Friday, 21 May 2010

Beer Judging

It's everyone's dream job, being a beer judge. What could be better than sitting around, being brought beers all day, and asked to drink and pass opinion on them?

I took the pic on the left at the final round of the 2008 International Beer Challenge. I haven't judged a beer competition for a couple of years, and should really get back into the swing of it. Unfortunately, I'm missing the IBC again this year, as I'm going to be on holiday next week - I plan to drink a lot of Cruzcampo and eat lots of jamon and seafood in Chipiona, on the Atlantic coast of south western Spain. I'd have liked to have judged the IBC last year, but couldn't come to an agreement with last years organisers over expenses. Yes, I had the temerity to suggest that I should be paid for spending two days and an overnight stay in London, and when their offer just about matched my expenses, I still thought that wasn't good enough*. Inexplicably, the judging went ahead without me, and stranger still, they seemed to come to a sensible set of conclusions.

I've also received an invite to judge the World Beer Awards at the NEC on June 18th, held at Tasting Beers Live. That's one that I should take up, although again, there is no provision to cover expenses. Maybe I'll be there anyway - I should at least go along to see Stuart Howe's 52 Beers Roadshow - but there's still a bit of me that thinks I should be carried from my house to the NEC in a sedan chair, or at the very least get a rail ticket thrown in.

This might sound as though I've got a really high opinion of myself, and feel as though I'm owed a beer-drinking living. Maybe there's a bit of that in it. Maybe it doesn't matter who judges beer competitions. I haven't taken the Beer Judge Certification Program exams, and am a bit bemused by the number of categories they squeezed in this year, so perhaps I shouldn't complain. Maybe beer competitions in the UK should be judged by whoever can make it that day and do it for nothing.

But equally, if you were a brewer paying to enter your beers in a competition, who would you like to see judging it? Or like any right-thinking person, perhaps you think I should stop moaning and just suck down a few free cold ones?

*FOOTNOTE: The IBC has changed organisers this year, and I'm told things are very different.


  1. "if you were a brewer paying to enter your beers in a competition, who would you like to see judging it?

    Why me of course. It's a no brainer that one. And I know what I'm talking about. (-;

  2. Expenses! never thought of that :)

    Have judged (and really enjoyed) the World Beer Awards the last three years, am gutted that I'm on holiday and can't make it this year!

    Personally, I'd much prefer people that knew their shit about beer were judging it, especially as it can help a brewery out a lot to win awards. The WBA, WBC and IBC are all awesome in that regard in that you need to know about off flavours and descriptors when you're judging. In some ways, I think it helps to have some brewer training, but of course, this is far from necessary as anyone can learn about and distinguish off flavours.

    I do wonder though, in other premier food and drink competitions around the world, do they let anyone judge, or just the experts/manufacturers etc....

  3. Judging isnt as sweet a deal as the average punter thinks it is. Its pretty good though. I think its vitaly important that you have high calibre judges (which doesnt necessarily mean BJCP) the standard of the head steward is very important as well.

  4. Agree, Kieran. Had some great head judges at WBC, makes a difference for novices. Even though I get fully mocked for it, is important to take it seriously... it's someone's crafted brew and I know for a fact how much work goes into it! Love it or hate it, awards are good for marketing the beer as well, so if the accolades come from up high, then it's all good!

  5. Head judges are important. But I was referring to the Head Steward, the guy who makes sure that all the beers are served in the right order, the right condition, at the right temperature ect ect. All the behind the scenes stuff that allows the Judges to efficiently and accurately get through the mammoth task.

  6. Enjoy the holiday, matey.

  7. They are letting me judge beer competitions... they asked which categories I want and I listed all the glamorous ones. I'm doing the IBC on Tuesday and I've been 'revising' (reading Randy Mosher's Tasting Beer) about flavour and off flavour. I'm looking forward to it!

  8. I wonder who pays attention to the results of beer competitions. I know I don't, but clearly winning them brings brewers a lot of extra business. Do drinkers really make a note of the champion beer of whatever and go in search of it, or is it more that winning makes it easier to get the beer into shops and pubs because it impresses trade buyers?

  9. Barm, I wonder if you'd take notice if you were a brewer and one of your beers won an award?

  10. Barm: Winners often print things on their bottles to make it obivous that they've recently won an award. If you're an "average" beer buyer and you see something like that, surely it could sway your decision making?


  11. Yeah, but I'm not a brewer, I'm a consumer. I just wonder if the increase in sales is (trade) buyer-led or consumer-led.

  12. I think judges should pay to judge. Brewers should pay to enter. Punters should pay more to drink the winning beers. Supermarkets should pay extra to sell the winners. And I'll arrange it all for 10% of each transaction ;-)

  13. Tandleman - obviously, having judged with you at NWAF, I agree with everything you say.

    Kelly - it's nice to get a brewer's perspective, so thanks for commenting. I agree with you that there should be some sort of expertise, otherwise you'd have to just measure it on volume sales - so that would be, err, unsatisfying, shall we say?!

    Kieran - you're right about that. I judged at a very well-respected comp a few years ago where, after asking for repeat samples of beer we thought smelled off or oxidised, we realised that what we could smell was actually the packing that the glasses were shipped in. If you store them upside down, the glasses will smell strongly of packaging!

    Leigh - thanks, I did.

  14. Mark - we all know that your palate has been desensitised by drinking overly hoppy beer - you have almost certainly experienced a lupulin threshold shift.

    Barm - brewers are pretty happy to win an award, as it means that not only are they judged by (one hopes) an expert panel as being worthy of praise, but also that it does make it easier to sell their beers to supermarkets, pubs, consumers etc. You may find it hard to believe, but brewers do actually want to brew lots of beer and sell it to interested, appreciative consumers. A good example is the tiny Rudgate brewery, who won Supreme Champion Beer of Britain at the GBBF last year - it has meant a colossal increase in sales, publicity, and a foot in the door that they can only ever have dreamed of before. So yes, everyone takes notice. It's the beer equivalent of a band winning the Mercury prize or an Ivor Novello.


Sorry about the word verification - the blog was getting spammed to bits.