General BJCP Questions

Questions about the BJCP Style Guidelines


  • How is the BJCP organized?

    The principal component of the BJCP is, of course, the general membership of over 2,500 judges at various ranks and levels of experience. The members are assigned to one of seven regions based on geography. Regions include all parts of the US and Canada. The relatively few members who live elsewhere in the world are arbitrarily assigned to the Northeast region.

    The members in each region elect a representative, by a simple majority of the vote, to represent the region and sit on the BJCP Board of Directors. The term of office is two years and they are staggered in time so that there is continuity on the board after each election.

    The members of the board elect, from among themselves, the constitutional offices of president, secretary and treasurer. The board also appoints non-voting directors to perform such duties as necessary to run BJCP's various activities.

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  • What are the duties and responsibilities of these people?

    The Board of Directors
    The Regional Representatives/board members are first of all responsible for supporting the membership in their region, providing access to BJCP services and acting on requests from their region for services or information.
    Second, the board elects the constitutional officers.
    Third, the board confirms all appointments of the appointed directors or any other high level personnel changes.
    Fourth, the board maintains mutual communication on all matters of import to the BJCP, including holding formal votes where necessary.
    The Officers
    The President is responsible for discovering and pursuing issues of importance to the success of the BJCP, engaging the rest of the board in addressing these issues and pressing final resolution thereof. The president is also responsible for filling in for any other officer if/when necessary. The president also appoints committees, as needed.
    The Vice President assumes the presidency in the absence of a President and oversees other tasks as assigned by the Board.
    The Treasurer is responsible for keeping the accounts of the BJCP, preparing financial and tax records/reports and accepting and disbursing funds on behalf of the BJCP.
    The Appointed Directors
    The great bulk of the work performed in running the BJCP is by the appointed directors and the people working with them. You can see who they all are by checking the Officers page of the website. Each person is listed, along with his or her job description.

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  • Who are all these people and how do I get in touch with them?

    The Officers, Regional Representatives and Appointed Directors are listed here with their email addresses.

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  • What about the Bylaws?

    The Bylaws give the rules and constraints of the organization. They can be found here on the web site and you are encouraged to read them.

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  • What is JudgeNet and how does it relate to the BJCP?

    JudgeNet is a private e-mail forum, provided through the courtesy of Synchro Systems, for the discussion of beer judging and related matters. It is open to all. It is not officially connected to the BJCP in any way but it was historically used heavily by BJCP members. The BJCP finds it convenient to post announcements and general comments to the JudgeNet readership. JudgeNet Subscription info can be found at:

    There is also a forum for members where BJCP matters can be discussed.

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  • I have a problem/question/complaint/etc. Whom do I contact?

    In almost all cases, call/write/email your Regional Representative, who will personally pursue the matter for you. He/she may pass you on to an Appointed Director or other person who will help you. In general, don't post something to JudgeNet and expect the BJCP to act or reply. If you want a response, contact your Regional Representative.

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  • But can't I chew out the BJCP on JudgeNet?

    Of course you can. It's a very popular type of posting and it may generate some (hopefully) healthy discussion. But if you want an official answer/action, contact your rep.

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  • How come I don't see minutes of the board meetings?

    We don't have meetings in the usual sense. Due to our geographic dispersion, some of us have never physically met. But we are all online and we have phones so we communicate electronically, almost exclusively.

    There is a mailing list for the extended board, i.e., the voting (elected) directors and the appointed directors, where topics are generally discussed. This can take place over many days and participation varies. Some items are not reportable, e.g., personnel matters (the seven elected reps have a private mailing list for those). Some are simply not of general interest (Hey, Scott, I need a scanned copy of your signature for the RTP form). Some are tentative and don't reach specific conclusions. However, major actions, such as the appointment of a new director, are generally reported on the web site and posted to Judgenet, as well as here on the website.

    Sometimes, matters rise to the level of requiring a formal vote of the seven voting board members. You can find the record of significant votes taken during the last couple of years here.

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  • What is our corporate/financial/tax status?

