A Beer Judge’s Diary: Of Moving Goalposts and Respecting Our Cousins- Mead and Cider

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman
   After a few years moving sideways in the BJCP ranks: getting cider and mead endorsed, I am comfortable. I have no need or desire for National. I really wasn’t all that dedicated to going National in any sense. As I have written before, every time I take the test I learn something.
   That was my goal.
   Most judges I know become what rank they become and are happy to stay there: even if it was the extinct as Dino rank Apprentice. Nothing wrong with that. But I enjoy learning, and every time I took the test I learned more. Technically by now, if things were as one would think, I might be National, but one thing I have noticed is the goalpost keeps being moved.
   I know there will be a lot of resistance to that framing, however I know a few Masters who admit to it. Just to provide one example; and I have no interest in exposing anyone, was one of the first to take the test. That judge admits taking the test he or she would never qualify now.
   In just a few years I took the legacy test I have noticed the questions have multiplied and become more difficult. Plus, the categories keep shifting: new guidelines. Then you have odd concepts like counting the number of (I assume from what I have observed) approved adjectives to change scores. However use “good;” especially a lot, and you may not achieve whatever score you seek. (Be more descriptive: HOW is it “good?” There are words they prefer. Perhaps we need a divining rod to figure out which ones for you newbies?)
   Except for that last little tidbit, mostly as it should, even must to some extent, be.
   The first legacy I took was the easiest, and we all failed. Rumor is the BJCP wasn’t happy with the one of the proctors answers. Each one after seemed tougher. They picked harder categories, demanded more, and if you think I’m complaining I’m not. I think making the test more challenging is a good thing. In fact I wish they had gradations of ranks: Recognized C, B, A, or 1,2,3, for all ranks. That way it would be easier for those who grade to pop a test taker up a little, reward them for wanting to serve the BJCP better.
   Yes, some do this for ego’s sake, but to assume all would be the opposite of why. I think we want to be of more service. Perhaps I am naive’ in that assumption.
   I also think we should be retested every few years: not to take away ranks, but assess if a “pop up” is deserved.
   Goalposts do need to be moved, but rewarding judges who seek to improve should be part of the equation.

Respecting Our Cousins- Mead and Cider

   ”Moving sideways?” I mentioned in a previous edition how much I learned taking the med, then the cider, test? No one but me knows just how hard it was for me to find, and to get to, those tests.
   Mead was in Long Island, and I had to start at about 1am from where I was to arrive on time because I was so tired. I couldn’t sleep. I knew I’d be sleeping somewhere at some Thruway service area. (Do they still call them that? I don’t remember. They don’t really do service any more, as far as I know.) Just to get part way out on the Island.
   This was during the height of COVID and I used sanitizer like crazy, hoping some cop wouldn’t stop me thinking I had had too much. Especially after. They smell the sanitizer, test me and come up with a small amount? I severely doubt it would be, “Sorry, Mr. Carman, you can go.”
   Not only are tests few and spread out to inconvenient places, but after taking them cider and mead only competitions are also few and all over the map.
   You learn so much studying for these tests, yet a lot of that vanishes because you have no opportunities to use what you learned. I understand the BJCP has no control over tests or competitions, so I am pleading clubs and individuals to start at least mini-comps: 100 entries or less. Mead and/or Cider. Until COVID crushed comps I had planned a competition that pits beer, cider and mead against each other. They start, a #1 each one, then at big BOS we judge the best of the best. Any of the 3 can win BIG #1!
   I have always had a sense that mead and cider are poor cousins to beer. I would like to change that so they get more respect.
   And I hope you do too.


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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