BJCP Class #1 – Basics of Judging & Style 1: Light Lager

Alright, so I’m terrible at this “keeping a dedicated writing schedule” thing, but now I finally have a dedicated subject to write about that IS on a dedicated schedule that I plan to keep (mostly because I’ve already paid 4 weeks in advance…) because it’s a topic that I’ve been meaning to explore and become better acquainted with.  Thanks to the amazingness that is my local homebrew club, I’m currently “enrolled” in my first ever “formal” beer education!  The Arizona Society of Homebrewers is hosting BJCP classes in preparation for the test to become a BJCP certified judge, and it is being led by current BJCP members who are active within the club.  There are a lot of reasons to hate the state of Arizona, but the local beer scene is definitely not one of them!

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The first class was a quick introduction to the art of judging, how to fill out a beer scoresheet, common phrases and words that are used, learning the difference between mouthfeel and flavor, and how to give improvements in the overall impression.  I haven’t taken notes or studied since I’ve been in school…and it’s been a while, so this is going to require some actual work on my part, which I’m excited about, but also a little overwhelmed by.  Right now with work, I’m swamped.  It’s beer dinner season, everyone wants to do promotional pairings and tastings, there are multiple festivals every weekend, and I still have to do my actual job – which is driving hundreds of miles a week to make sure everyone is happy and the beer is fresh.  Add to that my commitments with leading AZ Girls’ Pint Out, participating with other local beer groups, and trying to avoid eye contact with my increasingly disheveled house (as I look for a new one).  Beer is definitely time-consuming, and I can’t really remember a time when my life wasn’t consumed by beer (oh wait, that was 3 years ago…) AS I’ve been consuming beer.  It feels full, but rewarding – like a good beer?

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And if you’re looking for a good beer that is both filling and rewarding, you should probably stay away from Style 1.  Unless you plan on drinking a lot of  it.  Can I just preface this whole educational half of the post by saying that the 3 beers we sampled for Style 1 are 3 beers I have never checked into Untappd?  I’m officially a snob.  Unless I’m shitfaced or high – and both of these are highly unlikely at this point in my life – it is doubtful that I will drink any light lagers willingly.  I’ve just sipped on water even when they were offered to me for free in the past.  Alas, with judging comes, ironically, keeping an open mind and being able to recognize the style.  So I’m retiring my “get the hell outta Dodge, macros!” pants and pulling out my “everyone’s welcome! Yes, even you, macros…” shorts (it’s hot here).

To the point, we united 1A: Lite American Lager, 1B: Standard American Lager, and 1C: Premium American Lager together as just “American Lager.”  For the example, we sampled Pabst Blue Ribbon.  I’m still not positive which category it falls into, as they’re all fairly similar, but I’d guess 1B.  My notes:

  • Aroma – sweet, corn, grainy, green apple (estery), no hops
  • Appearance – bright straw yellow, clear, white frothy head with little persistence
  • Flavor – sweet, corn, no hops, crisp
  • Mouthfeel – thin, light, slight carbonic bite

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Style 1D – Munich Helles.  For the example, we sampled Weihenstephaner Original.  We were told that it would be wise to learn the difference between Munich Helles, Dortmunder, and Schwarzbier…so if anyone wants to help out with my homework, let me know.  My notes:

  • Aroma – grainy sweet, minimal hops
  • Appearance – pale gold, clear, creamy white head
  • Flavor – grainy sweetness, malty palate (from what I’m told are Pils malts), minimal bitterness in aftertaste, clean
  • Mouthfeel – medium body, low carbonation, no astringency, fairly smooth

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Style 1E – Dortmunder Export.  For the example we used Dortmunder Original.  This is one style I have never heard of, so I’m obviously off to a fabulous start with this class.  My notes:

  • Aroma – sweet and grainy, slight DMS, mild biscuit notes
  • Appearance – deep gold, clear with persistent white head
  • Flavor – malty sweetness, slightly bitter at finish, smooth
  • Mouthfeel – medium body, low carbonation, seems to coat the mouth

We also filled out an official BJCP Beer Scoresheet and were taught how to complete it to the best of our abilities and told what we would need to work on to make it acceptable in official judging situations.  I am aware now that I need to get to know the official color guide and the appropriate descriptors.  While colorful adjectives are encouraged in many aspects of judging, they should be based off of the original descriptor list.  If there is no DMS or off-flavors, it must be written down.  Alternately, if there is off-flavoring, even if it was marked under the Descriptor Definitions section, it must be written down.  The more you have to say about a beer, the more you can make your case for your scoring, and the more your score will be trusted.  And while I can write a lot when it comes to blog posts or telling stories, I need a lot of work when it comes to filling out judging sheets.  Luckily though, when we filled one out for a homebrew as an example, I was within 5 points of what the BJCP judges gave it.  There’s hope for me yet!

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One thought on “BJCP Class #1 – Basics of Judging & Style 1: Light Lager

  1. About the only reason I hate the state of Arizona is the fact that it’s too far away.

    I’ve often toyed with the idea of getting some form of “formal” beer tasting education. Lord knows I’ve had plenty of informal patio and bar schooling. Looks like a more serious commitment than I’d be able to take on these days so I’ll stick to the more “flexible” education model for now.

    Cheers to you and the AZ Girls Pint Out Crew!

    ps – great pics as usual

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