    We are a non-profit corporation chartered in the state of New York. We are also classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt public charity, under sections 501(c)(3) and 509(a)(2).

    Financially, we are very sound with a good working surplus. Detailed financial reports will appear in the annual message to members, here on the website as appropriate.

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  • What is the significance of my BJCP number?

    Every member of the BJCP is assigned an identification number, in order to keep track of your experience points in our database. Generally, your number is assigned when you take the BJCP exam for the first time, and remains with you forever. The first letter of the number indicates the BJCP region of the state where you lived when you took your first exam, and does not change even if you move permanently to a different region. The remaining digits of the number are assigned sequentially within each region, and don't really mean anything, except that a lower number probably means you took took the exam before someone with a higher number.

    The current assignment of letters to regions is:
    • A North
    • B Mid-Atlantic
    • C Midwest
    • D Mountain/Northwest
    • E Northeast
    • F South
    • G West

    If something doesn't seem right about that list, it's because the regions have been realigned since they were originally established. So you might have lived in a state that is currently in a region with a different letter, because your state was in a different region at the time. Confused? Don't worry about it. As stated above, it's not used for anything, and since people are always moving anyway, it will never be used for anything except to identify you. Think of it as having as much meaning as the numbers/letters on the average automobile license plate.

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  • How do I join the BJCP?

    The only way to become a member is by taking the BJCP Examination. That involves finding an exam being administered near you, reading and understanding the Exam Study Guide, and taking the exam itself. You can find our more details about all these things in the BJCP Exam Center.

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  • Do people get dropped from the BJCP if they don't judge? How do you rejoin the BJCP?

    You become inactive if you don't judge, take an exam, attend a CEP event, or update your address sometime in the last two years. You don't get dropped from the program, and your records don't get deleted from our databases. If you are inactive and then subsequently judge, take an exam, attend a CEP event, or update your address, then you will automatically become active again. You do not need to retest to become active. Inactive status codes are more fully described in this policy.

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  • Where can I find out more?

    Right here. Practically any question has an answer here on the website, but you're encouraged to ask your regional representative or any of the other officers about any BJCP matter at any time. You can send an e-mail with just a click of the mouse from HERE. You can also post questions or comments on the BJCP Forums.

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  • Why have style guidelines?

    Styles are a convenient shorthand for discussing beer. They allow all those who are tasting and describing a beer to use a common framework and language. Style Guidelines are designed to assist organizers, entrants and judges participating in beer, mead and cider competitions by providing a standardized set of descriptions of beer, mead and cider styles.

    The styles included in the guidelines are not meant to describe every beer style made in the world (at least not yet). They are meant to cover the most common ones entered in homebrew competitions. The style descriptions are based on currently acknowledged world class examples, historical references to styles no longer brewed, and writings of noted beer researchers and journalists.

    In a competition setting, the Style Guidelines provide guidance to judges so that there is a level playing field for all entrants. Judges and entrants are both using the same descriptions, so the decision on "which beer is best?" is based less on personal whim of the judges and more on how well the entered beer matches world class commercial examples of the style.

    Style guidelines assist competition organizers by grouping together beer styles of similar characteristic for judging purposes. Judges have an easier time selecting the best beer in a flight if there is as little variation as possible. Grouping beer styles together into categories makes this easier. Category groupings are somewhat arbitrary at times, since some beer styles don't necessarily have strong historical, regional or cultural ties to other styles.

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  • Who gave you the right to tell me what a given beer style is like?

    Actually, it's part of the BJCP's Mission Statement. One of the purposes of the BJCP is to promote beer literacy, which includes understanding more about the world's great beer styles. The BJCP has been operating since 1985 and has been publishing guidelines for much of that history.

    We have spent considerable time researching world class beer examples, visiting renowned breweries, talking with noted authors, and searching key reference materials for information on beer styles. We have collected this information into our guidelines as a way to reduce the amount of time, effort and variability in learning this knowledge.

