Welcome to the
Beer Judge Certification Program!
The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) is a non-profit organization that encourages the advancement of education of people who are concerned with the evaluation of beer, mead and cider. The BJCP certifies and ranks beer judges through an exam and monitoring process.
The program was created in 1985 through the joint efforts of the Home Wine and Beer Trade Association (HWBTA) and the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). Since 1995, the BJCP has operated independently of either founding organization, governed only by its membership of participating judges.
In 1985, some 30 people took the BJCP exam and became certified. Since that first exam, our ranks have steadily grown with over 1000 judges currently joining annually. Currently, there are 5,885 active judges in the BJCP with a total membership of 9,973.
Your initial correspondence from the BJCP will contain several important items; some of these are delivered by email, some are available through your online judge record portal, and others are delivered physically through the mail:
Cover Letter: The initial email welcomes you to the program, and gives you some key information about the program including the location of important web applications and resources. It also describes the current member benefits, including free rank pins, name badges, and color guides.
Report To Participant (RTP): The RTP indicates how you did on your exam, and is linked directly into your online judge record. It includes grades for any portions of the exam taken. The remainder of the form provides you with the graders' and/or Exam Director's feedback on your performance on the exam. The RTP also indicates sources of further suggested study.
Credentials: A set of judge credentials (certificate and wallet card) indicates your rank, ID number, and the date this rank was bestowed. These materials can be printed in color from within your online judge record. We have tried to make the certificate presentable with the hopes that you will display it with pride. The wallet card is provided for your convenience so that you can refer to it for your ID number when you sign in at competitions. Using your ID number speeds our recording of your experience points.
Personal Judge Record: Your online BJCP record showing your personal information, including any experience points you have accumulated, as it appears in the BJCP database. First time takers frequently have very few or no points listed. If you would like to include points retroactively, contact the IT Director to request the points. Note that the IT Director does a search of competition records for retroactive points for every new judge, so you may wish to wait a month or two to see if your records get transferred. Judges can verify their experience points as they earn them by viewing their judge record in our web application. Please examine your record and verify the contents, particularly the email address. If you note any errors, use the Change of Address web application to correct them.
Bylaws: The current BJCP Bylaws are available on the BJCP web site. These are the BJCP rules of organization and procedure.
Membership Guide: This online Membership Guide (also available as a PDF file) is designed to help judges better understand how the BJCP is managed and the flow of information within the program. It should answer most questions you will have about the program and its procedures. The Guide also provides contact information should you have additional questions or problems with the BJCP.
Your rank is determined by both your exam score and your experience points. A judge with any passing score and fewer than 5 experience points receives the rank of Recognized. Judges with a score of 70 or above on the exam and who have accumulated at least 5 experience points receive the Certified rank. A score of 80 or above combined with 20 experience points provides the rank of National. Judges achieve Master status by scoring 90 or better and acquiring 40 experience points. In all cases, at least half the experience points for a given rank must come from judging.
There is also the Apprentice rank and several levels of Grand Master. Honorary ranks can be awarded; there are currently the Honorary Master and Honorary Grand Master ranks.
The Apprentice rank was created to encourage those who do not pass the exam to remain active with the program and to try the exam again in the future. Apprentice judges have two years to pass the exam or their status becomes Affiliated – a special type of Inactive status. Judges with this status must start over with examinations, starting with the online exam. The Judge ID and accumulated experience points are preserved, but the judge is not considered an Active BJCP member.
The rank of Honorary Master is temporarily bestowed on judges who serve as operatives of the program (Regional Director, Exam Director, Program Administrator, etc.) at their discretion for the duration of their service if they have not already earned at least the Master rank. The rank may also be awarded, in special cases, to judges who have demonstrated Master Judge proficiency but not necessarily taken the exam. This status is determined by the BJCP Board of Directors.
The rank of Grand Master can be earned by Master judges who volunteer service to the BJCP. Masters who accumulate at least 100 experience points (half from judging), who have graded at least 50 exams, and who have performed special services for the program (such as serving in staff positions, grading exams, or administering exams) are eligible for promotion to Grand Master I. The rank honors those individuals who give something extra of their time and effort and are extremely committed to the program. Additional Grand Master levels can be earned in 100 experience point increments with the same service, grading, and judging requirements as for the initial rank. The entire system is described in the Grand Master Service Requirements policy.
