early in the process was clear.  I’ve had to do a lot of guesswork to try to figure out what the new list would look like.  I’ve gone through several iterations of an Excel spreadsheet, first based on only the slides, then on his presentation, then again upon re-evaluation for this writeup.  The new categories could be put anywhere in the list and this will require renumbering all of the categories below them – this means that a number of styles, particularly among the meads and ciders, that will remain the same but be renumbered.  Either way, we will no longer be able to trust (for some time, anyway) that Category 17 is Sours or Category 23 is Specialty without asking “Is that Category 23 under 2008 or 2014?”

 My Thoughts

Those that know me well, know that I pretty much always have some thoughts or observations and am generally not shy to speak up about them.  (Actually, my high school yearbook lists me as “Most Opinionated” for my ready willingness to debate pretty much any point.)  As you’ve probably noted as you’ve read through, I’ve had a few things to say already. 😉  Here’s what’s on the forefront of my mind as I finish this review/writeup of the potential changes:

  • I have never liked the idea that the Scottish/Scotch ales (that all have the same flavour profile, ingredients, and techniques) were split into so many separate styles, simply on the basis of strength.  Also, the method of identifying by the schilling cost was both archaic and, unless versed in the notation, nobody outside of the UK would translate /- to mean schillings.  Bravo to simplifying it to Scottish Light, Heavy, and Wee Heavy.  Although, to be fair, taking it further to Scottish Ale and Wee Heavy would be better, I think.
  • While I appreciate the simplification of the naming for English Bitters, I think it could stand condensing to simply Bitters and Strong Bitters.
  • As a judge, it has never made sense palate-wise to have Irish Reds in the same category with the Scottish ales.  As I mentioned above, the styles are based on Michael Jackson’s work and being the good Englishman he was, some of the old English Imperialist attitude led him to create several broad categories for English ales and one small grouping for the Irish, Welsh, and Scottish beers (that collectively received less attention than any one of the broad groupings of English ales).  I would really like to see the entire grouping of British ales re-sorted.  Stouts and porters are certainly their own categories (so distinctly so that even Jackson grouped the Irish stouts with the English ones).  Likewise, pale ales and IPAs are distinctly unique.  However, this entire mid-range from light bready beers through ambers and on into brown ales is a muddled mess, with some very similar beer styles in different categories.  Scottish ales certainly share a flavour profile with many brown ales.  The breadiness of Irish Reds, milds, and ESBs likewise put them in a similar flavour profile.  I think it would be really nice to see these re-sorted into something like British Light Ales and British Brown Ales.
  • I feel similarly with the broad grouping of Belgian Ales.  I really think (especially with the new Trappist Singel style) that a separate Monastic Beer category would make sense, to group the Singel, Dubbel, Tripel, maybe Quadrupel together away from the more experimental secular Belgian brewers.  Belgian white ale, Belgian pale ale, Belgian blond ale, Belgian golden strong ale, and Belgian dark strong ale could all go together as a Belgian Ale category (although I think the pale and blond could be combined into one category – either that, or the blond ale could be split between the pale and golden strong styles and eliminated).
  • The new American Wild Ale category is interesting – I think there will be a lot of discussion over exact interpretation.  I’ve always felt the French and Belgian Ale category something of a random junk drawer, misfitting in the same way as Irish Red amongst the Scotsbeers.  This new category includes many beers that are also similar to many of the less-wild ‘farmhouse’ beers.  I propose that we have a category called Farmhouse and Wild Ales to include the new Wild Ale styles, as well as Saisons and Biere de Garde/Noel.
  • If Belgian specialty ale is deleted, Belgian pale ale is regrouped, and saison/biere de garde are moved, this leaves Witbier orphaned.  However, with German Wheat and Rye Beer being simplified to German Wheat Beer, we could take that one step further to Continental Wheat Beer and include Wit.  Either that, or it could be considered a Spice Beer style (but the flavor profile is a wheat-plus-fruity-spicy mix not that far from hefeweizens).
  • Like I mentioned earlier, the idea of changing weizen to weissbier, while keeping dunkelweizen is going to confuse an awful lot of people.  Then consider that weizenbock is being renamed ‘dunkels weissbier’ – sitting right next to the retained ‘dunkelweizen’ – leaving us with similar-flavor weissbier-vs-dunkelweizen and similar-colour dunkelweizen-vs-dunkels weissbier.  Weizen, dunkelweizen, and weizen bock had a consistency in naming that we now lack.  Perhaps the change (since is this is trying to reflect what they call these beers in Germany) should be to Weissbier, Dunkels Weissbier, and Strong Weissbier?  Although honestly, I would really like to see krystallweizen called out as a separate style under a new style heading – the final product is a distinctly different experience when these beers are filtered bright.
  • Berliner weisse would fit under the Continental Wheat Beer category ingredients-wise and historically speaking, but yeah, should probably stay under Sour Beer.  With the introduction of the new Mixed-Fermentation Sour Beer and Soured Fruit Beer styles, perhaps these could be grouped with Berliner weisse into a new Sour Beer category with a Wood-Aged Sour Beer style and an Experimental Sour Beer catchall.  This would allow the remainder of the current Sour Beer category (Flanders red ale, oud bruin, lambics, and gueuzes) to be renamed Belgian Sour Beer and possibly expanded in the future to reflect the growing worldwide popularity of the wide range of sour Belgian experiments.  A Blended Sour Beer style could be useful for beers such as Ommegang’s Three Philosophers that use a small percentage of sour beer.  Although an amazing beer, the sourness would probably cost some points as a Belgian Dark Strong Ale.  Interest in sours in still growing, alongpace with interest in barrels – I believe that we will be seeing many more of these sorts of slightly-sour blends in the years to come that will be hard to place otherwise:  not sour enough to compete with true sours, but sour enough to be inappropriate in base style categories.
