How to taste, judge and describe great beer

At the Sam Adams Longshot competition, at the first judging session
Judges at the Sam Adams Long Shot homebrew competition. What elusive qualities are they looking for?

2008 was the year we got involved in judging beer, somewhat by accident, because we both took a beer styles and tasting course, and then Gail took the BJCP exam. 

On Sunday afternoon, February 15, 2009, we are helping our beer judge friends Brian Cooper and David Teckam produce a special pair of classes in beer evaluation, as part of SF BEER WEEK.

Beer Judging 101 & 201 – Beer Evaluation Seminars led by Grand Master beer judge David Teckam.

We’re offering two special classes designed to help expand your evaluative, perceptive, and descriptive abilities when tasting various styles of beers. We will cover highlights of what the beer judging process is all about. We’ll also taste and discuss common defects that can emerge in the brewing process, and briefly discuss why these may come about.

Each class takes approximately one and a half hours, and we’ll taste some world class beers in the process.

The Intro (101) class, at 1:00 pm, is mainly intended for non-judges or for current beer judges who want a refresher on the basics. This is an excellent class for people who home brew, for serious wine people who want to step into the world of fine beers, for people who serve and sell beer, for spouses and friends of craft beer enthusiasts who want to talk about the brews they share, and for anybody who has ever thought about getting certified as a beer judge but hasn’t gotten there yet or wants a tune-up. You will taste a variety of beers and discuss the distinguishing attributes of the beers, including flavor, aroma, body, and more. You’ll learn some of the vocabulary that will improve your ability to learn and talk about new beers you encounter. You will also learn a little bit about the BJCP – the Beer Judge Certification Program – and how to get involved if you want to take it further.

For the Advanced (201) class, at 3:00 pm, the recommended prerequisite is either the intro (101) class, or experience with beer judging. It is also open to those those who feel like they have a solid fundamental background in beer tasting and some knowledge about styles. We’ll taste several beers and discuss them in great detail. We’ll fill out a sample judging sheet, and will discuss what it takes to be a great judge, as well as strategies to advance in the rank within the BJCP program.

Please jump on BART and come join us for Beer Judging 101 and 201 with Grand Master beer judge David Teckam

Sunday, February 15, 2009:
1:00 PM (intro class – “Beer Judging 101”)
3:00 PM (advanced class – “Beer Judging 201”).
The charge is $25 for either class, or $45 for both, which includes all materials and beers.

We’ll meet at the banquet room at The Englander, a English style pub in the East Bay, easily accessible by BART. Designated drivers and/or public transit are highly encouraged. Also, we encourage everyone to eat (at the Englander, if you wish) before and/or after your participation in the beer judging class. Here’s our Beer by BART page for The Englander. It’s an easy stroll from the San Leandro station on Parrott Street.

These classes are just one part of SF BEER WEEK. NOTE: As of Feb 4, we are getting close to sold out on the beginner’s seminar. Be sure to prepay Brian now if you want to attend.

Overall, 2008 was a fabulous beer year for us, and one of the big steps was Gail getting certified as a BJCP beer judge.

How did this happen? Last year Steve dropped by City Beer and ran into a woman who was about to take an intensive course in beer tasting and judging from an elite beer judge, and who gave him the contact information. He came home and we talked it over for about 30 seconds and signed up for the class together, with no hesitation. We had no interest in judging, we just wanted to understand why our favorites often didn’t win when we tasted beers at our favorite festivals each February, and to get some vocabulary for what we like!

We loved our class, a style tasting survey taught by John Watson, another one of the few top ranked judges in the region. At the end of the course, with John’s encouragement, Gail broke ranks with Steve and decided to cram for the BJCP certification exam (getting additional help from fellow student and excellent brewer Brian Cooper and from David Teckam.) Now she’s judging, and definitely still learning.

So that’s what happened. If you want a little taste of what this is about, or a refresher course in the world of evaluating and describing beers, come to the session at The Englander on the afternoon of Sunday, February 15 2009.
This will be yet another rewarding activity we can do together as part of SF BEER WEEK.

If you are learning about tasting and styles on your own, here are two places to start: BJCP – the organization that certifies beer judges has study materials and styles guides to help you learn to taste.

David Teckam’s Beer Judge School is releasing a series of low cost videos of his longer classes, and offers other resources to those who want to learn formal judging or just to pick up on the basics.

Explore Beer By BART – see our main list of Bay Area good beer places with detailed transit info, and get out there to enjoy without driving.

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