    We hope you find our guidelines useful, but you are free to use your own research and believe what you want. However, if you enter a beer in a AHA/BJCP-Sanctioned Competition, know that these guidelines will be used as the benchmark against which your beer will be judged.

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  • I should be able to brew what I want. Who are you to tell me how to brew?

    You should always brew what you want. Just as reading a recipe book doesn’t force you to brew only those recipes, reading the Style Guidelines doesn’t mean you have to change your brewing habits. The BJCP Style Guidelines do help people learn about the many types of beer in the world and what makes them unique. If you do not have any interest in learning about the world of beer or you never enter competitions, then the Style Guidelines may have little value for you.

    Our goal is to provide structure and process for fair competitions. Style guidelines allow all brewers to compete on a level playing field. If you never enter competitions, then the guidelines may not have much value to you. If you do use them to get brewing ideas, that's great.

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  • Styles are evil, according to a well-known brewer.

    OK, that's not really a question, but a common comment that deserves to be addressed.

    This type of comment often comes from people who misunderstand the purpose of our Style Guidelines. Our guidelines are descriptive, not proscriptive. That is, they describe similar beers as produced by world class brewers. Our guidelines are not meant to tell those brewers how to brew. As styles evolve, so do the guidelines (not vice versa). We cite commercial examples for our styles to help judges understand how they should taste.

    A common argument is that styles inhibit the creativity of the brewer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many of the styles in the BJCP Style Guidelines are very wide open, and allow significant creativity on the part of the brewer. Look at the English Mild and Old Ale categories for examples. If a brewer wishes to create and enter a totally unique and creative entry, we have the Specialty Beer category for just that purpose. Knock yourself out; just tell us what you intended so we have some idea of how to evaluate your beer.

    Without beer styles, competitions would be nearly impossible to conduct. Judging would simply become a hedonistic event, where judges would simply pick beers according to their preference. The outcome would be totally arbitrary and would depend on the background and preferences of those who judge their beers. This is not a desirable situation.

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  • How did you choose the commercial examples?

    We drink a lot of beer. Seriously.

    Many of the officers and staff in the BJCP are truly committed beer geeks. We travel all around the world drinking beer. When we go on our beer excursions, we often take detailed notes and try to add to our commercial examples and also validate the style descriptions. It's not as much fun as just drinking beer, but it gives us something else to do and sometimes you might wind up on TV doing it.

    Many of the best commercial examples are listed in the reference books on the beer styles. Michael Jackson's books are always a good source. We supplement these with our own tastings. We tend not to rely on Internet voting sites where anyone, knowledgeable or not, can rate their favorite beers. This kind of data is often unreliable since it is more of a popularity contest for vocal fans of breweries rather than an objective evaluation. However, these sites may give us ideas of beers that we want to investigate on our own.

    The commercial examples undergo considerable review within the BJCP when the guidelines are being published, and they are also reviewed by our members. Many suggestions have been provided through the BJCP Forums, for instance.

    The Continuing Education Program is doing its own research of beers for various databases and projects, including a beer characteristics database. We used much of this data in reviewing the commercial styles in the 2008 Guidelines. The Education Director, Kris England, provided most of the style examples and rankings based on these tastings. The final inclusion was a decision from the Style Guideline Committee, however.

    One of the hardest tasks in selecting and maintaining the commercial example list is tracking which breweries close or which product lines are discontinued. Several great beers were dropped from the commercial list because they are simply no longer being brewed. Sometimes these great beers do come back (e.g., Thomas Hardy's Ale, Samichlaus, Kulmbacher Reichelbrau Eisbock, Okocim Porter), so we don't always remove the beers from the list immediately. As part of the 2008 review, Kris England validated all the commercial examples — this was a significant effort.

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  • How come my favorite beer isn't on your list?

    It could be for several reasons. Maybe we simply haven't heard of it or tried it. Suggest an addition on the BJCP Forums in the appropriate category and we'll look into it. More typically, it's because we have a sufficient number of great examples. If we have several widely-available examples, we won't add a beer that is only locally distributed or only brewed seasonally. We relax this rule if we don't have good examples available.

