Brew Biz: Werts and All


The Topic: Aroma Points in Judging

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.

 Isn’t 12 points for aroma in judging beer a bit too much?
  The scene: pre-judging at Rebel Brewing for The Music City Brew Off. I have noticed this many times before: the beer I am judging has almost no aroma, but on first sip the mouthfeel, the flavor… wow! Or, yack! Or “in style.” Or: not. Almost always between all the aforementioned.
  I understand that aroma has a lot to do with the experience of drinking beer, affects everything when it comes to beer, even flavor profile. Absolutely. But it doesn’t have to. And I must ask: if aroma is pretty much absent but everything else is spot on, should aroma really be worth 12 points? Really?
 Maybe 10 and up flavor and mouthfeel a point each, or 8. To me appearance could go up just a tad, maybe to 5.
  I’m trying to be fair here. And while aroma contributes more, appearance does a little more for a beer than 3. As one judge said that day, “Why even bother then? Isn’t 3 close to fill which you can deduct no points for according to the judging sheet?”
  By the way: I understand all this is subjective. What I am asking for is a minor adjustment. But I have judged many beers that fit the style, were exceptional in all other categories, but I can shake the hell out of it, attempt to get aroma out of the bottle… for I find the narrow neck of a bottle can put more intensity on aroma: “can,” not necessarily does… and nothing is there, or so little there’s not much to comment on. And 99% of the time the other judge agrees.
  I’ve been to many brewpubs on the east coast, and had many beers, profiled quite a few for PGA, and commercial beers can have the same lack of aroma and be great beers, very much to style.
  Having typed all that, I do find some general correlation between lack of aroma and lack of being a highly ranked beer: even if the score were lower… but not enough to justify 12 points.
  I doubt I’d go below 8, if I were the sole arbitrator of such things… which I’m sure the BJCP is grateful that I’m not. I’m grateful “not.” I do find it’s the consensus that makes better judging of beer, despite comments in previous columns. There may be better ways to do it, but judges discovering what each sense in a beer is important to the process, just like what more than any one judge may think about scoring is important.
  But I still think 12 points is a tad too much.

Update: last competition I started using this big mason jar like glass, putting a little of each entry in this deep glass, then shaking like hell. It does help for aroma. But most judges don’t go as far, or should have to go as far, as I do to solve what I perceive as problems. So I still think lessening the points for aroma a tad might be needed.

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Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”

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