So you're the avid home-brewer, beer geek or beer guru amongst your friends. You have an entire arsenal of beer books, you listen to brewing podcasts and your a subscriber to Beer Advocate magazine....what's next? Many people who have explored the many facets of beer education have come to this crossroad. Do you settle with the resources you currently have to fulfill your need of brew-information or do you seek out higher knowledge? If your answer is yes to the latter, then here are some next step resources.
The Beer Judge Certification Program or BJCP
was founded in 1985 as an organization that would identify and define certain parameters for beer styles in order to hold competitions amongst brewers. Through many revisions they have written the guidelines to which all BJCP sanctioned beer competitions use to help determine one entry better than another within a certain style. These guidelines are now used universally from the smallest home-brew competition held by your local home-brew club, all the way up to the Great American Beer Fest.
Becoming a Judge
If you want to explore more about becoming a judge and working your way up through the ranks, their website is extremely helpful. You must first register online with their website and create a profile. To become the first judging rank of certified judge you will need to pass a 200 question multiple choice and multiple answer online exam. You can find this exam on their website and can purchase a deal of three attempts for $20.00. This online exam is a lot tougher then it seems so studying up on the guidelines and other resources found on their website is highly encouraged. After passing the online exam you will need to sit for a tasting exam where they will ask you to judge six beers with BJCP scoresheets, as if you were in an actual competition. Again, this portion of the exam can be extremely difficult if you are not fully prepared. I would recommend reaching out to your local home-brew club or BJCP officials to partner with them at a few competitions to learn how to properly fill out scoresheets. You will need to pass this tasting exam within six months of passing the online exam, the waiting lists for tasting exams are long so plan accordingly when taking the online exam. Passing both of these exams will get you a rank of recognized judge in where you will need to gain five points, which come from judging or stewarding an official registered BJCP competition, to become a certified BJCP judge. This process seems tedious but it is extremely rewarding. Judging competitions can be a lot of fun and the connections you make with other beer enthusiasts is priceless. Ranking past certified judge is based off a point system and your tasting exam score, information on this can be found on their website; to become a master judge you will need to pass a written exam as well.
The Cicerone Program
The Cicerone program was founded recently by Ray Daniels, a known beer expert in the industry, as a certification program to recognize professionals in the beer world. Unlike the BJCP, which is strictly focused on beer styles, the Cicerone program covers a wider array of beer knowledge generally relating to the service industry. This program is perfect for a bartenders, bar/restaurant owners who serve beer and beer distributors. They cover everything from beer styles to food pairings, with proper handling and flavor evaluation mixed in.
There are now four ranks to the Cicerone program, each requiring a greater depth of knowledge then the first. The ranks are Certified Beer Server, which requires a passing of an online exam, Certified Cicerone, Advanced Cicerone and Master Cicerone, which all require a written and tasting exam to pass. I recommend dissecting the syllabus for each exam, which can be found on their website. I suggest reading "Tasting Beer" by Randy Moser and "Brewmaster's Table" by Garret Oliver. I would also purchase an off-flavor kit from Cicerone or BJCP and practice identifying off flavors in beer to help prepare for the tasting exam. These resources will get you to the Certified Cicerone rank, to move past this rank, some serious studying is needed. Reading other publications with a stricter focus on the areas you have trouble with, and leaning on the BJCP to become a master of styles, are great ways to gain the necessary skills needed to pass the two higher exams.
Each year there are more opportunities for you to attend an accredited brewing program. This level of education is meant for the enthusiast who wants to make a career out of the brewing industry. While there may be a few local programs for you to attend, the most well known programs come from Sieble Institute in Chicago which was founded in 1872. They have a wide array of courses available that cover everything from the basics of beer to becoming a brewmaster. They are a great option because of their excellent online course availability, allowing you to get a top rated education from the comfort of your home. There are too many courses to describe, but I am sure that you would be able to find a program that would cater to your educational goals.
Beer fanatic is quite the understatement when describing Nate Reynolds. From brands to home brews, Nate knows it all (or at least wants to). Obsessed since early college years, Nate dreamed to make a career for himself in the beer industry. Posts written by Nate will be packed full of information (seriously, gauntlets of information) because frankly… that’s what he’s all about; educating people about beer. When he’s not working, Nate can be found brewing up something funky in the Adirondacks with his beautiful wife and Aussies, or at an EQX concert!