    We try to list examples that are distributed in the US, although we will list some beers that are only found in limited areas if those are truly the best examples. Düsseldorf altbiers are a great example — we list several that are only found in the Altstadt in Düsseldorf. Some beers are no longer found where they originated (e.g., Vienna lager). Other beers have no good, widely available, modern commercial examples (e.g., Classic American Pilsner).

    The final reason for not listing your favorite beer is that perhaps we don't consider it a classic example of the style. It may be a great beer, but not very representative of the style. It might be outside the style parameters, or just not be a great beer in our opinion. Keep in mind that just because a brewery decides to name their beer in a way that seems to indicate a style, it might not actually be brewed to that particular style. In Canada, there is a popular beer named Alexander Keith’s IPA that most definitely is not any form of IPA. Usually it doesn't come to this type of selection process since we are finding and adding great examples all the time.

    Although we do attempt to list classic examples from the country or region of origin, we will list good US versions of world beer styles. Likewise, we might have beers from other parts of the world that are good examples. There are several great German-style beers from Eisenbahn in Brazil, for instance.

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  • Why do you keep changing the guidelines?

    We don't really change the guidelines that often. We've published revisions in 1997, 1999, 2004 and 2008. The 1999 and 2004 revisions were quite major. The 2008 revision was relatively minor.

    We understand the ripple effects (both internal and external to the BJCP) of making major changes to the guidelines, so we don't make the changes lightly. We think revising the guidelines every three-to-five years is a decent schedule that lets us correct errors and take advantage of new information while keeping disruptions to a minimum.

    The 2008 guidelines were produced after new literature gave us more information on certain styles (mostly Belgian ones). We strive to have the guidelines agree with important beer references, and whenever someone publishes new research, we give it a close look. Commercial examples of styles also tend to become out-of-date over time. Finally, our members often catch small errors that should be corrected. The guidelines are quite extensive. Despite thorough reviews, errors do slip into the final versions. We want the guidelines to be as correct as possible.

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  • Where did those numbers come from? How were they determined?

    By numbers, we mean the style parameters (OG, FG, ABV, IBUs, Color) listed in the Guidelines. The numbers come from many sources, but all are validated by the Style Committee. If you see what appears to be an error in the style parameters in the Guidelines, please contact us as discussed in this FAQ.

    Style parameters aren't determined by the BJCP through direct measurement. That is, we don't collect commercial examples and then test them (although we might observe the color of commercial examples). We determine most numbers for our style guidelines using several indirect methods. First, we try to find a reputable source of primary research, such as a book on styles. If the material exists there, we try to use it. Second, we try to obtain style parameters for good commercial examples of the style. This is often quite difficult, since breweries rarely publish all the data we use in our guidelines. We may have to calculate some statistics (such as the FG, given the OG and ABV). Third, we analyze the data and look for trends. We use our judgment in selecting reasonable parameters given the data.

    It isn't our goal to cover all commercial examples in the style parameters. Some examples may have much more or less of some attribute than most other beers. We try to limit the parameters to a range that makes sense for most examples. If we find good commercial examples that don't exactly fit our style parameters, we tend to make note of that in our Guidelines.

    In some circumstances, we may not be able to find commercial examples or good reference works on the styles. In this case, we turn to historical data and secondary sources. For example, the Classic American Pilsner style doesn't exist today in commercial examples, so we used essays by subject matter experts. Some styles are based on a small number of examples (e.g., California Common). In this case, we use the best known examples to define the style and allow for a little bit of variation. Some styles are defined by beer tax laws (e.g., German and Belgian beers). In those cases, we limit the beers based on what commercial brewers are legally allowed to be brewed.

    No matter which methods we use, we try to avoid excessive overlap in the styles. We don't want to make it difficult to enter beers in a competition or to judge them. We may set the breakpoints between similar styles artificially because we want to draw a distinction between styles and not have their statistics overlap.