  • Be there no doubt, there will be much screaming and tearing or hair over the changes to the IPA styles.  However, before the clamour begins, I DO feel the need to point out (although Gordon did not) that this provides a beautiful step-around of the Black IPA vs Cascadian Dark Ale battle.  As it is written as a Descriptor that is expecting Black IPA, there is nothing to stop the entrant from declaring the Descriptor as a Cascadian Dark Ale if it does indeed have the specific flavour profile of the Pacific Northwest hops and the correct malt balance!  Gordon mentioned Specialty IPA as a possible descriptor in his talk, but did not list it on his slides, so my assumption is that write-in style Descriptors would be allowed (so you could also list as, say, a Chocolate IPA or a Smoked IPA).
  • Gordon mentioned trying to change things to avoid people having to judge high-gravity and low-gravity beers together, but the IPAs will now have the Imperial-strength ones spread across the stylistic categories as Doubles.  I suppose that this does allow the organizers to sort out the IPAs by either strength or by colour/style.
  • I honestly don’t know what to think about replacing the Pilsner category with a Czech Lager category.  My first question is “Why?”  The second is “Wouldn’t splitting out German Lagers be a more distinct stylistic difference?”
  • The expansion of many categories, such as the Strong Ales and Stouts make a lot of sense.  Strong Ales cause intense palate fatigue – further splits in styles will help ease this, or allow organizers to spread the high-gravity stuff across more judges.  Stouts had way too many entries and further breakdown is good – at many competitions, it’s the stouts and the IPAs that overwhelm everything else in terms of numbers.
  • The reiteration of how things should be called out in the Spice/Herb/Vegetable styles is a necessary thing.  Entrants should be labeling their beers as being a Spice Beer or a Spice & Vegetable Beer – this is actually useful to the judges and organizers.  This was always the intent of the S/H/V Beer category.  In trying to avoid listing every permutation (spice beer, spice & herb beer, spice & vegetable beer, spice herb & vegetable beer, et al.), this intent was never adequately conveyed to the BJCP community – with the greater focus on description this time around, enforcing this is a very good idea.
  • I wonder about a few of the new styles.  Are there REALLY so many German leichtbiers, kellerbiers, topical stouts to need separate styles for each?
  • I think that the Historical Beer proposal could still stand to have some styles to split it up before the Descriptors are applied to specify the actual beer.  In the coming years, I believe that there will be a huge interest in historical re-creations, many of which will not fit elsewhere under current style listings.  I think a Primitive Beer style could be useful to separate the new-found interest in beers such as chicha that do not depend upon malted barley.  It may be useful to have an Unhopped Beer style as interest in historical beers continues to grow and be encouraged – this would allow a clear place to put gruits other than S/H/V Beer or Specialty.  Likewise a Historical Beer Hybrid could cover the ground between non-barley beers, gruits, and mead or wine crossovers.  Calling out a specific style groupings for Historical American Beer and Historical European Beer (vs a Historical World Beer?) could be useful differentiation for beer based on certain points in Euro-American technological advancement.  Of course, any of these style groupings would still require the specific beer to be called out as a Descriptor – but this mid-level grouping would allow organizers to split the historical beer entries more easily into logical groupings for the judges.
  • I’m not quite sure whether we even need to differentiate between the of ‘spices’ and ‘herbs’ in beers, wines, or meads.  Their use is very similar and they have the similar effect of sending the aroma/flavour direction of the beer into someplace that traditional ingredients do not reach.  I suggest we simply consider herbs to be a type of spice and simply things to Spice/Vegetable throughout.
  • It seems strange to see all meads requiring sweetness, carbonation, and strength while the style dictates the allowed extra ingredients – yet the traditional mead category lists the sweetness as styles.  It doesn’t feel right to have the same spec at different levels for meads, but from the knowledge that pure-honey meads have been the largest mead entry category, I know it was needed to split them apart.  However, this time, it would be nice to see traditional mead at the style level in with braggot, historical mead, and specialty mead with all three required Descriptors.
  • I dig all the alterations to ciders, though!
  • The BJCP has acknowledged the randomly-impetuous decision involved with naming Imperial IPA as a style.  Like the Black-vs-Cascadian issue, the Imperial-vs-double issue has long led to heated discussions (and even rumours of an occasional fistfight).  The industry itself, while having no clear consensus, has been leaning towards the use of Double IPA in the majority of late, and the 2014 BJCP is reflecting that.  It is interesting to note, however, that the industry has only settled on ‘double’ for IPAs – most over-strength beers outside of IPAs are being labeled as Imperial hefes, Imperial reds, Imperial browns, etc.  The widespread use of the term ‘Imperial’ outside of Russian Imperial stouts is purely the result of the earlier BJCP decision to use Imperial IPA as a style name.  Only time will tell how this change will proliferate through the market.  I think this will reinforce the industry lean towards ‘double’ and we will see more Double IPAs than Imperial IPAs.  Whether there become more double reds and double browns than Imperial reds and browns, only time will tell.
  • Dealing with re-numbering after so many years of judges having memorized them, there will be much confusion during discussions.  Likewise, organization for competitions and all of the forms will need to change slightly to adjust to the changes.  There will be many people asking “2008 or 2014?”
  • As Chip Walton puts it at the end of his video recording of the presentation:  “The BJCP is being progressive, and proactive, and seeing the changes and the evolution in beer, and instead of, you know, sticking to those categories as they stand and forcing everything into place, they’re lettin’ it kind of . . . they’re opening the gate and they’re redefining things and they’re helping us redefine what we do in brewing as they go along, and I think that’s amazing.”

Like the list of styles itself, the reasons for the changes are myriad.  Some are logical splits of categories/styles that had way too many entries to manage well.  Some are reinterpretations to reflect the original sources more accurately.  Some are to accommodate future changes (prime example being Gordon talking about the heavier use of Descriptors to avoid needing to renumber categories or styles again).  Some seem a little random.  Look at each change yourself and think about why it’s being proposed, if it really makes sense alongside the rest of the style guidelines, if it’s really an accurate depiction of expected entries, and whether it would be judging easier or more confusing.  Speak up!

