Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tasting Exam Advice

The following is a write-up of the advice I give people who ask me about taking the BJCP Tasting Exam. An important thing to realize is that the majority of your score is completely in your hands.

- Judge the beer in front of you!  For the first 4 sections, AAFM (Aroma, Appearance, Flavor, Mouthfeel), write everything you are percieving.  Don't address style other than in OI (Overall Impression) and the scoring.
- Use definitive level/adjectives/modifiers!  Low, medium-low, medium, etc.  Citrus is better than Fruity, but Orange or Grapefruit is even better still.  NEVER use 'nice' or 'some' in AAFM.  If you want to mention it in OI, say pleasant rather than nice.
- Use the checkboxes!  If you mention phenols, check the box!  If you mention sherry or dark fruit on an old ale or barleywine, those are usually signs of oxidation.  Mention it in your description and check the oxidized box.  That factors into your completeness score.
- If the proctors say something to the group before the exam, listen to them!  In my experience, proctors don't tend to be extreme (it's usually pretty unlikely for them to give a beer lower than a 14 or higher than the low 40s).
- Know your styles! This should go without saying, but unless you have your baselines for what you're judging against, you're starting out behind. This is also vital for feedback. Perhaps you were given an excellent American Barleywine, but were told that it was a Scottish Light. If you know your styles well, you should mention that in your feedback.
- Make your feedback actionable and relevant!  Don't assume you know their process (all grain, partial extract, etc.), but offer constructive criticism on improvement relevant to the style. You're judging the beer based on the style you were told, but it may actually be a different style and misentered.
- Scoring is a minor part of your grade!  Focus on the things that you control.  Descriptive Ability, Completeness, Perception, and Feedback.