Judging Advice from Kristen England

Firstly, this is a personal message, not from the BJCP in the least. I’ve a few morning thoughts back from a weekend of judging and things I’m noticing more and more over the last few competitions that I’ve been stewing on…over…whatever.

Secondly, this got long…

– The first thing you should do when you sit at a table is introduce yourself. It should not be trying to see who is the highest rank nor to say how important you are.

– Your BJCP rank is not a sword. Be humble. There are some really talented people that aren’t BJCP. The really high ranking ones don’t usually go around hitting people over the head with their esteemedness.

– Be nice to your steward. Always. Don’t talk down to them. I’ve seen multipatent holding MD/PhDs stewarding being spoken to as a child by someone that wore socks with sandals…

– Stewards are not there to care for your needs, they help facilitate your day. You can help them by pitching in cleaning up the table afterwards.

Image courtesy BJCP
– Offer stewards samples (where appropriate and if available) of the nice things you are trying. We need to foster more judges and its a thank you for doing your work…lazies.

– If you are a professional brewer/meadmaker/cidermaker, it doesn’t make you a better judge. Don’t talk down to non-pros.

– Corollary. If a professional brewer/meadmaker/cidermaker doesn’t have a BJCP rank, it doesn’t make them know less than BJCP judges. Assume they know a great deal of the process and all the sensory work involved in a production facility.

– If you are a slow judge, learn to be more efficient. If you are a fast judge, make sure you are thorough and then don’t annoy those around you…Steve.

– There is no need to discuss to death middling entries. High 20s into the low 30s are usually good beers that are either specifically faulted stylistically or technically. Taking 10 min for each person to get a turn to talk about how something had butter or was too bitter to style slows everything down.

– There is, however, a reason to discuss very high scoring entries. Being 5 to 7 points apart can be the difference between a medal and none. Lets say 33 and 40. Thats 7 apart. Massively different scores. Too many judges poo poo this with very good things.

– Know that when massive differences occur, its best to call over the judge director and help sort things. Lets say an entry that got a 20 and 40. One of you is very wrong. Sort it quickly with as little drama as possible, Steve.

– Just because something is harder to make, doesn’t make it more deserving. It also doesn’t get spotted points for judging. This is not gymnastics. Failing at a harder style is still failing. All things being equal, in a fantastic entry, it can be a tiebreaker but thats well down in the pecking order in deciding places and shouldn’t even be brought up in most cases.

Courtesy LinkedIn
– If you don’t know what something is, look it up. Ingredients specifically. If you can’t find it, ask out loud, ‘Does anyone know what Jambu is and will it make me lose my government clearance?’

– On that same note, if you know what something is and you aren’t on that table, pipe up. It’s a detriment to all if this doesn’t happen.

– Don’t be that judge that feigns confusion when an entry has something spelled wrong. ‘Strowberries. What are strowberries. I’ve never heard of Strowberries!!!’ Always do your best to make out what the person indended which shoul have been….

– Organizers should also be checking the ingredients to look for errors, or unusual ones and have an answer before it happens.

– Organizers need to be sanitizing the comments sections. Meaning, this should not be a direct line to bias judges. These semi-erotic poems and novellas that are being allowed to be told create bias. All ingredient locations do also, good and bad. For instance, if I entered a beer with Hungarian Meggy cherries, and lets say I’m known for that, judges could say ‘Oh, I’ve had this, its great’ or ‘That dude is a d*ck’. Both are bad. A simple double check and change to ‘Tart Cherries’ should be the SOP. Most things are put on commercial labels to create bias and help sales. This is a competition. Each organizer will need to decide where to draw their line but first there needs to be an understanding that this is a very troubling and widespread phenomenon and specifically trying to sway judges when we get down to it.

– Ones individual ability to detect certain faults doesn’t make the faults more or less important.

– Certain faults are not ranked according to styles. ‘Well, yeah, this pils has a little butter but that pils has a little cardboard which shouldn’t be in any beer so the butter one is better…’ Faults are faults. Its how they affect the overall sample that should be the issue.

Courtesy Hungus Brews
– Importantly, you have nothing invested personally in the entry you may have passed on to a mini-BOS. It is not yours. You did not make it. You have nothing to do with it but it being randomly placed in front of you. Stop acting like its better specifically because you passed it on. You are not a better or worse judge because a beer came from your table. You are specifically a worse judge because you are pushing for a beer you sent on and on to….

– If you say, ‘Championing for…’, for any reason, you are biased. Stop. Just stop. This phrase is usually followed by something like, ‘…man, you get so few X and this one is really good.’ or…

– If you say, ‘This X wins too much…lets choose this other one’ you are a terrible judge.

– If you specifically point out whose entries are what, in a competition, while judging has yet to occur or while judging, you are a cheat. A l$&^# #*&# of a cheat. You should be derided at every opportunity.

– Lasty, don’t be a d*ck and have fun. If you are the person that gets upset when other tables are laughing, this is not the hobby for you. If you need dead quiet, this is not the hobby for you. If someone drinking coffee (and orange juice!?) in the same room before judging offends you, you’re probably in the wrong hobby and Ill personally help you find the door (Its habituating, not addicting!!!!)

Courtesy Minecraft Gallery. NOT actual picture of “Steve.”
This is beer/mead/cider…its supposed to foster community and enjoyment. Not giving people reasons to be pedantic tools and work out all their foibles in public. If I wanted to sit around a table and be annoyed for hours, I’d go to the in-laws, Steve.