A Beer Judge’s Diary: Moving Sideways


Ken the beer judge moving sideways. Not really crabby at all! Crab Kolsch? Hmmm…

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
 When I first became BJCP Certified I decided I wanted to serve the BJCP as best I could. I thought maybe being National might facilitate that. I think I was wrong.
 I admit to taking to retaking the test several times. I didn’t advance but I learned so much doing that! Yet, I also understood tasting tests might be best be reserved more for new judges. Taking a new judge’s seat was something I didn’t want to do. To be fair most of the tests I took might not have happened because they were having trouble filling seats.
 But, at least for now, I’m done with that. I have a new goal and I’m halfway there: moving sideways.

 ”Moving sideways, what’s that?”

 Why thank you for asking!
 I know you didn’t. That’s just a writer’s device I use to amuse myself and hopefully you. Chuckle.
 Going back to any original premise: helping any way I can, I realized if I got endorsed for mead and cider I might be of more use than any rank advancement. Homebrew competition after competition I noticed mead and cider were kind of the somewhat removed second cousins to homebrew. Unless the competition is mead or cider specific, mead and cider are pushed off to the side, and quite often judged by non-cider or non-mead judges. I already had some experience. I started brewing braggots quite a while ago, so I was making mead and mixing it to taste.
 After buying a place in Beaver River; an old railroad town with no roads going to it, I found trees that railroad workers planted in the 1800’s. I was told by a cider maker in Plattsburgh, NY, these were mostly extinct apples. So I started making cider and cyser.
 That help fill my personal oath to be more “of service.”
 I also discovered interesting specifics unique to judging mead and/or cider that; used wisely, could help when filling out scoresheets. Nothing quite describes the surface of an entry than “meniscus.” Nothing quite describes where the glass meets the quaff; and bubbles that form there, as well as “cordon.” Terms that help make a judge be more exacting, if done right. Done right? Yes, if they use them they should briefly explain the use of terms the brewer may not be familiar with.
 Color of an entry? Well, honey actually has many versions of “amber,” which I find more accurate when describing “amber.” Amber isn’t just the color of the substance you might remember from Jurassic Park. There are variations. In the past I have had many amber beers that were darker, or lighter. The honey variations on amber cover this more completely. There’s even one close to brown.
 Here are some ideas for how the BJCP and beer clubs could also “move sideways…”
 I would love to see the BJCP, instead of just ranks for those below Master, develop more incentives when it comes anyone being more useful to the organization, to clubs, to events. When it comes to actual judges: Recognized 1, Recognized 2? Certified 1, 2? Awards for efforts like helping to run multiple competitions, organize them, palate training, beer education…
 None of this would have to involve more testing.
 Points are fine but I do think there needs to be more, especially for those who help again and again.
 Every homebrew club I have been part of, or visited, has a lot of members who have no real interest in being an official judge. But they dedicate a lot of their time to competitions and other BJCP-related activities. An experienced non-BJCP category? Organizers could nominate non-BJCP judges and helpers. Enough nominations and you get an Experienced Beer Judge, or Experienced Competition Staff, certificate? Trophy? Many different versions of this idea are possible.
 Why? Because recognition can do wonders. Right now they’re mostly ignored. And they certainly provide a foundation that such events would collapse without. Not just competitions. Education, like studying defects, helping to administer tests… and on the plus side it might make becoming an actual BJCP member more enticing. It would be like an invitation: we like what you are doing. You could be one of us.
 When it comes to something like not doing well on a test, well obviously the gentle stick is needed, maybe with “we encourage you to try again?” But, like that last comment, I would also like to see more carrots. I’m just brainstorming here. I’m sure many folks could come up with better, and more important, incentives than my meager efforts.
 Moving sideways helps me be a better judge. Moving sideways might help the BJCP get better, more dedicated, willing to volunteer, members and non-members. Moving sideways might encourage more dedicated, volunteers: without which most of the events I mentioned might not exist.

    From researchgate.net. This is a simple version of the various shades of amber.

                             -30-

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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