What happens at a beer judging?

Prior to the judging, the Competition Secretary, who initially collects the entries, sorts them to determine the judging order. Beers of the same style are randomised in sequence but the styles are ranked more or less from lightest and palest to strongest and darkest. The Competition Secretary also assigns an entry number and removes any markings or labels that would identify the brewer. The entries are stored in cool and dark conditions and then delivered at least three days prior to the judging venue to allow them to settle and equilibrate at the correct temperature.

Each club competition or category at the major championships is judged by at least three experienced judges who are managed by a competition steward. The steward serves the beers to the judges in a predetermined order in such a way that the judges do not see the bottles, telling the judges only the entry number and the style (provided by the brewer).

The judges frequently refer to the style guidelines but also use their knowledge of the beer style and experience as brewers themselves to evaluate the beer according to Aroma (12 points), Appearance (3), Flavour (20), Mouthfeel (5) and Overall Impression (10).  The beers are assessed in terms of their conformity to style and their overall quality with comments made on technical flaws or merits and advice provided on how the beer may be improved. The points are tallied and as each judge assigns a maximum of 50, overall scores are given out of 150. During the judging the judges must remain silent and not influence each other through noise or other expression.

Once each judge has completed his or her independent assessment, the judges compare notes and scores to finalise the judging. We recommend a maximum spread of 7 points across the judges’ scores and sometimes there may be an adjustment made to bring scores together. On the whole we rarely get widely varying scores and acknowledge that is it a subjective process and the feedback to the brewer is only enhanced by getting a range of opinions. The scores are checked by the steward. The Competition Secretary announces the results of each competition shortly after each judging and they are usually published in the newsletter and on the website. A certificate presentation for club competitions for first, second and third prizes for the ACTABC are conducted, usually at the meeting following the judging.

Can I learn to become a beer judge?

New members who wish to become involved are also encouraged to spend some time first assisting the steward, which helps them to become familiar with the judging procedure, followed by an ‘apprenticeship’ as a trainee judge. This way you have a chance to judge alongside the actual panel and learn from the experienced judges, until you can be confident that you have the necessary level of skill to evaluate beers properly, including the very important ability of being able to give constructive feedback.

The Canberra Brewers, and indeed most clubs around Australia, are also involved in the international Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). The training for this program involves a course over six months, usually one night per fortnight, followed by a four hour exam. There are excellent educational materials to support the course which is run by experienced judges and brewers in the club. There is some cost for materials and sitting the exam but they are kept to a minimum. More information is available on the BJCP website.

By Darryl Barbour, President

Authorbox_president Welcome, brewers, to 2010 and shortly to our first club meeting of the year (4 February). I trust that you had at least a short break over Christmas and New Year to unwind, spend time with family and friends, and of course to brew some tasty beers to get you through the summer. I, alas, only managed a New Year’s day brew, but a Summer/Golden Ale with Palisade, Cascade and Glacier is kegged and on tap. But we’ll soon be rectifying the lack of brewing – after all the club has an AABC title to defend!

However, lets not get ahead of ourselves… who is this new president? Well, I joined Canberra Brewers in 2004, the year I moved to Canberra. I had at that stage brewed one kit (can + stovetop specialty grain steep) and one ginger beer. Colin from Brew Your Own at Home suggested I get along to the club meeting… and here we are. It was great meeting people with a similar interest in brewing and with the guidance from a heap of different members I’ve since moved into partial mashes and all-grain brewing – especially for the creative control over the process. Pale ales (English versions) and wheat beers would be the main styles I brew. If I’m not brewing, I’m probably spending time with the family, flying radio controlled models or getting a sneaky bit of caving in.

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By Sam Highley, Editor

Authorbox_editor Welcome to the new website of the Canberra Brewers Club, which also incorporates the club newsletter known as The Ferm. Firstly, i'll introduce myself. My name is Sam Highley (aka sammy) and I was elected to the position of Ferm Editor for 2010. I've been brewing for just three years or so, and like most brewers I started out by making kit beers from the likes of Coopers and Morgans. Is that really brewing, or is it just fermenting?

I soon discovered the limitations of hopped-extract kits, and moved into making extract beers with hop additions within just a few months. I was immediately blown away by the possibilities of crafting a beer from malt extract, hops and yeast, and shortly thereafter i'd purchased a mash-tun and was diving into all-grain brewing. I think it's safe to say — and my family will back me up on this — that it has become an all-consuming passion for me, with almost every spare moment taken up with either brewing, or researching brewing and brewing-related topics.

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By Tom Dixon, Social Secretary

Authorbox_social G’day Brewers, I hope you have all recovered from the festive period, because the 2010 Canberra Brewers Calendar is going to be bigger and more chock-full than Hagrid’s Y-fronts! For the first time in five years, we are going to bring back the Brewer Bus Tours, with a couple of road trips currently being mapped out. You can also expect all of your old favourites including Oktoberfest and the Wig and Pen Brew Day. We have also introduced the ‘Social Scene’ Forum to advertise and organise official Canberra Brewers events throughout the year. Feel free to also use this forum to advertise your own events, everything from brew days to BBQs.

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