Brew Biz: Werts and All

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.

The Topic: Category Conundrums


I judged beer in Lexington, Kentucky a few weekends ago. I also entered a Braggot, but an odd one.

Who me? Brew odd? Who woulda guessed!


The judging went well. I enjoy judging as much, or maybe more, than brewing. It’s like a very specific, directed, tour through styles of beer and the differences in judge’s palates. I swear I learn more practical information about beer from judging than I did studying to pass my BJCP exam, because it relies more on diving into a style on a one on one level with other judges… less with memorization that sits in the brain and rots, or flows out the other end sooner or later.

When I got my judge sheets back I was left with a conundrum. I felt I should contact the judges about something, but I didn’t want to be a nuisance and, honestly, I know there’s not a lot they can do about it.

Due to the nature of competition judges can only spend so much time on beer and, upfront, I will tell you they did a real good job. Very professional. Great comments  So this isn’t about them. Here’s the problem…

What I entered was a Braggot, but a weird one as I mentioned. The mead part of the Braggot used cherry cider and cherry additions. Here is why I entered it in Open Mead category…

 If any other ingredients than honey and beer are contained in the braggot, it should be entered as an Open Category Mead. – BJCP Guidelines for Braggot under “Other Mead.”


Comments on the sheets indicated I had entered it in the wrong category, and it would have scored better. But I actually am not bothered by that: I think it’s more a defect in the guidelines. Since, as judges, we can spend just so much time with each beer to expect each judge to read through three categories/sub-categories to make sure this doesn’t happen, in my opinion, is a bit much. And that’s just one short sentence in a big description: easy to miss.

Now if this were just about me and my Braggot, well I enjoy making them more than getting them judged. But I’m sure, if we looked hard, we’d find a lot of holes like this that might trip up any judge. You can’t read the whole bloody book when you judge, and one sentences like that are certainly easy to miss.

A while back I wrote a recommendation that we have an “A” and a “B” category under Specialty. That way those who brew something that “Specialty,” but close to another style can get special treatment, and those who brew weird stuff like me have our sub-category nirvana. The twain shall meet either in mini-BOS, or when deciding 1,2 or 3. Here’s an idea: when defining a category like Braggots, what about allowing the brewer to place the beer in Specialty too? I know they “can,” however those who don’t miss the sentence might also rule out of category. And, since Braggot is also beer-based, to me: the idea works.

It also might increase entries with a brewer entering the same entry twice.

I’m sure if we scoured the categories we’d find more than a few cases where the words, “If anything else is added then the brewer may enter it in _______ or Specialty, rather than limiting the brewer to a category that is specifically designated as “Mead (Whether “Open,” or not.) or something else. And I’m thinking that a new “B” sun-category might also be required if entered under Specialty. If the entry is that close to another style, then there are certainly better options.

Well, that’s my idea.

What do you think?


Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. “Wert:” one of the more archaic: old English, spellings for what’s now commonly refer to as “Wort.” Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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