    There are always exceptions to our rules. We don't let our rules and processes keep us from using common sense. When we have finished generating the style parameters, we check the calculations to make sure they are possible to achieve. This means we use the OG and FG ranges to calculate the ABV range. If the numbers don't work, we adjust them until they do. Jamil Zainasheff did much of the work in validating the style parameters in the 2008 Guidelines while he was working on his Brewing Classic Styles book.

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  • Why are the styles grouped the way there are?

    First things first. The most important part of the Style Guidelines is the subcategory description of a single beer style. This is much more important than any grouping into a category or style family. If there is ever any confusion about inferring some attribute by how a beer is categorized, always defer to the specific descriptions for the subcategory.

    The groupings in the Style Guidelines are somewhat arbitrary, and often did not represent a unanimous decision of those on the Style Committee who worked on the document. There are two conflicting schools of thought represented in the guidelines. The first says that Style Guidelines should describe beer in the way you would think about it historically, or the way you would teach it in a study class. Similar to a Michael Jackson book, subcategories of beers should always belong to a logical style family from which they are derived. The other school of thought says that subcategory descriptions are the vital notion, and that style categories are simply logical groupings of similar beers for purposes of judging. This group believes that beers from many style families can be combined into judging categories so as to reduce the sensory differences a judge will encounter in judging a single flight from that category.

    The effect of the first group can be seen in categories such as Stout, where a 1.040 Dry Stout can be judged alongside a 1.110 Imperial Stout. The effect of the second group can be seen in categories such as the Light Hybrid Beer, Amber Hybrid Beer, and Sour Ale categories, where seemingly unrelated beers are grouped according to sensory impact. Different members of the Style Committee believed different notions should prevail, so the groupings reflect a category-by-category compromise with majority voting making the final selection. There was much more discussion on the groupings of the styles than on the content of each individual style subcategory.

    All competitions are free to group style subcategories in any way that makes sense to the organizer. Some competitions, such as the AHA National Homebrew Competition, do not collapse or alter style categories — they award medals by BJCP style category. Either approach can be used.

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  • The guidelines seem to treat styles differently. Why is that?

    Some styles are quite well-known, others are historical notions, while still others are artificial creations for the purpose of categorizing relatively unique beers or for grouping similar beers for judging purposes. That said, there is a notion of "narrowness" of style that applies to the variation between commercial examples within a style. Some styles are based on a small number of examples (e.g., California Common), while others may have explicit requirements (e.g., Kölsch). These are narrow styles. Some styles embrace multiple stylistic variations (e.g., Foreign Style Stout, Old Ale), so are broader. Some styles allow a great degree of creativity on the part of the brewer, and therefore are wide open (e.g., Mild, Belgian Dark Strong Ale). All of these factors contribute to styles being handled differently.

    The nature of the research into the styles is another factor. Some styles are quite well-known and have many commercial examples. These styles are relatively easy to describe. Some styles are historical, have few sources, or are not widely available. These styles may be less fully described. Styles also tend to evolve, and descriptions may describe variations over time. In some cases (e.g., English IPA), the styles describe beers the way they used to be made more so than the way they are currently made. This allows the historic heritage of a style to be preserved and brewed by homebrewers, even if commercial brewers no longer make them that way. Styles may be rediscovered (e.g., Porter, Witbier) and be revived in their historical context. It is a judgment call on the part of the BJCP to decide how best to handle a style. We tend to describe beers in the way that they were when they were the most authentic and popular, although there are exceptions.

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  • I think there should be other styles there. How does that happen?

    We added eight new styles in the 2004 edition of the Style Guidelines. Here is how that process worked. We looked at entry data for the Specialty Beer category for several competitions and identified some common styles. We also looked at styles that were described in reference sources (such as Michael Jackson's books) and that were commonly available in the US. We also looked at industry trends and innovations, and tried to accomodate some of the more popular styles. This gave us a list of potential styles. The Style Committee voted on each member of the list, and we selected eight for inclusion.

