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 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.

Certified Cicerone Exam Day

The morning of Thursday, February 27, I woke up early and had a big breakfast on my way out of town.  Driving into the sunrise, the song “Daybreak” by a friend of mine, Dave Osoff, was a perfect soundtrack.

Arriving at Merrimack Valley Distributors in Danvers, MA, I made my way upstairs to the conference room to find a number of somber-faced people awaiting the start of the exam.

Although there was not much talking going on, a couple of things were quickly apparent:  first, that most of the people there worked for MVD – and second, that the majority of the test-takers were re-taking the exam.  Two were on their third re-take.  Obviously, this is NOT an easy exam.  One examinee had come up from Pennsylvania for the exam!

The sheets on our desks restated the fact that discussing the contents of the exam in any sort of detail is grounds for revoking your certification.  We also had to pick a seven-digit “blind number” to go on each page of our exams.  This unique exam id # lets the graders split up the exams page-by-page to send out around the country for impartial grading.

The written portion of the exam is closed-book and scheduled for three hours.  It is mostly shorter write-in answer questions with a couple of longer ones and three full-length essays to write.  For many of these questions (and especially the essay ones), partials credit is available for imperfect answers . . . but not having taken the exam before, I’m not sure how generous they tend to be.

While I can’t discuss the specifics of what was on the exam, I will say that I was shocked at how much of the exam aligned with the practice exam available on the Cicerone web site.  Yes, there were some of the same questions (and many that were VERY similar), but more than that, the style and type of questions were consistent with the actual exam.  The biggest difficulty of this exam isn’t the individual questions – it’s the breadth of knowledge that you are expected to know in-depth and not knowing which of the details will be asked.

The was one question that actually stumped me – on long-draw draft line troubleshooting.  I’ve asked the question of a few brewers since (without mentioning the source) and they’re stumped too . . . one suggested it is a Kobayashi Maru scenario.   The one that really got me was a simple blank-out.  I’d studied the list of Trappist abbeys and when called upon to name a number of them, I blanked out after writing in Westvleteren and Chimay.

I finished the written portion in a little over two hours, a little less than halfway through the pack.  A couple of the examinees worked right until the last minute.  After a short bathroom break, I amused myself doodling until we were ready to start the tasting portion of the exam.

The Cicerone tasting exam consists of three parts.  You are expected to complete all three parts in 45 minutes.   For the first portion, you are presented with a sample beer that is your undoctored control and four samples of the same beer.  One is a control sample that matches the original and the other three have been doctored with adulterants to mimic common off-flavors in beer.  It was not hard to separate the doctored samples from the control, but the the levels were subtly low and it was difficult to pick out WHICH off-flavor we were tasting.  (We got to talk about the samples in the period after the tasting was over – the same sample had as many as three or four people detecting something different!)

The second portion of the tasting exam involved four more samples.  For each, we were told it was one of two styles and had to select the correct one.

The third portion of the tasting exam was the trickier real-world scenario of evaluating a returned beer.  Each of four samples was given to us.  We we told the brand of beer and whether it was from bottle or draft.  Our task was to decide it was worth serving – and if not, the reason why and probable cause.  This was very tough and it seemed nearly everybody got at least one wrong.

Finally, was the much-mysterious demonstration portion of the exam.  This is the part that had me pretty well freaked out – with the amount of material, I really had no idea what to expect and searched the net exhaustively for hints.  The best I found was a vague comment that it *might* have something to do with draft systems.  Yes, it did, but I won’t tell you what we had to do for our demonstration.

We each had three minutes alone in a small meeting room in front of a recording digital camera to demonstrate and explain our given task.  If you are concerned about this portion of the exam, take a good long look at the Draft Quality Manual – know your systems and parts, their names and what each part does, and ideally you should have taken apart each piece of equipment mentioned.  If you’re comfortable with that material, the demonstration will be a breeze.

Overall, it was a great experience that really tested the limits of my knowledge in the fringe details.  I’m positive that I didn’t ace it, but am equally confident that I didn’t bomb it either. I definitely know that I made some mistakes – with the partial credit possible, I honestly have no idea whether or not I’ll end up with a passing score, but am confident in how I did overall.  Fingers are crossed that I won’t need to re-take, but I’ve got a 1-3 month wait to find out.  At this point, I’m glad I can stop studying so hard every night and can relax a bit more for a while.

Time to brew something!

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!