In 2005, the BJCP board created the Honorary Grand Master rank. This is a permanent rank bestowed upon individuals by the BJCP Board of Directors for extraordinarily long and meritorious service involving significant, meaningful and continuous work for the BJCP program. Individuals receiving this rank are authorized to wear and use the Grand Master pin and rank.
Mead Judge and Cider Judge ranks exist for the Mead Exam and the forthcoming Cider Exam. These ranks apply to judges who have taken the Mead and/or Cider Exam but not the Beer Exam. Existing BJCP judges who have passed the beer exam can earn the Mead Judge and Cider Judge endorsements on their record.
Promotions are not automatic. The IT Director reviews judge records on a regular basis in order to identify judges who have met the criteria for new ranks. After the Exam Director approves a promotion, the Exam Administrator issues the judge new credentials. Judges should not identify themselves as holding a higher rank until they receive official notification, even if judges calculate that they have accumulated sufficient experience points to qualify for a higher rank. Points do not count until they are recorded into the database as a result of an Organizer's Report, a Retroactive Point Request, or other program activity.
At least half of all experience points counted toward a non-honorary rank must be earned through judging (either in a regular judging session or during a BOS round).
Judges passing a BJCP exam receive an attractive lapel pin indicating their rank. Judges receive these pins as part of their promotion at no additional charge.
The BJCP awards experience points to judges and staff who participate in AHA/BJCP Sanctioned Competition Program events, in BJCP exams, or in Continuing Education Program events. The point award varies depending on the size of the event and the job an individual performs. There are two groups of experience points: Judging points and Non-Judging points.
Individuals earn Judging points for actually judging in a registered competition, including Best of Show (BOS) judging. Individuals earn Non-Judging points for serving (or assisting) as a competition organizer, a steward, an administrator (or assistant) for a BJCP exam, or participating in a Continuing Education Program event. While competition organizers may use their discretion in deciding to whom and how many Staff points they allocate, Judge points must be earned by the individual receiving them and cannot be allocated.
The BJCP runs the jointly-sponsored AHA/BJCP Sanctioned Competition Program. Organizers of any sanctioned event must submit their reports electronically, preferably using the Organizer Reporting System web application.
Experience points are recorded into judge's record only after an organizer files a completed Organizer Report. Points claimed by a judge that cannot be verified against a corresponding Organizer Report will not be recorded. In this case, the judge must contact the competition organizer and request that the organizer amend the Organizer Report by sending an email to the IT Director.
The BJCP Competition Committee (chaired by the Competition Director) determines a schedule of experience point awards. Competition organizers for sanctioned competitions receive a copy of the schedule with their competition information package. Currently that schedule is:
Program Participants are individuals who perform an active role in a sanctioned competition. Important categories of program participants are organizers, judges, best-of-show judges, stewards and staff. Each has different rules that govern the awarding of experience points.
Organizers are the only program participants to receive Organizer points, which are non-judging points that are allocated based on the total number of competition entries as shown in Table 1. The Organizer may ONLY receive Organizer points, not judge points, staff points, steward points, or any other combination of points, regardless of other roles performed. Any other program participant is eligible to receive any combination of Judge, Best-of-Show Judge, Steward, or Staff points in a single competition, except as noted. However, the total points (judging plus non-judging points) awarded to any program participant may not exceed (but may equal) the Organizer points designated for the Organizer of the competition.
Judges earn points at a rate of 0.5 judging points per session, but the following limitations apply:
- Judges earn a minimum of 1.0 point per competition.
- Judges earn a maximum of 1.5 points per day.
The total number of judging points a judge may earn in a competition is limited by the organizer points, and is shown in Table 1.
Best-of-Show (BOS) Judges are eligible to receive a 0.5 judging point bonus if they judge in any BOS panel in a competition. The BOS bonus is in addition to any other judging and non-judging points earned in the competition, and may only be awarded to a single judge once per competition. BOS points may only be awarded if a competition has at least 30 entries in at least five beer and/or three mead/cider categories.