Places to voice your opinions:

  • Right here on this blog, just respond to any of the posts.  WordPress forces me to moderate and approve posts by hand, but as long as you’re on-topic and not too offensive, I’ll approve pretty much anything.
  • Chip is encouraging everyone to post responses at any of the Chop & Brew locations: website, youtube presentation page, or facebook.
  • Twitter feeds:  @DarkBroodBrews (Me) or @chopandbrew (Chip) to discuss our posts.  Other possible feeds are @BJCPComms, @GordonStrong, @HomebrewAssoc, or @brewingnetwork.
  • Finally, direct comments may be emailed to style@bjcp.org.

From the Horse’s Mouth

Obviously, this is all my interpretation of Gordon’s presentation to the 2014 National Homebrew Convention, which is, in turn, his interpretation of the conclusions of the panel working on this update (who are spread far and wide).  If you don’t know his name yet, you haven’t done much with beer judging or the BJCP – Gordon is the President of the BJCP, not by dint of elections, but because he has accumulated more judging experience than anybody else in the world . . . and by a significant margin.  His experience points rank him as a Grand Master Level VIII – there are no other judges ranked above Level V (and only three of them, only three at Level IV, and only five at Level III).  If you would like to see for yourself what he has to say, the Beer Judge Certification Program has shared his presentation slides as a PDF file.

Gordon Strong’s Slides from NHC 2014 (direct link)

If you don’t know him, Chip Walton is the beerophile videoman behind Northern Brewer’s first set of Brewing TV episodes (with Jay Keeler and Mike Dawson), and who now does video marketing work for Summit Brewing Company.  He is also the creator of the Chop and Brew video blog – one might easily notice that he and I have some similar passions. 😉  Chip has been working hard to record a number of the wonderfully informative presentations at the National Homebrew Convention and will be editing and posting them for everybody over the coming months.  Aware of the time-sensitive nature of this one, he has already edited and posted Gordon’s entire presentation to his blog and youtube accounts.

Gordon Strong’s NHC 2014 Presentation

Finally, I have put together an Excel spreadsheet tracking the changes.  The Excel file contains one tab that lists the 2008 BJCP styles and a second tab that tracks the changes into the 2014 proposals.  If you’re not interested in playing around with the information on the sheet, I have also output it as a PDF file that will print on two 8.5″x11″ landscape pages.

2008-14 BJCP Changes Excel / 2008-14 BJCP Changes PDF

(one final round of updating and I’ll upload these two files)

Over the next few weeks, the BJCP will post the full text of the proposed 2014 Style Guidelines and there will follow a comment period of up to a couple of months before being closed to write the final draft.  Then forms will need to be updated, all the versions of the BJCP software (competition software, web apps, and phone apps), new exams, new organizer guidelines, etc. – Gordon says he hopes to have it all phased in by the beginning of 2015.  Of course, then will follow the updates from everybody else, like updates for BeerSmith and such.

Be sure to provide some feedback!  Make your voice heard!  These are OUR guidelines that we use on a regular basis around the globe.  The mighty Brewers Association style list used for the GABF will likely reflect the changes to the BJCP in the years to come.  The entire craft beer industry reflects in beer styles brewed and in naming conventions how the BJCP organizes and defines beer.  I encourage you to comment on these posts and start a good discussion on the subject.  By weighing in on this subject, you personally have the opportunity to have a direct influence on the future direction, operation, and names used across the world in the beer hobby and industry.  Chip has also encouraged everyone to post comments on his youtube page for Gordon’s presentation.  And of course, use the BJCP forums!  This is our chance to mold the style guidelines for the future – it will be a long, long time before an update of this magnitude is considered again.

See also:  BJCP Update Part 1 – History of Beer Styles, BCJP Update Part 2 – Overview and Lagers/Hybrid Styles, BJCP Update Part 3 – Ales and Specialty Beers.

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BJCP Update Part 3 – Ales and Specialty Beers

Continuing from BJCP Update Part 1 – History of Beer Styles, and BJCP Update Part 2 – Overview and Lagers/Hybrid Beers, we move on to the 2014 proposed changes to the BJCP Style Guide in the areas of ales and specialty beers.  These are the categories of beer that have the most entrants, the most variation, and the most contention.  Here is where the enhanced and expanded concept of Descriptors really steps into the ring swinging.

It’s also the section that includes the most uproarious new style – the oxymoronic Black IPA (or is it Cascadian Dark Ale?).  Everyone wants a definitive ‘what is a black IPA’ and a ‘what is NOT a black IPA’ to work with.  (What’s next?  Dark Pale Ale?  Schwarzweisse?  LOL.)  With the use of descriptors, the powers that recommend have easily stepped around this issue – and put an end to the Imperial IPA vs Double IPA discussion at the same time.  (More on that below.)

English Pale Ale

  • Standard/Ordinary Bitter naming simplified to Ordinary Bitter.
  • Special/Best/Premium Bitter naming simplified to Best Bitter.
  • Extra Special/Strong Bitter naming simplified to Strong Bitter.  Can’t say I’m entirely happy about this one.  I like the idea (see the explanation in the Overview in my last post), but not the names.  I see the concept of similar naming by strength, but I would have preferred the ESB name stay in use within the Style Guidelines.
  • A new style that has become popular in England in recent decades is English Golden Ale, also known as Summer Ale or Golden Bitter.

Scottish and Irish Ale

  • The Scots don’t refer to their beers by shilling price (60/-, et al.) any more, so the names are being updated to reflect current usage.  The names in use reflect a simpler differentiation, so the number of different-strength Scottish ales have been reduced.
  • Scottish 60/- and Scottish 70/- ales have been combined into the new Scottish Light style.
  • Scottish 80/- and Scottish 90/- ales (sometimes submitted as 80/- ales and sometimes as Scotch ales) have been combined into the new Scottish Heavy style.
  • Scotch Ale, a naming source of MUCH confusion in the beer world, has been renamed to Scottish Wee Heavy, reflecting both current usage and eliminating the Scottish/Scotch naming confusion.
  • Much to my sadness at the continued nationalism displayed, Irish Red Ale currently remains with the Scottish ales.  Personally, I’d like to see this moved into the English Brown Ale category with Milds, perhaps renaming the category British Amber Ale.  The flavour profile does not belong with Scottish Ales.  In fact, British Amber Ale could include Milds and Irish Reds, while British Brown Ale could include the brown ales and the Scottish ales – much more appropriate groupings, if the focus remains on judging the final products’ traits.

