Welcome to the Beer Judge Certification Program!
This guide is intended to help explain how the program operates. It should assist you as you progress through our ranks and serve as a BJCP judge.
About the 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 the ranks annually. Check our main web page for a current count of members.
New Judge Materials
Welcome Letter The first correspondence from the BJCP is an email that welcomes you to the organization and provides your BJCP ID and online password. This typically is received within two months of taking a tasting exam. You will receive additional information after your exam score is finalized, with some materials being sent by email, some by physical mail, and some obtainable from our web site, including the BJCP Member Portal. Some member benefits are not available until you pass an initial tasting exam.
Exam Results The second correspondence you receive is an email with your exam results, and instructions on obtaining your Report to Participant, Certificate, and Wallet Card.
BJCP Member Portal A password-protected area of the BJCP web site where you can download individualized content, order member benefits such as name badges and sensory kits, check your judge record, vote in elections, and keep your contact information current.
Original Exam As part of the grading process, we scan your paper exam into our system. Your exam is viewable from within your judge record in the BJCP Member Portal.
Report To Participant (RTP) The RTP lists the score for your exam, provides feedback from the graders and exam staff on your performance, and suggests sources of further study. The RTP is viewable from within your judge record in the BJCP Member Portal.
Credentials A set of judge credentials (certificate and wallet card) indicates your rank, ID number, and the date this rank was bestowed. 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. Both of these can be viewed and printed in color from within your judge record in the BJCP Member Portal.
Personal Judge Record Your online BJCP record shows your personal information, exam scores, and any experience points you have accumulated as they appear in the BJCP database. First time exam 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 using 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.
Physical Mailing We send any rank pins you have earned, as well as a free BJCP Color Guide, to you by physical mail. You do not need to order a pin. These are sent to you for free. If you do not receive one, contact the BJCP Assistant Exam Director. Please check your mailing address in your judge record and make any corrections using our Change-of-Address web application.
Web Documentation Several reference documents, such as the current BJCP Bylaws (the rules of organization and procedure for the BJCP) and this Membership Guide, are available on the BJCP web site. Look in the Member Services section for information like this, as well as other useful information such as points of contact for various program functions.
The BJCP uses a tiered rank system for beer judges, but also has ranks for mead and cider judges. Ranks are determined by the exams taken, the highest scores on those exams, and the amount of experience points earned. The judge rank requirements and rules have been revised several times; this describes the current system for judges entering the program today. Existing judges may follow different rules based on when they entered the program.
Only those judges who have passed a BJCP judging exam are considered full BJCP members. Judges must show activity every two years to remain active in the program. See Judge Status.
Beer Judge Ranks
|Composite (Judging/Written Exam Avg.)
The Grand Master rank is awarded in levels, starting with Grand Master I. Each additional Grand Master level has the same requirements as the original Grand Master rank: 100 experience points with 50 from judging, and an additional GMSR – see the Grand Master Service Requirement rules for details).
Honorary Master is a temporary rank for judges who serve as regional representatives or directors of the program at their discretion, but only for the duration of their service. The rank may also be awarded permanently by the BJCP Board of Directors to judges who have demonstrated Master Judge proficiency but who have not necessarily taken the exam. Individuals awarded this rank are authorized to wear and use the Master pin.
Honorary Grand Master is a permanent rank awarded to individuals by the BJCP Board of Directors for extraordinarily long and meritorious service involving significant, meaningful, and sustained work for the BJCP. Individuals awarded this rank are authorized to wear and use the Grand Master pin and rank. To date, this rank has only been awarded once (*** add link to Russ award).
Mead Judge Ranks
Mead Judge is awarded to someone who has taken and passed the Mead Judging Exam. If the judge has not passed the Beer Judge Exam, Mead Judge is a rank; otherwise, it is an endorsement.
Cider Judge Ranks
Cider Judge is awarded to someone who has taken and passed the Cider Judging Exam. If the judge has not passed the Beer Judge Exam, Cider Judge is a rank; otherwise, it is an endorsement.