The number of judges eligible to receive the BOS bonus is correlated to the number of entries in each BOS panel as follows:
- 5-14 entries, including beer = 3 BOS Judges
- 3-14 meads and/or ciders (only) = 3 BOS Judges
- 15 or more entries of any type or combination = 5 BOS Judges
This limitation applies to each individual BOS panel. Competitions may seat separate homebrew, commercial and mead and/or cider BOS panels, if desired.
A best-of-show judge receives the BOS bonus if the judge judges at least one other flight. If the judge only judges in a BOS panel, the 1.0 point competition minimum is earned.
Stewards receive 0.5 non-judging points per day with a maximum of 1.0 points per competition. Participants may not earn both Judge and Steward points in a single competition. Steward points are awarded separately from Staff points and do not come from the Staff point pool shown in Table 1. A program participant may earn both Steward and Staff points.
Staff Points are non-judging points awarded by the Organizer to one or more program participants in minimum increments of 0.5 points. The sum of all staff points awarded to all program participants may not exceed the Table 1 Staff point maximum.
Note: In order to maintain competition integrity, staff members with access to entry data should refrain from judging as they may be able to associate entry numbers or entry descriptions with an entrant's identity.
# of Entries Organizer Staff* Judge 1 - 49 2.0 1 1.5 50 - 99 2.5 2 2.0 100 - 149 3.0 3 2.5 150 - 199 3.5 4 3.0 200 - 299 4.0 5 3.5 300 - 399 4.5 6 4.0 400 - 499 5.0 7 4.5 500 - 599 6.0 Max 8 5.5 Max +1 staff point for each additional 100 entries
*Note: The Staff point numbers represent the total points which can be awarded to all staff members collectively. No single person can receive more total points than the Organizer. For each 100 entries over 500 one additional staff point may be awarded. Organizer points are capped at 6, regardless of competition size.
- An event held in a single geographical area where beer and possibly other fermented beverages are formally evaluated against a set of pre-defined style guidelines or category descriptions for the purpose of constructive feedback and acknowledgment of excellence. A competition is comprised of one or more sessions spanning one or more days.
- A calendar date when judging is held. Competitions may take place on one or more days, and the days do not have to be contiguous.
- An uninterrupted time period when at least one panel of judges sits to judge one or more flights of entries. Typically, "morning", "afternoon" and "evening" are considered sessions at most competitions.
- A single grouping of entries that are combined for the purposes of judging, that are evaluated by a single panel of judges, and that result in a ranked ordering for purposes of determining awards. In large competitions, a single category may be divided into multiple flights with the overall winner determined in a Mini-BOS round.
- MINI-BOS ROUND
- A subsequent flight within a session during which judges compare the leading entries of two or more separate flights in order to determine overall class or category winners. This shall not qualify as a separate session for the purpose of awarding points.
- BEST OF SHOW (BOS) PANEL
- A single session awarding top honors for a competition from at least five beer category winners or three mead and/or cider winners.
- The single program participant who registers the competition and who in all ways assumes responsibility for the direction of that competition – before, during, and after the competition itself. The organizer cannot receive experience points for performing any other role during a competition.
- Any program participant who evaluates entries, completes score sheets, and determines the final score and rank of entries in a flight.
- BOS JUDGE
- A program participant who evaluates entries and selects a winner during a BOS panel.
- NOVICE JUDGE
- A relatively inexperienced person who has not taken the BJCP exam, but who has been approved by the competition organizer to serve as a judge in a competition.
- MEAD JUDGE
- A person who has taken the mead exam and scored a 60% or higher. This person may also be a beer judge although taking the beer exam is not a requirement.
- A program participant who assists judges, obtains entries and supplies, handles paperwork, and manages the competition logistics at a judging table.
- Program participants who, under the direction of the Organizer, perform an active role in support of the competition other than as a Judge, Steward, or BOS Judge. These roles include, but are not limited to, Assistant Organizer, Head Steward, Registrar, Cellarmaster, Table Captain, Data Entry, Head Judge, Lunch Caterer, and Committee member. Direct participation is required to earn Staff points; passive participation by individuals who provide websites, software, materials, or other indirect services are not eligible to receive points.
Judges often contact the BJCP Staff to say that they are missing points. Often it is simply the case that their points have not caught up with their records. Once a competition is over, the organizer must fill out a report that includes all of the experience points to be awarded for that event. We request that this report be filed within three weeks of the competition, but sometimes it takes a bit longer.