American Ale

  • Perhaps because it’s a simple catchall category for everything that does not fit somewhere specific, American Pale Ale, American Amber Ale, and American Brown Ale remain the same.

English Brown Ale

  • There has been confusion about the difference between a light-coloured Mild and a lightly-hopped Ordinary Bitter.  In order to clear this up, Mild is being renamed Dark Mild.  This should make the differences between an English Pale Ale (lighter colour, lighter hops), an Ordinary Bitter (lighter colour, heavier hops), and a Mild (darker colour, lighter hops) clearer to a potential entrant.
  • Southern English Brown Ale is (a) not called that by the English and (b) near impossible to find commercially, so it is being renamed London Brown Ale and being described as a Descriptor under the new Historical Beer category.
  • Northern English Brown Ale (also not called that by the English) is being renamed to simply English Brown Ale, as it reflects the brown ales currently on the market in England.

Porter

  • Nobody in the world outside of BJCP judges has ever heard of a Brown Porter or a Robust Porter – small wonder entrants often have a hard time deciding how to enter a porter in competition.
  • In reality, the Brown Porter style describes the modern British porter, so the name and description are being altered to more accurately portray an English Porter.
  • In reality, the Robust Porter style describes the drier, bolder, roastier porter made in the USA, so the name and description are being altered to more accurately portray an American Porter.
  • Baltic Porter remains the same.  IMHO, however, they are getting harder to find and seldom seen in competition – Baltic Porter may be a good candidate for moving into the Historical Beer category.

Stout

  • Some things remain the same.  Sweet Stout, Oatmeal Stout, American Stout, and Imperial Stout remain unchanged.
  • Dry Stout is being more accurately renamed Irish Stout and the description is being revised to describe the Irish house stouts, often served on nitro tap.
  • In practice, stouts served in Ireland are generally around 4% ABV, so the higher gravity 5.5-6% stouts that are generally bottled for export are being split off into the new category Irish Extra Stout.
  • Perhaps Irish Stout and Irish Extra Stout will end up grouped with Scottish and Irish Ales?
  • In addition, due to popular request from the southern hemisphere, Foreign Extra Stout will remain while Tropical Stout is split off as a new category.  Although with the new dependence upon Descriptors, it seems the Tropical Stout substyle would be an ideal candidate.

India Pale Ale

  • Okay, I know…this is the one y’all are waiting for.  It’s also some of the biggest change in the entire list.
  • First, there’s this:  there are only two styles of IPA:  English IPA and American IPA and they will stay English IPA and American IPA.
  • Imperial IPA has been deleted.  It was an arbitrary name chosen by the BJCP that became part of common beer parlance.  Confusion with Imperial IPAs and Double IPAs has led to both being used in the marketplace, and Double IPA is becoming the preferred term.  At this point, the BJCP will only recognize the term “Imperial” as referencing Russian Imperial Stout.  Of course, the industry has grabbed the term and run with it, giving us Imperial Reds, Imperial Browns, Imperial Hefes, etc. that will still continue to be downgraded for being too strong for their styles unless they are entered as some sort of Specialty beer.
  • IPAs will now have a Descriptor for strength.  A Standard strength IPA does not have to be stated as such – if no descriptor is written, the assumption will be as a Standard IPA.  Lower-gravity IPAs may be listed as a Session IPA.  Higher-gravity IPAs are to be listed as a Double IPA (remember that Imperial IPA no longer exists).
  • There will also be a Descriptor for the IPA substyle.  Examples listed by Gordon Strong include Black IPA, Brown IPA, Red IPA, White IPA, and Rye IPA. This is also where you may add your own notes (for example, you may list your American IPA as a Chocolate IPA or your English IPA as an English Smoked IPA).
  • He also listed Belgian IPA on the same list, but I’m not sure how that would work, listing a Belgian IPA as a substyle of an American IPA?  Perhaps the Belgian IPA is more appropriate at the same tier as the English/American style split?
  • You can also use multiple Descriptors from the list.  Thus it is possible that a new IPA entry may list a Red Rye American Double IPA as the beer style, for example.
  • Crazy, yah?  But remember, this is also about taking the categories that have ridiculous numbers of entries and splitting them apart for manageable judging.  This will allow a competition to have the often-several tables of IPA judges be able to have a more consistent palate at each table, granting more accurate judging and less palate fatigue.

German Wheat and Rye Beer

  • The category is being simplified to include wheat beers only, removing the rye.
  • Weizen/Weissbier is being renamed to simply Weissbier.  I can understand the confusion of Weizen and Wiezen, but don’t agree with the Weissbier choice personally.  This is one of those American-viewpoint naming issues.  The fact is, in Germany, what we know as hefeweizen is more commonly called hefeweiss or simply weiss.  The BJCP is trying to correct the industry usage to reflect the naming in the style’s home country.  However, an awful lot of people are going to wonder where to put a hefeweizen.  And surprisingly, I see no accomodation for krystallweizen.  Perhaps Hefeweizen and Krystallweizen are better as Descriptors for the new Weissbier category?
  • It get worse when we see that Dunkelweizen, in the same category, remains unchanged as Dunkelweizen.  Somehow, I would really like to see the terms Hefeweizen, Krystallweizen, and Dunkelweizen at the same tier, side-by-side with Weizenbock.
  • Speaking of Weizenbock, it is being renamed to Dunkels Bock (which sounds strange to me, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a beer labelled as a Dunkels Bock, although I’ve seen a few Dunkelbocks).
  • Roggenbier (German rye beer) has been hard to find for some time and is being removed to the Historical Beer category (if it were still easy to find commercially, it would have moved to the Alternative Grains category).

