Ontario Brewer Podcast

Since 2010, I have been preparing and hosting the Ontario Brewer Podcast series for the Ontario Craft Brewers Association. These podcast feature interviews with Ontario brewers on a range of different topics.

Beer News & Updates

Sign up to receive the latest Beerology™ news and to find out about upcoming tastings, workshops and classes.

Contact: tastings@beerology.ca

On judging beer competitions

Posted June 5, 2012 | 7:26 pm, by Mirella

To say that I’ve been doing quite a bit of judging over the past few weeks would be an understatement. The first week of May, I was in San Diego, judging for the World Beer Cup then the following week I proctored a BJCP exam in Montréal, along with fellow National Level BJCP Judge Nathan McNutt, who brews at Réservoir. The week after that I judged a homebrew competition for the Amateur Winemakers of Ontario and finally, last week, I was one of many judges for the Canadian Brewing Awards.

All in all, this judging and the related travel took up about 12 days in May. Judging beer competitions is not a paid gig. In addition to this, when there is travel involved, judges are expected to cover travel expenses. As a result, many people often question my choice to participate in so many competitions. Here’s why I feel it’s important for me any my work that I judge beer competitions:

  • It’s a great way to sharpen sensory evaluation skills

    The only way to learn to identify a new flavour is to discover it alongside someone who is already familiar with that particular flavour. Reading about how a flavour is usually perceived does not necessarily translate into being able to identify it in beer because everyone’s palate is different. It’s also fantastic to taste beer alongside brewers and homebrewers who can provide technical insights.

  • It’s a great way to gain insight on foreign styles  

    Judging alongside a range of judges with varied experience and background is an invaluable opportunity. I’ve had the pleasure of judging British style beers with a panel of judges from London, for example, as well as judging a series of German styles with a group of German brewmasters. Hearing these people’s perspectives and feedback on the beers that we were tasting provided great insights into their beer styles and cultures.

  • It’s a great way to contribute to the industry

    Apart from the prospect of winning a medal, most brewers also enter their beers in competition because they are interested in receiving feedback on their beers. On more than one occasion, I’ve received an e-mail from a brewer thanking me for taking the time to provide detailed feedback on the judging forms.

    NOTE: An interesting thing about beer competitions is that while the breweries are anonymous, judges generally are not. Because the beers were all tasted blind, I have no idea what I wrote on those forms (whether it was positive feedback or constructive feedback) but, either way, it’s great to know that those comments are appreciated.

If you’re interested in getting involved with judging, the best way to start is to download the BJCP Style Guidelines. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the guidelines, the next step is preparing for the BJCP exam by studying the syllabus and then, when you’re ready, you can register for an exam. Brewing a few batches of beer is also a good idea and a great way to learn more about beer flavours and where they come from.

Speaking of brewing, if you’re a homebrewer and would like to enter your beer into competition, CABA has just announced its next competition, called “Anything Goes”. The deadline for entries is the end of this month. Perhaps I’ll see if they need any judges for that competition!…


  1. It’s one thing to be trained and pass an exam, but it is absolutely vital to be regularly tested in order to maintain your sensory acuity. You can’t get this from just drinking beer. I know that even professional brewers must go through regular weekly and monthly sensory training and testing. It is this aspect that is seriously lacking with so many BJCP members, and often manifest itself in CBA results and the reviews of a few beer writers. Being a trained beer taster is by no means a one-time event.

    Comment by James on July 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm

  2. I absolutely agree that it’s important to work on sensory skills. The issue, however, was that there were no opportunities in Toronto for people to practice on a regular basis. That’s why I set up regular off-flavour classes & self-testing sessions last year. If you’re interested in participating, you can join the Beerology mailing list (just make sure you select the “industry” option)… my next full class will be in the fall but I plan to run a self-testing session before then

    Comment by Mirella on July 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Leave a Comment

Allowed tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

By submitting a comment you grant Beerology | Craft Beer and Sensory Consulting a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate and irrelevant comments will be removed at an admin’s discretion. Your email is used for verification purposes only, it will never be shared.