Apprentice Judge is a temporary rank used to describe someone who has taken but not passed a judging exam. The judge has two years to pass the same judging exam or become an Affiliated member, a special type of Inactive judge. Apprentice judges are not full members of the BJCP.
Provisional Judge is a term used to describe someone who has passed one of the BJCP online entrance exams; it is not a BJCP rank. This status is temporary; those passing an online qualifier exam have one year in which to pass a judging exam.
Non-BJCP Judge is the proper term to describe a person who has not taken a BJCP exam but who judges in competitions. This is not an official BJCP rank, but this description is used on the BJCP scoresheets. The term “Novice” is no longer used.
Promotions are not automatic. 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 participating in a BJCP event. Remember that at least half of all experience points required for non-honorary ranks must be earned as judging points.
Judge records are reviewed regularly (every 1 to 3 weeks, or when exams are closed or competitions are reported) to check for new promotions. When a promotion is processed, the judge receives a confirmation email generated by the BJCP website. Once the website has the new rank loaded, new rank credentials can be printed from the BJCP Member Portal and orders may be placed for additional materials (such as a name badge).
Judges passing a BJCP exam or being promoted in rank receive an attractive lapel pin indicating their rank. Judges receive these pins as part of their promotion at no additional charge. Note that there is no pin for passing an online qualifying exam – pins are provided only to full BJCP members. Pins, color guides, and other materials sent by physical mail are sent after the electronic notifications are provided. Please allow additional processing time (at least a month) for these components.
Judges believing they have met the criteria for one of the Grand Master ranks should contact the IT Director to verify. These ranks must be checked manually due to the complex criteria associated with their definition.
The BJCP awards experience points to judges and staff who participate in AHA/BJCP Sanctioned Competition Program events, in BJCP exams, in Continuing Education Program events, or in other BJCP functions. 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, and for proctoring BJCP exams. Individuals earn Non-Judging points for serving as a competition organizer or staff member, an administrator 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 Board approves the competition experience point award schedule, which is enforced by the Organizer Reporting System web application. Competition organizers can reference the current award schedule on the BJCP web site. Currently that schedule is:
- Experience Points
- The mechanism used by the BJCP to indicate the practical participation of members in BJCP events. There are two groups of experience points: judging experience points and non-judging experience points. Each of these groups consists of different categories of points that are accrued according to the rules of the various types of events. Experience Points are recorded in the BJCP database as judging and non-judging experience points only, not the more detailed schedules for each event.
- Program Participants
- 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 category of participants has different rules that govern the awarding of experience points.
- Organizers are the only program participants to receive Organizer Points, which are non-judging experience 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, Best-of-Show 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 experience 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 Judge Points per session, but the following limitations apply:
- Judges earn a minimum of 1.0 Judge Point per competition.
- Judges earn a maximum of 1.5 Judge Points per day.
BOS Judge Points are a separate category of points, and are not subject to these limitations. The total number of experience points (including Judge Points) a judge may earn in a competition is limited by the Organizer Points, and is shown in Table 1. Judge Points are a type of judging experience points.
- Best-of-Show (BOS) Judges
- BOS Judges are eligible to receive 0.5 Best-of-Show (BOS) Judge Points if they judge in any BOS panel in a competition. BOS Judge Points are a type of judging experience points separate from Judge Points. The BOS Judge Points are a bonus (i.e., an additional or extra reward) in addition to any other judging and non-judging experience points earned in the competition, and may only be awarded to a single judge once per competition. BOS Judge 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 Judge Point 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 Judge Point bonus if a judge judges in at least one other session in the competition. If a judge only judges in a BOS panel, that judge earns 1.0 BOS Judge Points and no Judge Points.
- Stewards receive 0.5 Steward Points (non-judging experience points) per day with a maximum of 1.0 Steward 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 the following table. A program participant may earn both Steward and Staff Points.