Belgian and French Ale

  • A weird junk drawer of north-central European ale styles, most of it remains the same.
  • Witbier, Belgian Pale Ale, Saison, and Biere de Garde remain unchanged.
  • Personally, I think a Continental Wheat Ale category would be nice, including witbier, hefeweizen, dunkelweizen, and weizenbock.
  • Biere de Garde and Biere de Noel seem to be disappearing from the marketplace.  Perhaps these should move under Historical Beer or be considered a Descriptor-level substyle to Saison?
  • There is a new Trappist Singel style for monastic-style table beers that will probably land in this category.
  • The Belgian Specialty Ale category has been deleted.  Many will move to Belgian IPA, Trappist Singel, or Specialty – Clone Beer.

Sour Ale

  • Berliner Weisse and Flanders Red Ale remain the same.
  • Flanders Brown Ale/Oud Bruin has been renamed to simply Oud Bruin.
  • Lambic (I assume this includes the Gueuze and Fruit Lambic styles as well) remains the same naming-wise, but now must list the Carbonation and Sweetness levels as Descriptors.

Belgian Strong Ale

  • Praise be!  An entire category that remains untouched!
  • Belgian Blond Ale, Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Tripel, Belgian Golden Strong Ale, and Belgian Dark Strong Ale remain the same.
  • Personally, I would like to see a Monastic Beer category spun off including Singel, Dubbel, Tripel, and Quadrupel.  This would leave Pale, Blond, Golden Strong, and Dark Strong together for a basic Belgian Ale catchall category.

Strong Ale

  • Old Ale is being redefined to explicitly require an aged character.
  • Old Ale without the requisite aged character is being spun off into a new style called English Strong Ale.
  • A new category named American Strong Ale fills the remaining gaps, creating a new home for difficult-to-place beers such as Stone’s Arrogant Bastard (the example Gordon Strong used).
  • English Barleywine and American Barleywine remain unchanged.
  • Although they will be supplemented by a new Wheatwine style.

Historical Beer

    • So here’s a weird one.  We finally have separate styles listed under Fruit Beer and Specialty Beer, so we can avoid having the same thing written for category and style on a beer (something that can confuse over-imbibing judges’ beer goggles) – more on that below – and BAM! there’s a new category with NO styles whatsoever.  Instead of listing styles that may come or go in popularity, and wanting to accommodate new styles without needing to renumber again, the suggestion being made is to list the actual historical style of a beer entered into the Historical Beer category as a Descriptor.  The new BJCP Style Guide will describe the basic details of a number of example historical styles, for judges to reference.  However, entrants are NOT restricted to the example Descriptor styles listed.  So here’s what was directly mentioned in one way or another:
    • London Brown Ale – as noted above, the former Southern English Brown Ale is the historical style, so it has been renamed and the description will move here.
    • Roggenbier / Rauchbier – as noted elsewhere, these styles are less in commercial production than they were and their descriptions are being moved here as well.
    • As noted earlier, the Classic American Pilsner has been more accurately renamed as Pre-Prohibition Lager and moved here.
    • A Pre-Prohibition Porter has been proposed, to cover the styles known as East Coast Porter or Pennsylvania Porter, typified by Yuengling Porter.
    • Gose – a salty, coriander-dosed refreshing light beer (recently highlighted by Samuel Adam’s 26.2 beer for the Boston Marathon).
    • Grodziskie – also called Gratzer, this is a Polish style of beer made with 100% smoked wheat malt (the entire reason that Oak-Smoked Wheat Malt is even on the homebrew market), often with bread yeast
    • Lichtenainer – a sour style of smoked beer
    • Kentucky Common – a darker style of Cream Ale, currently in resurgence
    • Sahti – a Finnish beer made with juniper, often with bread yeast (recently getting press in the craft beer publications)As one might expect, selecting a Historical Beer style that is not delineated would require some notes about the style for the judges to use – and would face a greater challenge being accurately judged for the style (and brewing to style IS the focus of what we’re judging at a BJCP event).

Fruit Beer

Gordon Strong on the BJCP definition of “fruit”

We are being more explicit in how we define “fruit.” We are explicitly saying that we’re using the culinary definition of fruit and not the botanical version, because I don’t know how many times I’ve heard arguing about that. And we actually do use the phrse in here . . . umm . . . try to remember it exactly . . . “If you have to use the word ‘technically’ to justify a beer being in this category, that’s NOT what we mean.” Because . . . you wind up with cocnut, or, you know, tomato or something like that – and people argue endlessly on that. So we just . . . you know, if you wouldn’t eat it for breakfast, it’s probably not a fruit.

  • Fruit Beer, a formerly style-less category, now has three separate styles.  As always, all fruit beers are required to list their Base Style and what fruits are added.
  • The Fruit Beer style remains as a designation, although it now refers to a beer from a classic base style with only fruit added.
  • The new Fruit and Spice Beer style in pretty self-explanatory.  Be sure to list all of the featured fruit and spice additions.
  • A third catchall is the Specialty Fruit Beer style.  This may include fruits and overlap into the herbs or vegetables additive lists.  This does NOT include sour fruit beers, however.  Again, list all fruits and special ingredients.

Spiced Beer

  • The category formerly known as Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer is now named Spiced Beer, with three styles listed.
  • The first grouping is where the old category designation Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer lies now at the style level.  Although it is still written this way, Gordon Strong pointed out in his presentation that it was never meant to be said or used in full that way.  He stressed that the original intent was to have a grouping that would allow people to enter a Spice Beer, and Herb Beer, a Vegetable Beer, a Spice and Vegetable Beer, etc.  He was not quite clear whether this should be written as the style name itself or as a Descriptor for the style.
  • The second style group under Spiced Beer is the old Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer that has been renamed as Winter Seasonal Beer (a little easier to read and is descriptive of the full range of winter brews involving spiced.
  • A new style is Autumn Seasonal Beer.  Obviously, this includes pumpkin beers and harvest beers – there are many styles that capture the bounty and flavours of the season, just remember that this style needs to include some sort of spices, herbs, or vegetables.

Smoked Beer

  • Classic Rauchbier has been renamed to the more broad Classic Style Smoked Beer.  True German Rauchbier is rare enough that it is a Descriptor style under Historical Beers.
  • Other Smoked Beer has been renamed Specialty Smoked Beer.

