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Tasting and evaluating beer

I’ll be playing beer judge this Saturday at the NKY Homebrewer’s Association Moerlein Cup in Cincinnati. I’m excited, but a little nervous too since I’ll be judging for the first time. See, the only thing more intense than the Certified Cicerone exam is the Beer Judge Certification Program; Their tagline is “it’s tough, but fair” – these guys don’t mess around. I’m a Certified Cicerone, NOT a BJCP certified judge, so I’ll be paired up with one to guide me through the official, competition process. In preparation for my debut, I thought I’d freshen up by sharing a little of my knowledge about proper beer tasting and evaluation. They say that teaching is the best way of learning, right?


Proper evaluation, especially at the competition level, is no laughing matter. There are strict rules at play. Definitely take a look a the BJCP Style Guide before even thinking of evaluating beer, especially if its a competition.

Whether you are preparing for a competition, or hosting your friendly neighborhood beer nerds for a casual beer tasting, there are things you should remember. A full belly is your friend, don’t be drinking a bunch of beers on an empty stomach (but don’t eat a fiery burrito right before hand either). Your palette should be fresh, so no chewing gum or smoking, or even chapstick wearing – and ladies, it might be super cute, but no lipstick either. God knows I love a smokin’ hot red lip, but I’ll save that for date night. Also, ditch the perfume or cologne. Basically anything that may interfere with your sense of smell or taste is bad bad bad. If you’re doing a lot of sampling like at a competition, make sure plenty of water and unsalted pretzels are available to cleanse the palate.

Now that you’re prepped and ready, pour yourself a beer! (Of course, proper glassware can aid you in the best sensory experience.)

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