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Question: How do I become a beer judge?

Answer: The first step toward becoming a beer judge is pretty easy: Just volunteer to participate in a competition judging. Check here for a list of upcoming opportunities. Probably the best thing to do is to volunteer to be a steward. Stewards are the guys that bring the beers to the table for the judges to evaluate. Then you can watch the judges in action. Usually, you'll get to taste the beers they are judging and get some notion of the details that make a good beer. If you already have a pretty good notion of what makes a good beer, go ahead and volunteer to be a judge.
If you enjoy the judging experience, then you ought to go for official credentials. Homebrewers have a formalized process for becoming a beer judge, which is run by an organization called the Beer Judge Certification Program, or BJCP. Check out their website at http://www.bjcp.org/. To become a certified judge, you need to pass a 10 question written exam and demonstrate the ability to accurately judge 4 beers. The schedule of exams can be found at http://www.bjcp.org/exams.html. Most of these exams are in remote places. If there isn't one nearby, chack back later. The Maltose Falcons in Woodland Hills and QUAFF in San Diego host them periodically. You'll need to score at least 60% to pass the test. If you do, the club will cover the cost of the exam, which is $50 for first-time takers.
The exam covers a comprehensive range of brewing knowledge. Most of the exam centers on you ability to describe beer styles. Another portion deals with the ability to perceive flavors, and flavor defects. In addition, you need to know the process of brewing and how to formulate a recipe. A cram session for this exam is currently being held on Tuesdays. See related article for details.
If you're not ready for the exam so soon, don't worry. Additional exams get scheduled on a periodic basis. If we can round up enough people, we can schedule one on our own.
Passing the exam takes a fair amount of study, which can be a deterrent to some people. To make the process a simpler task, this column will feature a couple of topics and sample questions every month. We will also schedule periodic style tasting sessions so you can learn the flavor components expected in each category.
If you're interested in following the course of study, we also have a study notebook, which holds most of the stuff you'll need to know. Part of the notebook is on-line at http://www.picobrewery.com/bjcpinfo.html. If you want a complete hardcopy we can print them up for about $30.00.
Once you have had a chance to read up on the topics, take a shot at answering the questions. Each response should take up about a page of handwritten space, or about a half page of typed text. If you send your answers to me, I'll grade them and send back comments and point out areas where the exam graders will think your answer is weak.