Wood-Aged Beer

  • Many judges complained about the palate fatigue of having to judge smoked and wood beers together, so the decision was made to separate them into two different categories, each with a classic style and a specialty style.
  • Wood-Aged Beer remains as a style listing, although the definition is being clarified that this style is meant for first-use wood (i.e. clean wood flavour).
  • A Specialty Wood-Aged Beer style has been added to encompass all of the beers aged in liquor/wine barrels, as well as the standard special creations that homebrewers come up with.

Specialty Beer

  • Again, a formerly style-less category, Specialty Beer not only has its own styles now (to break up the often HUGE number of specialty beers that don’t fit in other categories), but two new categories have been added to further break it up.
  • One new Specialty Beer style is Clone Beer.  Like it sounds, this is meant to pick up (amongst other things) many of the clones that ended up clogging the Belgian Specialty Beer style.
  • Another new style is Mixed-Style Beer.  This is for things like Marzen/Oktoberfests made with ale yeast, etc.
  • Finally, the old Specialty Beer category has been replaced with the Experimental Beer style – something that Gordon says brings the grouping much closer to the original intent.

American Wild Ale

  • An all-new category that was formerly under the umbrella of Specialty Beer, this does not necessarily mean sour or literally wild organisms are required.
  • The first style is Brett Beer, meant to include 100% Brett and Brett-finished beers.
  • The second is Mixed-Fermentation Sour Beer.  Fairly self-explanatory.
  • The third is Soured Fruit Beer (that do not fall under Lambics and the like).

Alternative Fermentables

  • The last new category in beer is for beers showcasing different grains.  American Rye Beer is now here.
  • The new style Alternative Grain Beer encompasses all of the standard and non-standard grains and sugar sources that can be used in beer.  Some native beers, such as Chicha, may be a tough call to enter here or under Historical Beer.
  • There is also a separate Honey Beer style.  Use of honey has gotten very popular and this is to help judges split the category for mini-BOS rounds.

I gotta run off to work at the brewery.  Hopefully, I’ll have time to get through the meads and ciders and a final wrapup tonight.  Cheers!

Stay tuned for BJCP Update Part 4 – Meads/Ciders and Wrapup posting soon!

BJCP Update Part 2 – Overview and Lagers/Hybrid Styles

Continuing from BJCP Update Part 1 – History of Beer Styles, we delve into the 2014 proposed changes to the BJCP Style Guide.

A small revision in 2008 caused a small hurricane of grumbling – one would never have guessed it was a minor update from the uproar, but that’s what happens with passionate people.

Now, the BJCP has announced the next long-awaited update (through a presentation by Gordon Strong) – and whoo BOY, it’s a DOOZIE!  Huge changes proposed throughout, even different information to be specified by the entrant for some beers.  I will step through it all with you here, as now is our time to review and comment.  In general, there was some effort put into simplifying the descriptions and names to reduce confusion and redundancy.

  • For one thing, all of the comments such as: “No diacetyl.” are being eliminated – as judges, we should primarily be looking for what IS supposed to be there.  Unless the style states it is acceptable, assume that it isn’t.
  • Many descriptions are being rewritten to focus on the experience of the taster and less on the ingredients and/or process – we judges can guess all we want about what was done, but our job is to evaluate the final product.
  • Many descriptions are just being simplified but removing unneeded information.
  • Likewise, many style names are being simplified.  The original idea was that Jackson’s special bitter, best bitter, and premium bitter were similar enough to consider one style (although there were subtle differences originally) – common practice has led to people actually referring to the style out loud, saying:  “special-best-premium bitter,” which was not the intent.  To make things easier on everyone, this style is now simply best bitter.
  • Many styles being updated or added have suffered from years being interpreted from an American view and are being corrected to properly reflect how they are viewed in their countries of origin.
  • Some beer styles have been moved around to avoid beer judges facing a category that has low- and high-ABV beers in the same grouping.
  • Some categories have been split or added to allow more-similar flavour profiles to be isolated together (such as smoke beers being separated from wood-aged beers).
  • A few styles currently require Descriptors.  Fruit and specialty beers need to name their base style, meads have to list sweetness, strength, and carbonation, etc.  This concept is being HUGELY expanded.  Styles that now have required Descriptors include IPAs, lambics, and pretty much every kind of specialty beer – many with several different required Descriptors.
  • For conventions of this post, I will be colouring the text for the beer styles.  Red text will signify a 2008 style or category name, while green text will signify the 2014 names.  If something is being called out as a specific required Descriptor, you will see it in orange text.  If a name remains black, it is just being used for descriptive purposes.  I hope this helps to keep things clear.

Okay, so why don’t we step through the changes, shall we?

Light Lager Category

  • Lite American Lager renamed to American Light Lager (for consistent naming conventions).
  • Standard American Lager renamed to American Lager, which now includes the lower-ABV range from Premium American Lager.
  • the former high-ABV range of Premium American Lager renamed to International Pale Lager.
  • Munich Helles remains the same.
  • Dortmunter Export renamed to German Exportbier.
  • German Pilsner has been renamed German Pils and moved to the Light Lager category.
  • German Leichtbier added (like an American Light Lager with German character).
  • Kellerbier added (both Munich and Franconian variants).  This may be listed as two separate styles, or it may be one style with the variant (Munich/Franconian) needing to be listed as a Descriptor (how I have shown it in my tables).
  • It is possible that Munich Helles, German Exportbier, German Pils, and German Leichtbier may be grouped as some sort of German Pale Lager style as all be listed as Descriptors.

Category 2 – Pilsner / Czech Lager

  • Pilsner is dead as a category – it is now replaced with Czech Lagers.  A new catchall category for all flavours Czech, it includes the new styles of Czech Light Lager, Czech Amber Lager, and Czech Dark Lager.
  • As mentioned above, German Pilsner has been moved into the Light Lager category.
  • Bohemian Pilsner remains as the anchor for the category, although it is now being called Czech Pilsner.

