A Beer Judge’s Diary: New Scoresheet Anyone?

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 My regular readers may remember my column on AHA scoresheets. I admit: I wasn’t too kind when it came to the check off judging sheet used mostly at Nationals. My opinion hasn’t changed. Now there’s a new BJCP/AHA score sheet. I like it, but…
 One change they never seem to consider is to scoring: drop the top aroma point value from 12 to at least 10 and maybe add it to mouthfeel?
 Oh, I understand aroma contributes a lot to beer. How many entries have I judged with almost no aroma that otherwise are to style and phenomenal? Yes, the link between the two is substantial, but is it so important that the range be so wide that might punish an otherwise great entry?
 Instead the interest always seems to be sacrificing written feedback for faster, more cut and dry, judging.  I have revised the old sheet myself, as have those who run Amber Waves of Grain in Niagara Falls, NY. These both provide more writing space, mine more space between lines too. Both are skewed towards more judge to brewer feedback.
 Positives: the new sheet is a thousand times better than the check off if appropriate/circle if not quiz. Scales are a nice add.
 Negatives: eliminating a written description of appearance? Well, since it’s only 3 points: no big shakes, but Mouthfeel really needs more attention score-wise and some writing space. Mouthfeel has almost as much affect as aroma. “Fermentation” is too vague for a scale, but the judge can describe that using the limited space provided.
 Is using this mandatory? I suspect not: several competitions have their own versions; Amber Waves of Grain, Let’s Get Weird.
 I am going to check first, but I may use the old one or my own version for experienced judges, this one for those who are less experienced in what the BJCP wants. I print BJCP in-depth descriptions of defects on the back of my own sheets while this new one eliminates the more in-depth descriptions. I understand: they take up a lot of space, but I work with a lot of less experienced, non-BJCP, judges paired with ranked judges. Having them on sheet helps with consistency in scoring, and on the back there’s less clutter, the font can be bigger. Even some new, inexperienced, judges have “old man eyes!”
 Is this new sheet better than the usual one considering all possible uses? To be honest I would have to use it more than a few times to assess that, but as of now I tend to think it isn’t. Experienced judges have far more to tell brewers than this sheet allows; especially mouthfeel and appearance. The comment is often made, “Well, you could write on the back!” But would the brewer check the back? If the originals are copied would that include both sides? If it’s THAT easy, then why not put a more extensive, intensive, scale on the back? Or is faster more important no matter what?
 I am curious and eager to use it. I’m also eager to see if it might help guide new judges into being better judges, while using sheets with more writing space for veterans. Another possibility: offering either and let the judge decide. I do think these sheets make great training wheels as long as newbies don’t try to use them as an excuse to write short, relatively useless, feedback and just scale judge otherwise. I’ve seen too many sheets with not even a single full sentence.
 This may be the source of my main objection to any sheets that are revised in an attempt to sacrifice content for faster. Could it encourage them to provide less to no written feedback? Less in-depth thinking about what they are sensing? More comments like just “hops were good,” or “malt was nice?” Should our sheets encourage lazier judging, even if just slightly?
 That’s why this revision is far better than the check off sheet, but may not be as good as old reliable.
 I admit all of this is no more than my initial reaction, so I will write again. There probably is no such thing as a perfect sheet, but could splitting types of sheets help, or harm consistency? I may experiment and see in my own next competition this year. Will this form provide enough feedback? Well, I guess you’ll have to… “Stay tuned to this Judge’s Diary channel!”


   A Beer Judge’s Diary is one of many columns by Ken Carman, Certified BJCP beer judge, homebrewer since 1979 and seeker of both simple and complex quaffs who once upon a time thought he didn’t care all that much for beer. Then he discovered brews beyond the standard fare’ available on the east coast in the 60s. Thus the adventure began.

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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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