By David Houseman (Competition Director) and Michael Bury (Asst. Director)
What leeway do competitions have?
Recently someone asked us why they couldn’t enter a canned beer in a competition? Apparently, the organizer thought that because BJCP literature talks about “bottled” entries, that only bottles were allowed. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Much of what has been written does use the term bottles, largely because when
written that is what brewers used to enter competitions. And perhaps we should change the language to “container.” And that may happen. However, till then, we wanted to be sure that everyone realizes that it is up to each competition and competition organizer to set the rules for their specific competition. There are competitions that only take 12oz bottles because they pack more easily in 24 bottle cases than large cans, bomber bottles and similar odd sized containers. Many competitions accept bottles or cans. There have been can only competitions and keg only competitions. It’s up to each competition to decide what they will and will not allow. The BJCP does not care what containers a competition chooses to allow.
The only BJCP rules are (1) that the judging be blind for the judges to the brewers/entrants, (2) that the judging be to some published style guidelines available to both the brewer/entrant and the judges, and (3) that some form of written feedback be provided for each entry by the judges. The guidelines are usually the BJCP Style Guidelines, but this is not necessary. Some clubs and countries have developed their own over time. One can use the GABF style guidelines or whatever else the competition wishes to use. Just be sure that the brewer/entrant and the judges are using the same style guidelines to ensure fairness. Also, the judging forms are usually the BJCP Beer Score Sheet (or Cider or Mead), but again this is not necessary, although generally recommended since judges are trained with them. But a number of competitions use alternate judging forms and that is acceptable. They might be on paper or purely on-line versions. The same principles of writing good score sheets apply so do you best to provide valuable feedback to the brewer/entrant.
Finally, while the rules of each competition are determined by each competition, organizers are urged to consider and utilize the generally accepted procedures as outlined in the BJCP Competition Handbook whenever possible, since judges know and understand these and it will make the competition smoother for all involved.