European Amber Lager

  • A new catchall style, International Amber Lager, heads the category, including all of the amber lagers that are not distinctly Czech – sort of the lager equivalent of American Amber Ale.
  • Vienna Lager remains the same.
  • Oktoberfest/Marzen is being split up.  The traditional copper malty Oktoberfest ale shall hence be known exclusively as Marzen.  To Germans, a beer known as an ‘Oktoberfest’ must have been brewed by a Munich brewery and served at the Oktoberfest event – something most of us can’t manage.  To avoid issues with the semi-appellation, the choice is for the more historical name of Marzen, or March beer (when it was traditionally brewed).
  • What is served at Oktoberfest in Germany today is NOT Marzen.  It is a much lighter style, often called Wiezen.  With some confusion already stemming from the similar names of hefe/dunkelweizen, Berlinerweisse,  weissebier, and witbier, the powers that be have decreed Festbier to be a much more descriptive name to use.  I can’t disagree with that.

Dark Lager

  • Dark American Lager renamed International Dark Lager.
  • Munich Dunkel remains the same.
  • Schwarzbier (Black Beer) naming simplified to just Schwarzbier.

Bock

  • Maibock/Helles Bock naming simplified to just Helles Bock.
  • Traditional Bock is more descriptively Dunkels Bock, as it is called in Germany.
  • Doppelbock and Eisbock remain the same.

Light Hybrid Beer

  • Cream Ale, Blonde Ale, and Kolsch remain the same
  • American Wheat or Rye Beer has been simplified to just American Wheat Beer.  Rye-centric beers are now meant to be in the Alternative Grains category (except for rye IPAs – more on that in the next post).
  • By popular demand from long-clamouring Aussies, the Australian Sparkling Ale style has been added

Amber Hybrid Beer

  • Northern German Altbier has been eliminated and subsumed into International Amber Lager – although you can probably still list it as a Descriptor.
  • California Common Beer renamed to simply California Common, reflecting current usage.
  • Dusseldorf Alt renamed simply to Alt.

In BJCP Update Part 3 – Ales and Specialty Beers later tonight, I will continue the review of the proposed changes.  Time for a beer break for me!

BJCP Update Part 1 – History of Beer Styles

Michael Jackson’s original work into sorting the Beers of the World into categories and styles in order to be able to compare them was a groundbreaking way to look at the huge variety of beers across the western hemisphere.  It was an immensely useful discussion tool for beer-o-philes and brewers, to compare the results of different ingredients and techniques – spawning an entirely new vocabulary around beer.  It also become an indispensable crutch for the beer sales industry to describe unseen products to potential customers, finally allowing marketers to avoid the dreaded:  “it’s like ThisOther Brand, but . . .” descriptions, who then conveyed this terminology down through the tiers.  After wholesalers and retailers passed it to taphouses and servers, it rapidly got picked up by the consumers – who included a number of homebrewers, starting to organize into larger clubs and groups.  It was inevitable that the homebrewing community would latch onto this new way of looking at and describing beers.  Competitions between homebrewers were getting larger and harder to select a single Best of Show from the wide variety – many had begun to apply some of Jackson’s categories to split the large number of entries into groups, allowing beers to be more accurately judged against more similar beers.

Geeks being geeks, heated discussions arose over interpretation of which category a beer belonged in – or about which categories had been selected from the large list to sort the beers with.  From this silliness, the first inkling of what would become the Beer Judge Certification Program was born – first, to delineate and codify a standard set of styles for the purposes of consistently running homebrew competitions to the same standards and definitions – their secondary purpose was to write up a “Robert’s Rules of Order” for running competitions – and thirdly, to determine a method to certify someone as adequately knowledgeable to fairly and accurately judge a beer.  Heady list, that.

The biggest problem was that, like Imperial measurements, the categories are based on real-world observation and not consistent specifications.  By way of analogy, the Imperial measurement system (inches/feet/yards) was based on the length of feet, fingers, and strides, the height of dogs and horses, etc. – which of course, varied depending on who was doing the measuring.  (i.e. Sue and Henri measuring the same distance with their feet will get very different results, just as a Belgian and a Londoner mean very different things by ‘dark ale’.)

Most of Jackson’s beer styles were based on his own experiences, so ales from Britain and Belgium have the most differentiation.  His general preference for ales also categorized a significant number of German ales.  For example, most beers are not considered separate categories based on strength, if all else is equal, yet Scottish ales have 4-5 separately-identified strength levels, English Bitters have 3, as do Porters.  Mild, Southern Brown Ale, Northern Brown Ale, Old Ale, and Barleywine are distinguished primarily by their increasing strength and body (although there are some subtler differences).  Belgium has a bewildering array of bizarre and unusual beers that are completely different from most of the European beers’.  The sheer size of the market forced American Lagers to be split into several styles on the basis of strength and/or colour (although, compared to most beer styles worldwide, they are all pretty much the same).  Germany had some of the strictest brewing laws in the world and many styles were only permitted to be made by certain brewers or in certain locations.  In fact, many cities only made one consistent style, leading Jackson to name many styles as the locals did, simply after the name of the city:  Dusseldorfer (Alt), Bitburger (pilsner), Munchen (Marzen), Dortmunder, Einbeckisch (bock), Vienna, Cologne (Kolsch).  Many styles were also named for their traits, such as dark ale (dunkel), the black lager from Bitburger (schwarzbier), the white beer from Berlin (Berlinerweisse), the yeasty white wheat beer from Munich (hefeweizen), its crystal-clear filtered version (krystalweizen), or its dark counterpart (dunkelweizen).

