Judging beer for the first time? Here are 10 tips.
Are you about to judge beer for the first time? I offered some advice to a first timer who was asking in reddit's r/beer community recently. Below is a slightly edited version of my advice to him.
1) The organizers should sit you at a table with some experienced judges. Let those judges know that it's your first time, that you're excited to learn, and would like them to give you tips and talk to you about what you're experiencing as you go through the beers.
2) Take short quick sniffs rather than long deep ones. There are different methods of aroma evaluation, some work better for catching certain smells. That said, the short quick sniff is the go-to method. It'll help you get more from the beer without drying out the mucous membranes in your nose and making it more difficult to smell the beers. Never forget that most of taste is aroma, it's the key to good judging!
3) When you feel like you need an aroma reset, just smell yourself...by which I mean put the inside of your elbow over your nose and inhale. Smelling yourself is neutral and gets your nose back in business.
4) Download a copy of the BJCP Style Guidelines onto your phone and keep that with you. The descriptors in it will help you figure out if the beer you're judging has been made to style. It's also a great thing to have when you're out and about drinking beer and want to get a little studying in!
5) Judge beers "to style," not just to whether you prefer them. I.e. you may like Imperial IPAs more than regular IPAs, but if you're judging an IPA category and you get a beer that seems "too big," like it's more of an imperial, that beer should not win for the category because it was entered improperly.
6) Typically judges will not want to discuss the beers until after they've judged them because aroma and flavor is highly suggestible. You can always readjust your score and write more info on the score sheet after initial judging is done and you've discussed it with the others at the table. Just FYI the judges aren't being rude to you if they're silent as they judge and write out their score sheets.
7) Use a pencil and fill out the scoresheets with as much info for the brewers as possible! It's all about helping them brew better beer. They worked hard to make those beers your sampling and likely paid to enter the comp!
8) Don't wear cologne, perfume, or any other smelly stuff (and take a freaking shower, dude), you'll distract, annoy, and generally piss off every judge around you. This goes for smokers, too, don't go have a smoke and then come sit back down at the table, it's just not cool. I don't know what to tell you there, maybe go brush your teeth and wash your hands before coming back tot he table. In general, smoking dulls your sensory analysis abilities, so it isn't recommended...oh yeah, and it'll kill you, too. So there's that.
9) Never trash talk the beer you're judging. No kidding, a judge at the table next to yours may have made it. Judging is done blind of course, but I've seen people get caught for shit-talking other people's beers at really small comps (afterward when they're looking at the score sheets, if they were seated nearby they can tell if it was their beer you were talking or laughing about). In any case, someone worked hard on each beer and maybe they just screwed up, so try to give good feedback they can use to fix their brewing issues in the future.
10) Mostly, just have fun and don't stress about it. It's a great learning opportunity!