- Staff Points
- Non-judging experience 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
|1 – 49
|50 – 99
|100 – 149
|150 – 199
|200 – 299
|300 – 399
|400 – 499
|500 – 599
|+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.
- An arbitrary grouping of styles for purposes of judging. The BJCP Style Guidelines has categories of styles, but these do not need to be used as competition categories for award purposes. Organizers are free to group beer styles in any way they want for competition judging and award purposes.
- 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 Best of Show (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 completes and signs the application to register or sanction a competition and who in all ways assumes responsibility for the direction of that competition.
- Any program participant who evaluates entries, completes scoresheets, and determines the final score and rank of entries in a flight.
- Best of Show (BOS) Judge
- A program participant who evaluates entries and selects a winner during a BOS panel.
- Non-BJCP Judge
- A 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. The person may or may not have extensive experience, but does not have a formal certification.
- Mead Judge
- A person who has taken the mead exam and scored 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 duties 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.
How Experience Points Enter the Database
Experience points are recorded into a judge’s record only after an organizer files a completed Organizer Report. Once the BJCP receives the report, the IT Director records the experience points in the database.
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.
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.
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.
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 to the competition organizer. We expect the organizer to invite local or regional 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 current contact information (street address, telephone number, email, etc.) on file. 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 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 on the Officers page of the BJCP website.
Some judges like to create a special personal email address for BJCP use, such as ‘bjcp.<judgeID>@gmail.com’. While we instruct competition organizers not to spam our members, not all judges like to receive a large volume of competition invites on their normal email account.
The BJCP publishes a set of Style Guidelines intended to identify the characteristics of specific beer, mead, and cider styles recognized around the world. These guidelines create a common reference used by judges, brewers, and competition organizers, and are a key reference for those taking a BJCP exam. The guidelines are monitored by a committee of experienced judges, and are revised periodically as more is learned about current or former world beer styles or when published information has substantially changed. The most current official version of the guidelines are always available on the BJCP website. When new guidelines are released, there are always notices published about the transition period and effective date.
The BJCP maintains the www.bjcp.org website where it posts all program-related information including current news, calendars of events, forms, competition supplies, and reference materials. The website is the official communication publication of the BJCP, hosts various forums and portals, and business applications. Members are encouraged to visit the site often in order to keep up-to-date with BJCP issues and events, and to access member services through the Member Portal.
The primary organizational contacts are listed on the BJCP website on the Officers page. If you have a question regarding a specific part of the program, feel free to contact one of the directors. Otherwise, you can always contact your regional representative for assistance. Many administrative functions are automated and can be accessed through the Member Portal on the BJCP website.
The BJCP is constantly expanding staff and adding new responsibilities. The Officers page contains the current staff directory and also job descriptions for the positions. But here are a few of the key positions you should know:
Board of Directors are the regional representatives who oversee the broader aspects of the BJCP, including long-term goals, policies, resources, and directions. 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.
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.
Assistant Exam Directors handle the paperwork associated with exams, including mailings generated to new and promoted judges.
Competition Director sanctions and oversees the competitions and the materials used to aid organizers in running successful events. The BJCP registers competitions so that participating judges can earn experience points when they judge.
Communication Director oversees communications with BJCP members, managing online forums and social media, handling outside inquiries, managing use of BJCP intellectual property, and running elections.
Director of Information Technology directs the development of new IT systems and applications, develops and maintains the existing database and online reports, oversees the website, and manages the database of program and member information.
Continuing Education Program Director runs the education and training 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.
Finance Director handles all the money, payments, bank accounts, and financial processes and property of the BJCP.
The BJCP is a virtual organization without physical offices and staffed by volunteer members. However, if something must be mailed to the BJCP or there is a need to use a physical address for legal purposes, please use the following address:
| Beer Judge Certification Program, Inc.