Category groupings were also complicated.  British ales were essentially grouped by colours into light, brown, porter, and stout – yet the historical English arrogance still forced Jackson to separate out Irish and Scottish ales, (although the English browns of the time ranged from light and bready (like Irish reds), through smoky and malty (like Scottish ales), up to nearly as dark as porters without the roast character.  Likewise, English and Irish stouts were only slightly different in the use of roasted vs. black barley.  Belgian beers were grouped more by characteristics, grouping all of the wide array of differing sours into one group (then throwing German Berlinerweisse in with them), the abbey/monastic styles in another, and pretty much everything else between England and Germany/Austria into a third.  This last group includes the crisp-clean, cloudy Witbier, which logically, one might group with wheat beers, or perhaps white ales.  It includes the Belgian pale ale, something that describes a malty, light-coloured beer in the gravity range of a dubbel (a monastic beer from the second group) with a little less fruit than a tripel would have – and he completely ignored the in-house abbey table beers, now known as singels.  Interestingly, it also includes the Belgian/French farmhouse ales full of spices and wild grains (and often yeasts), such as saisons.  Sort of a wild card category based on the geographic area.  Yet lager styles, overall, are grouped more my colour than geographic or historic relations.

Does all this lead to a bit of a confusing mess?  You bet it does.  The Beer Judge Certification Program worked very hard to pull all of these different concepts into a usable set of categories and style descriptions, and for the most part, it has worked very well for everything from in-club competitions to the National Homebrewers’ Competition. The Brewers’ Association now has their own (expanded) set of styles and categories for use in commercial competitions, such as the Great American Beer Festival.  From the start of the ‘craft beer revolution,’ with Jim Koch educating American drinkers that there was more to beer than American light lager and cream ale, the craft beer industry has embraced the use of style definitions to market their products.  As the industry exploded in leaps and bounds, the BJCP and BA styles became totally ingrained in the language and thinking at all levels – until it became so accepted that the newest generation of brewers are rebelling against being confined by ‘the rules’ and are celebrating each and every ‘not-to-style’ brew they release.

Stay tuned for BJCP Update Part 2 – Overview and Lagers/Hybrid Styles in a short bit.

19th Annual Boston Homebrew Competition

On Saturday, I headed down old stomping grounds in Boston to judge at the 19th Annual Boston Homebrew Competition.  After the usual miss-at-least-one turn drive through town, I wound my way through the levels of the parking garage and found a spot.  After getting to street level, checking the facades and realizing I had just exited the building I was looking for, I found the security desk and headed upstairs.  A less organized bunch than I’ve seen at other competitions, I got myself checked in and after much wandering, found my morning session table.bhc-roomMy morning session assignment was for Category 18 – Belgian Strong Ales.  The selection included a few Blond Ales, a few Dubbels, several Tripels, a couple of Golden Strong Ales, and a whole lot of Dark Strong Ales.  There were two tables assigned the category, so the stewards split the selection between us as availability allowed.  As can generally be expected, the quality of entries ranged from “do I have to taste this?” to fairly decent – sadly, our mini-BOS selections only merited scores in the high 30’s.

bhc-table

We were one of the largest categories, so were one of the last groups to finish (it took the IPA groups even longer to find some consensus).  We moved to the next room for lunch to find an impressively-catered spread of sandwiches and wraps of all kinds, a couple of salads, and big plates of chips and pretzels with accompanying dips.  Someone had made a frothy fruit lemonade and was serving it from a keg through a mini jockey box.  After lunchtime concluded, we gathered back in the judging room for more confused shuffling as we located our new table locations and then more shuffling of judges to ensure all categories were covered.  I found my way to the Sours (category 22) table with mixed feelings of dread and anticipation.

bhc-sourstable

The Sours category is notorious for being a complete wild card.  Acid levels, flavours, mouthfeel, carbonation, etc. all run the full gamut – but nearly always palate-wreckingly intense.  It’s also known for horrendously horrible entries and divinely-inspired magical elixirs.

We managed to avoid both extremes.  While there were a couple of entries that we didn’t want to finish, and a few that were clearly not intentional sours, the overall level of quality was pretty good.  There was a Berlinerweisse, a few Flanders Reds, an Oud Bruin, a pair of Gueuze, and a Fruit Lambic.  One of the Gueuze really stood out and was the only entry of the day that I scored above the 30’s – and in fact, turned out to the be the competition’s Best of Show winner!  It had the nuanced layers of a blended beer, with notes of aged sherry qualities and bright spritzy sweetness over a more solid mineral-and-malt tang with sparkling hints of various fruits.

I had two entries in this competition:  my Smoky Twilight RauchAle and my Gryffon’s Talon Continental Wheat IPA.  Neither won an award (no one from Brew Free or Die was represented amongst the winners this year), but both scored what I would consider appropriately.  My scores are online (a decent 32 on the wheat IPA – probably lost style points for the wheat, and an expected lower 23.5 – I thought it merited a 25-26, but didn’t taste the competition).  I won’t know more until I get my actual judging sheets back in the mail, but I’ll post notes when they do.

All in all, a good day judging, got to taste the winning beer, and off to the third state of the day to visit a friend and share some growlers of ManchVegas IPA and John Stark Porter from the brewpub and a few bombers of my homebrew for the rest of the weekend.

The Boston Wort Processors have posted the full results on the event’s homepage.

BJCP Exam Sheets Back

Today in the mail, I received photocopies of the beer judging sheets that I filled out during the BJCP Tasting Exam that I sat for on January 25.  According to the official BJCP Exam Administration Instructions/Procedures:

The exam administrator is responsible for making a complete copy of the exams, [and] should retain the copies until the BJCP Exam Director confirms that the originals have been received… The administrator should then provide a copy of their individual exam to each of the examinees. This copy is the only copy that will be made available to the examinees…

Scoring and Turnaround Time:
Exams should be mailed to the exam director as soon as possible after the exam date, but no later than one week after the test. 

So I think this means that the current status is that the Exam Director has confirmed receipt of copies of my entries. Now comes the serious waiting, from what the same document has to say:

It is anticipated that the exam results will be returned within sixteen to twenty weeks of the exam date.  Approximately half of this time is used by volunteer National and higher ranked judges to do the comprehensive scoring of the exams. Their scoring and feedback is then reviewed by both an Associate Exam Director and the Exam Director before being sent to the Assistant Exam Director for processing and recording of the results.

So in theory, I guess I’ll be hearing back with my actual final scores some time between mid-May and mid-June.

Have to say, though, that I read through my sheets again – and yes, I’m definitely still confident in scoring quite well. Prost!