How did we get our start?
The BJCP has quite a history, going back to 1985, but many of our newer members don't really have a good grasp on where we came from. The outline below, authored by Gordon Strong, gives a good capsule summary of the organization from its beginnings up to the present day.
The BJCP was founded in 1985 as a joint venture between the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) and the Home Wine and Beer Trade Association (HWBTA). Pat Baker from the HWBTA was the driving force behind the program with support from Charlie Papazian of the AHA.
The BJCP was governed by the Beer Judge Certification Committee (BJCC), which had two members appointed by the AHA and two members appointed by the HWBTA. These representatives had voting authority for the organization, but appointed directors ran things such as the exam program. The AHA ran the Sanctioned Competition Program and published the style guidelines. An AHA employee served as the BJCP Administrator and managed the database and the point entry for judges. The presidents of the AHA and HWBTA and the appointed directors participated as non-voting members of the BJCC.
The appointed directors generally ran the program with the representatives setting strategy and policy. As the BJCP grew, the BJCC increasingly asserted itself and started voting on operations. At this time the program became committee-run. The BJCP was quasi-independent but still heavily influenced by its sponsoring organizations, particularly the AHA. BJCP judges were generally AHA members and helped run the AHA National Homebrew Competition.
In 1995, the BJCP planned to increase representation from its membership on the BJCC. Three additional representatives were authorized for the BJCC, all of which would represent the membership. However, before this plan was implemented, the AHA announced on January 31, 1995 that it was withdrawing sponsorship of the BJCP and intended to create its own judging program. Three additional members were appointed to the BJCC to represent the members, and this seven-person committee handled the transition of the BJCP from a joint venture to an independent organization. The BJCP became independent on April 19, 1995 when the AHA formally withdrew sponsorship; the HBWTA voluntarily withdrew sponsorship at this time so that the BJCP could be relaunched as a completely independent organization.
The interim BJCC accomplished many tasks such as obtaining ownership of the BJCP name, receiving the BJCP database from the AHA, establishing an independent treasury and transferring program funds, setting up an initial regional structure, and setting up direct elections of representatives. The last BJCC chairman was Russ Wigglesworth, who handed over program authority when the new board was seated. All prior BJCC representatives resigned from their positions so that completely new representatives could be elected directly by the membership.
Member elections were conducted in mid-1995 with the first elected board being announced on July 11, 1995. Initial goals were to address incorporation, by-laws, competition sanctioning, style guidelines, exam improvements, and introducing better member representation. Many BJCP judges were complaining about the exam format and the feedback received, whether annual dues should be charged to judges, and whether there should be a quarterly newsletter. Most concerns were focused on open-ended exams, lack of published information from the BJCP, non-transparent operations without sufficient communication, and the financial viability of the organization. After the split from the AHA, the need to develop a competition program, style guidelines, and competition materials (scoresheets, etc.) was seen as more important.
Tim Dawson developed an initial draft of style guidelines in mid-1995 and posted them on JudgeNet for review. This was an independent action not directed by the BJCP, but an interim measure while more complete guidelines were written. This followed the pattern of the 1992 Study Guide, which was originally developed by Chuck Cox with review and input from JudgeNet.
The early days of the independent BJCP were quite chaotic and many openly wondered whether the BJCP would survive. During the interim period, the BJCP started to organize as a loosely affiliated collection of regional organizations with separate databases, mailing lists, elections, and leadership councils. Some regions were more aggressive about self-management than others.
Dennis Davison emerged as the BJCP president in August 1995. After resignations of the remaining program staff, Russ Wigglesworth was appointed BJCP Program Administrator and Scott Bickham was appointed Exam Director. After this step, the decentralization of the BJCP stopped and all program administrative functions were re-centralized under the Program Administrator. The Exam Director began to improve the exam structure, turnaround time and feedback. Four Associate Exam Directors were soon appointed to oversee grading. The BJCP board focused on completing by-laws, incorporating the organization, and setting up an initial web page.
During 1996, board member Greg Walz developed a revised and expanded study guide. This was still not an official BJCP guide, but was widely referenced. Tom Fitzpatrick was appointed as the first Competition Director to oversee the introduction of a competition sanctioning program, the development of style guidelines, the development of scoresheets and related competition materials. These activities involved several committees and lasted into 1997. The AHA and BJCP reached an agreement on fees and on recording points for AHA sanctioned competitions. The BJCP board completed a final set of by-laws, which were adopted by the membership. The organization was incorporated in the State of New York. A revised Program Guide was released.
During 1996, the AHA announced that it no longer intended to develop a competing judging program, although it was still interested in a tasting program for beer enthusiasts. The AHA and BJCP continued to work closer together, including having the AHA agree to use the BJCP style guidelines for AHA competitions starting in 2000.
After 1997, incremental changes continued in the BJCP. New style guidelines were developed and released in 1999. A new member guide was published. The BJCP web site was rehosted. The exam format was revised and standardized. A BJCP Study Guide was created. The competition point schedule was revised. Logo polo shirts were offered for sale. The BJCP web site replaced the previous newsletter as the official publication of the BJCP.
After 2000, many changes took place in the BJCP database and web site. Three separate databases were combined and judge records were placed on the web site. The web site was expanded and rehosted onto a commercial-class server hosted by Beer, Beer & More Beer. Several web-based applications were introduced, including an organizer reporting system, a voting system, and a competition registration system. The BJCP became an all-electronic organization in 2002, stopping its annual mailings.
The style guidelines were revised and expanded again in 2004. The BJCP began recognizing points for judges in commercial competitions. The AHA and BJCP merged competition programs into a single AHA/BJCP Sanctioned Competition Program, managed by the BJCP. All competition materials were revised. A new Continuing Education Program was launched in 2005.
As of 2006, there are efforts underway to revise and update the BJCP exam and to add new exams for mead and cider certification.