Brew Biz: Werts and All

The Blunderful Wizard of Beer

Written by Ken Carman for

Topic for this edition of Brew Biz: Grading and challenging the BJCP Exam

BJCP stands for Beer Judge Certification Program. The following in a fictionalized account of my experience: studying for, taking and then challenging the grading of the BJCP test. Any similarity with any non-fictional person and the REAL Wizard may be purely intentional.

Many years ago I, and my faithful companion… who in no way looks like Toto; well maybe just a tiny bit after I botched her last hair cut… decided we’d travel to the Wonderful Land of Beer: or join a club that runs BJCP sanctioned competitions, if you wish to have a more droll description. We had been brewing since the late 70s and had sampled many styles; many kinds, of beer. We entered the gates where a big “B” stood near the threshold: some might say it stands for “beer,” others… perhaps… would claim it’s a more local to Nashville reference… brew meccas like “Boscos,” or “Blackstone,” “Big River,” or just “brewpub.” But we were just glad to… “B…” there, wherever the meeting actually was.

We were welcomed with copious amounts of beer; and plenty of friendship. We even were allowed to judge beer in many competitions organized, in part, according to rules which pleased an organization: one run by many, wonderful, “All Knowing” Wizards… well, at least according to at least one he was “all knowing,” “wonderful” with a perfect palate.

Supposedly the Wizard test proves all that.

We stayed in the magical land of beer, becaming welcome visitors to a magical land where tasty foam flows, and sometimes a bit less than foamy hand pulls were poured. Eventually the residents proclaimed, “You really should take the exam to see if you qualify to be at least a Recognized citizen, according to the BJCP,”

“How do we do that?”

“Well, first you need a guide. Why, here he is…!”

Our to be unnamed guide: because I’m sure he’d rather be unnamed, said he would start to train us… and train us he did. Some claim he did little training at all, but that’s not really true. I answered many, many questions he posed on the net that were meant to represent what would be on the test. Personally, if you did as he asked, I thought our guide did a pretty good job; offering various blocks of questions over the net and responding to what we had answered. Now the actual questions asked were a bit problematic, but that’s wasn’t the guide’s fault. Only the highest Wizards are allowed to know what actual questions will be on the test.

It’s a secret.


Although he wasn’t short, or hairy, or green, or a muppet, or someone who carried a lightsaber… he did seem a little Yoda like in his wisdom: being a professional brewer. A promise was made that all who faithfully studied would pass. For well over a year we studied; looking at questions past tense since we were not allowed to see the new questions: especially the reformulated ones for the new “revised” test. Eventually, it was decided we were ready.

So I put on my skirt, my bobby socks: tried to put a leash on my faithful companion who wanted to take the test too, but she objected. Maybe I should leash myself sometimes, my dear?


Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All”

Ah, SAN FRAN!!!!!

Judging and tasting Barleywine.


The good Professor has never been to San Fran. Next year… ROAD TRIP!

From the Beer Bottle Collection: Old Hardhead

The Brewery: Rikenjaks

I bought one bottle of this Scottish Ale in the 90s and it was so tainted I tossed the contents. Later on I had a better bottle and found it to be about a 60… maybe closer to 80 shilling Scottish ale that needed just a little more carmelization. Master brewer for McGuire’s at the time, Steve Fried said…

“They really had a problem with that back then. A lot of customers got turned off to micros, thinking this is what a micro tasted like.”

He agreed that it was good when, well, it was good.

After reading the label I can understand why the several bottles I had seemed to vary so much. I’m guess the FG and OG’s were a little wider than claimed, from my experience.

From the label…

Starting gravity: 1.060-1.066
Final gravity: 1.008-1.012
Finishing hop: Goldings

Rikejak’s Old Hardhead is brewed in small batches using only traditional methods and ingredients. This classic Scottish Ale is dark and wonderfully malty.