Once the BJCP receives the report, the IT Director records the experience points in the database. Generally this process is completed the same day as receiving the report, provided it is submitted electronically using the online organizer reporting system web application. Before contacting the IT Director, first verify that an organizer report has been submitted. Check the list of "submitted" and "delinquent" reports on the Database Reports section of the BJCP web site. Note that it takes up to a month for the submitted reports to be processed through our IT systems and make it back to the web record web application. If you believe that a report is submitted but you have not received your points, check back when the records have been updated and see if they are still missing before contacting the IT Director. Note that the web site contains a "Data current as of:" display. This indicates the date the information in the online judge records was last revised.
To review your record at any time simply visit the BJCP Judge Record web application, accessible from the main BJCP web site through the Administration Center. You will need to know your BJCP ID Number and your web password, both of which are supplied in your initial exam results packet. If you feel that you are missing points or that you were not promoted when you should have been, contact the IT Director to review your records.
The BJCP maintains a database of all participating judges. Once a competition is registered as an AHA/BJCP Sanctioned Competition Program event, the BJCP provides a list of its active judges who are local to the specific competition to the competition organizer. In return, we expect the organizer to invite BJCP judges to participate in the event.
In order for our judge lists to be of value, they must be accurate. Thus, it is very important that you keep us current on your contact information (street address, telephone number, email, etc.). BJCP policy requires that all active BJCP judges maintain a valid email account on file in the BJCP database since email is the primary communication method used by the BJCP.
To help keep the database current, each BJCP judge is urged to check their Personal Judge Record often to review the file for accuracy. If address information is incorrect, use the Change of Address web application. You may also contact the IT Director, found in the Administrative Contacts section of this guide.
The BJCP publishes a set of Style Guidelines intended to identify the characteristics of specific beer styles recognized around the world. These guidelines are used to establish entry categories at competitions and provide brewers with parameters which can be used when creating recipes for specific beer styles. The Guidelines are monitored by a committee of experienced judges. They are revised periodically as more is learned about the wide variety of beer styles which are currently being produced or when new information is discovered about historical styles. The most current official version of the guidelines are always available on the BJCP web site.
The BJCP maintains a web site where it posts calendars of registered competitions, scheduled exams, CEP events, contact information, copies of the bylaws, study guides, many of the documents associated with the running of beer competitions, and all news updates concerning the BJCP. Members are encouraged to visit the site often in order to keep up-to-date with BJCP issues and events. Members may also review their personal judge records via the site, update personal contact information, as well as check the status of Organizer Reports for events in which they participated.
As a judge, generally all you need to worry about is finding your way to the competitions. However, there may be occasions when you want (or need) to contact someone within the administration of the BJCP. Some information may be missing from your personal record, you may want to register a competition, or you may want to schedule an exam in your local area. The following contacts should help you get to the proper person:
web site Member's record review, Delinquent Organizer Report List, On-line Competition Registration, Exam and Competition Calendars, Study Guide, Email contacts for the Board and program staff, copies of BJCP bylaws, various program guides, links to other beer judge related sites, and the latest information on the BJCP. General
Beer Judge Certification Program, Inc.
5115 Excelsior Blvd, #326
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
- Board of Directors (BOD)
- These are the folks who oversee the broader aspects of the BJCP. They worry about the long-term goals of the program, and are constantly reviewing things through the various committees in which they participate. If you have some philosophical issue concerning the BJCP or if you envision a new offshoot for the program, these are the people to contact. The Board is made up of seven regional representatives the membership elects to serve three-year terms. Regional Directors and their contact information are listed on the BJCP web site.
- Exam Directors (EDs)
- The Exam Directors coordinate the scheduling, administration, and grading of exams. Contact an Exam Director if you want to schedule an exam, retake the exam, or have questions about the grade you received on your last exam. The Exam Directors also can suggest study materials and may know of study groups that are preparing for an exam. Judges interested in pursuing the Grand Master rank should also contact an Exam Director.
- Competition Director
- The BJCP registers competitions so that participating judges can earn experience points when they judge. The Competition Director registers and oversees these competitions and develops material to aid organizers in running successful events. The Competition Director also oversees the committees which review and revise the program scoresheets and the Style Guidelines.