    Once the styles were identified, we then entered the detailed research phase. We looked for authoritative reference sources describing the styles (again, Michael Jackson's books, AHA Style Series books, etc. — the types of books referenced in the BJCP Exam Study Guide). We also collected as many commercial examples as we could and took structured tasting notes. We chose good commercial examples, and tried to research these beers. Statistics from labeling, brewery web sites, or published literature led to the style parameters. Structured tasting notes, compared against descriptions in reference literature, led to the range of descriptors found in the Guidelines.

    We do encourage members to research and submit new styles. If you want to provide such a style, we ask that you put your writeup in our standard format using this Word template. Post it in the BJCP Forums and it will get peer reviewed. If it looks good, we might post it on our web site as a provisional style and include it in a subsequent release of the Style Guidelines.

    If we have a repository of provisional style descriptions posted on our web site, then brewers will be able to print out a standardized description of a style and include it with their beer when they submit it to competitions. This will provide information to judges in a familiar format, and will encourage the styles to be used and improved by the homebrewing and judging community. Provisional styles will likely be entered in the Specialty Beer category, but use the printed descriptions from the web site.

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  • I think I found an error. How do I report it?

    We appreciate the help. There are many ways to report errors. You can send email to the Style Committee chairman, the Competition Director, the IT Director, the Communication Director, or your regional representative (see our Officer's Page for contact information). Any of these people will forward the email to the right person. You may also post your comments on the BJCP Forums where others will see your comment and discuss it. BJCP officers and staff monitor the Forums and will take action on your report once it is validated.

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  • What if I want to reformat the guidelines or use them a different way?

    Sure, go ahead. Members have in the past translated our Guidelines into several other file formats (and even other languages). Just let us know if you come up with something that seems useful. We may want to post it on our website so others may use it. Since the BJCP holds the Copyright on the Style Guidelines, we also will hold Copyright on any derivative works. You may not sell or post online reformatted versions of the Style Guidelines. If we post your version of the Guidelines, we will give you credit (and you will be responsible for maintaining your version, and for responding to questions or comments on your version).

    Some ideas for other versions of the Guidelines include translations into other languages, reformatting into different file formats (e.g., for PDAs or for databases), or using the Guidelines for other purposes (e.g., Flashcards for exam prep). All of these are interesting ideas that the BJCP does not have the resources to pursue. If these are done, we will evaluate your work for inclusion on our web site.

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  • I want to post your guidelines on my web site. Can I do that?

    No. This usage is specifically disallowed. See our usage information for information on how to handle this situation. Basically, you may link to our site for style guidelines but you may not post our Style Guidelines on other sites. We do update our information on occasion, and we want people to always get the most current style information.

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  • Can I use your style names or numbers in my application?

    Probably, but you need to check with us first. In general, we allow non-commercial use of our naming structure and style parameters in applications that are designed to support BJCP functions (e.g., competition registration software). We also tend to allow their use in applications or web sites where the information benefits our members (e.g., ProMash, Wyeast). However, the data in our Style Guidelines is protected by Copyright, so please ask before using it for any purpose not explicitly allowed in our use notice. Direct questions on usage to the BJCP Communication Director.

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  • What's the difference between a Category, Subcategory, Style, and Sub-style?

    The BJCP Style Guidelines use some specific terms with specialized meaning: “Category”, “Subcategory” and “Style.” When thinking of beer, mead and cider styles, the subcategory is the most important label—“subcategory” means essentially the same thing as “style” and identifies the major characteristic of one type of beer, mead or cider. The larger “categories” are arbitrary groupings of beers, meads or ciders, usually with similar character but some subcategories are not necessarily related to others within the same category. The purpose of the structure within the BJCP Style Guidelines is to group styles of beer, mead and cider for competition purposes; do not attempt to derive additional meaning from these groupings.

    The term "Sub-style" was used in the BJCP Exam Study Guide in the past as a synonym for Subcategory, but this phrase is no longer used in current reference materials. If you see the phrase used, substitute either "Style" or "Subcategory" as appropriate.

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