5115 Excelsior Blvd, #326
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
All the people who serve as staff to the BJCP are volunteers. There are frequently positions that need to be filled as new positions are created as the program expands. Staff positions (directors or assistants), committee members, exam graders, or exam administrators are often in demand. We frequently put out a call for help on our website if we need additional support, but we also are interested if you have a specific project in mind. If you are interested in serving the BJCP as a staff volunteer or in some other larger way, contact your Regional Representative via the Officers page.
Regional Representative Elections
Elections are held annually to choose Regional Representatives, but not all regions replace their representatives in the same year. The Officers page shows the year each region’s representative will be up for re-election. If you are interested in running for office as a Regional Representative, contact the Communication Director who chairs the Election Committee.
The BJCP Exams
The BJCP administers several tiered examination programs. Judges enter the BJCP via one of three paths:
1. Beer Judge Examinations
- New entrants to the program must pass the BJCP Beer Judge Entrance Examination, an online qualifying examination designed to test basic knowledge a beer judge should know. Passing this exam does not grant BJCP membership, but it is a prerequisite for registering for the beer tasting exam. The online exam contains 180 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. To register for this exam, a score of 80 or higher on the BJCP Beer Judging Examination is required, along with a minimum of 10 judging experience points.
2. Mead Judge Examinations
New entrants to the program must pass the BJCP Mead Judge Entrance Examination, an online qualifying examination designed to test basic knowledge a mead judge should know. Passing this exam does not grant BJCP membership, but it is a prerequisite for registering for the BJCP Mead Judging Examination. 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 Mead Judging Examination to become a BJCP member. This is a practical tasting examination where six meads must be judged as if in a homebrew competition. The time limit for the exam is 90 minutes.
3. Cider Judge Examinations
New entrants to the program must pass the BJCP Cider Judge Entrance Examination, an online qualifying examination designed to test basic knowledge a cider judge should know. Passing this exam does not grant BJCP membership, but it is a prerequisite for registering for the BJCP Cider Judging Examination. 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 Cider Judging Examination to become a BJCP member. This is a practical tasting examination where six ciders must be judged as if in a homebrew competition. The time limit for the exam is 90 minutes.
In preparing for these exams, you should acquire a broad understanding of beer/mead/cider (depending on which exam series you are planning to take) 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/mead/cider being sampled. Frequent tasting of commercial beers/meads/ciders will help you gain further understanding of style differences. To assist in the process, the BJCP has created several study guides, one for each of the exam series:
A current schedule of BJCP Exams and other exam study materials available in the Exam & Certification section of the website.
The BJCP price applies to those people who are a BJCP member (people who have taken a Judging Exam, and who have received a five-character BJCP ID). All others (including those who have only passed an entrance exam and who only have a four-digit certificate number) pay the Non-BJCP price.
|BJCP Beer Judge Entrance Examination
|BJCP Mead Judge Entrance Examination
|BJCP Cider Judge Entrance Examination
|BJCP Beer Judging Examination
|BJCP Beer Judge Written Proficiency Examination
|BJCP Mead Judging Examination
|BJCP Cider Judging Examination
The online entrance examinations also have a 3-for-2 option (three exams for the price of two). Other types of exams do not have a similar discount for multiple attempts.
The BJCP offers a wide range of official logo merchandise for sale, including shirts and caps in a wide variety of styles and colors. Printed copies of the Style Guidelines are also available for sale. Note that BJCP rank pins are provided for free to new judges and to those being promoted. If you have ideas for any additional BJCP merchandise, please contact your regional representative. BJCP merchandise is generally offered at cost as a member benefit, not as a money-making scheme for the BJCP. See Merchandise for more information.
The BJCP Bylaws provide for dues, but since the program generates a significant financial surplus each year, the BJCP Board has not elected to require dues to be collected. The BJCP program is financially self-sustaining, and surplus funds are generally used for membership benefits, programs such as the BJCP Grants program and Continuing Education Program. If you have ideas for using the BJCP’s funds for additional member programs, please contact your regional representative.