Whilst I am a experienced and BJCP certified beer judge, I think it would be fair to say I am still a hobby judge. It is not a profession for me. No one pays me to judge their competition. I do it because I love helping people brew better beer.
As judges, we are presented with a beer and the particular style that the brewer has given the beer. We often have no further information than that on which to base our analysis and feedback for the brewer. We are supposed to make no assumptions as to recipe or method, making it hard to give targetted feedback. You will often see judges couch feedback in terms like if you did X then instead do Y. Telling a brewer who has used malt extract to change their mashing process isn’t going to help a brewer who didn’t perform a mash.
One thing I’ve found surprising is that in the thousand-odd beers I’ve judged in one competition or another, I’ve never had the brewer contact me in response to a feedback sheet I’ve completed. I’m sure that over the years and beers, there have been times I will have said something that resonated with the brewer and missed the mark at other times.
Because my motivation is to help brewers, I’d love to hear from folk who have had feedback from me for a beer, as it often feels I’m sending my feedback out into the void. Refining my feedback is one way I do better. Finding out where I’ve been right or especially where I’ve been wrong is far more valuable to the feedback I provide in future than me writing more words or using more flowery language to describe things.
In nearly every competition I’ve judged, either my email is on the feedback form, or you can easily contact me another way. Based on the brewer’s knowledge of recipe, process and any complications they experienced, there is much those brewers can do to help me refine my feedback and help other brewers better.
It was valuable to me to hear about a case this evening where I felt the hop aroma in a beer was unusually muted compared to the flavour, to hear the brewer had been bubbling CO2 through the fermented beer to strip some other aromatics. This is not something I would have usually considered and it gives me a valuable data point for the future.
As judges we are fallible, we are only human and have our limitations regarding sensitivity to different compounds, differing knowledge and understanding of processes, and no matter how hard we try to avoid it, different assumptions about what may cause something we rightly or wrongly believe we are getting in a beer.
So please feel free to give us your feedback, I know I would highly value it, not only if I was right, but especially if I was wrong. Please help us as judges to help you as brewers.