- Communication Director
- The BJCP web site has become the hub for information on the program. The Communication Director coordinates general mailings, elections, inquiries from non-members, and liaison with the press and other organizations, all on behalf of the BOD.
- Director of Information Technology
- The BJCP maintains a sophisticated database to track the participation of members in registered events as well as monitor exam results, promotions, and contact information for all members. The IT Director directs the development of new IT systems and applications, develops and maintains the existing database and online reports, and oversees the operation of the web site.
- Exam Administrators (EAs)
- Exam Administrators processes the paperwork associated with Exams, including creating new judge records, recording exam results and points, generating judge credentials and paperwork, and mailing the judge package and pins.
- Continuing Education Program (CEP) Director
- The Continuing Education Program (CEP) Director is responsible for the CEP program, including development of training materials, approving training programs, developing judge tools and materials that may assist with the education and ongoing professional development of judges.
All the people who serve as staff to the BJCP are volunteers. There are almost always positions which need filling as new positions are being created all the time. Examples of positions include: Director (Exam, Competition, or Regional), Associate Exam Directors, committee member, exam administrator, and exam grader. If you are interested in serving the BJCP as a staff volunteer or in some other larger way, contact your Regional Director.
Elections are held as needed to choose Regional Directors, but not all regions replace their directors in the same year. The Officers page of the web site shows the year each region's director will be up for re-election in the normal course of events. The term of office is three years. If you are interested in running for office as a Regional Director contact the Communication Director, who chairs the Election Committee.
The BJCP administers a tiered examination program.
- New entrants to the program must pass the BJCP Beer Judge Entrance Examination, which is an online qualifying examination designed to test basic knowledge a judge should know. Passing this exam does not grant BJCP membership, but it is a pre-requisite for registering for the tasting exam. The online exam contains 200 questions that must be answered in one hour. The exam is available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Judges passing this exam are called Provisional Judges, but are not yet BJCP members.
- Entrants passing the online exam must pass the BJCP Beer Judging Examination to become a BJCP member. This is a practical tasting examination where six beers must be judged as if in a homebrew competition. The time limit for the exam is 90 minutes. Passing this exam may grant the Recognized or Certified rank. Failing the exam grants the time-limited Apprentice rank.
- Judges wishing to advance to ranks beyond Certified must take the BJCP Beer Judge Written Proficiency Examination, a 90 minute written examination.
- Judges may become certified as Mead Judges by taking the BJCP Mead Judge Examination. This exam is open to non-BJCP judges as well as BJCP judges. This exam is currently a combined written and tasting examination, but is being transitioned to separate online and tasting exams similar to the beer exams. A future Cider Judge Examination will also have this format.
In preparing for entering the program, you should acquire a broad understanding of beer styles, know different brewing methods and how brewing methods correlate with style and flavor. Brewing processes should be understood to the point where you can intelligently discuss various techniques and ingredients and how they may have affected the beer being sampled. Frequent tasting of commercial beers will help you gain further understanding of style differences. To assist in the process, the BJCP has created a Study Guide. A current schedule of upcoming BJCP Exams and other exam study materials available at the BJCP Examination Center on the BJCP web site.
The fee for taking the online qualifying exam (the BJCP Beer Judge Entrance Examination) is $10. The fee for the tasting exam (the BJCP Beer Judging Examination) is $40 for first-time examinees, and $15 for retakes. The Mead Judge examination fee is $50 for non-BJCP members, and $30 for BJCP members. The written exam (the BJCP Written Proficiency Examination) fee is $25. All fees are in US dollars.
The BJCP offers a wide range of official logo merchandise for sale, including shirts and caps in a wide variety of styles and colors, and BJCP rank pins for existing Recognized and Certified judges (new judges receive rank pins for free). If you have ideas for any additional BJCP merchandise, please contact your regional representative or the Communication Director. BJCP merchandise is generally offered at cost as a member benefit, not as a money-making scheme for the BJCP.
The BJCP bylaws provide for dues, but since the program generates a significant financial surplus each year, these are not necessary. The BJCP program is financially self-sustaining, and surplus funds are generally used for membership benefit programs such as the BJCP Grants program. Other materials may be made available in the future as part of the Continuing Education Program. If you have ideas for using the BJCP's funds for additional member programs, please contact your regional representative.
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