Rant: Hating on the BJCP

Ok, clinic so channeling my inner Fletty here… time for a good ol’ rant. So what has me so fired up ?

I’m just sitting here drinking my morning coffee, prostate minding my own business shuffling through the Let’s Brew looking for recipes. I’m in the market for some clean beers that really show off Invert No2 and No3 – for some experiments comparing various blackstrap molasses and the dilution method – when I come across this recipe. Quoting the last two comments:

Anonymous said… Ron, pregnancy I burned my bjcp membership card after becoming hooked on this blog. 5 August 2009 22:36

and

Goethean said… Anonymous, I considered doing the same. I feel so stupid for believing all that bjcp crap for so long. Scott Zimmerle.

Seriously? Do folks still not understand the purpose of the BJCP? I didn’t think so. Bunch of goddamn mouthbreathing mental midgets… So listen up, you might learn something.

The first effing sentence on their site spells is out folks:

The purpose of the Beer Judge Certification Program is to promote beer literacy and the appreciation of real beer, and to recognize beer tasting and evaluation skills.

Nothing in there about cataloging every known beer style since the Great Hop Kerfluffle of 1545 or anything so blatantly arrogant. We are talking about a beer JUDGING organization, specifically one for homebrewers. That last word is key in the whole damn thing. The entire structure is there to provide neophytes with a way to learn how to use ingredients, improve their processes and arrive at a target beer.

So why such narrow style definitions? Why such pedantic evaluation methods ? Because the entire body of peoples involved with this hobby are anything but standard.

Come on folks, we are talking a group of homebrewers. Roughly 85% of homebrewers are extract or kit based folks who, to varying degrees, are really just interested in a fun way to make decent beer. Think Racheal Ray & 30 minute meals. You spend a couple of hours one weekend day following instructions to the letter (at least to the best of your abilities), dump the sucker in a bucket, yeast in, lid on, airlock in, chuck it in the basement. 2 weeks later, you bottle; 2 more weeks you drink.

What does that mean for the end product? A beer that is made somewhat ignorant of the ingredients (and yes I know that you the magical homebrewer that you are, are different. no really) and that is being tasted by someone who is somewhat ignorant of how to taste or judge beers.

This is where the BJCP comes in. It gives the brewer a standardized target in the beer styles themselves and a standardized method of evaluating them. Does it encompass everything on the planet? No. Are the styles themselves or the commercial examples necessarily the best possible beers ? No. Are the styles necessarily an 100% accurate representation of the actual beers in those recipes ? No.

So what does it give us ? It allows for the training of brewers and beer judges. Period. The styles are defined narrowly so that brewers have to work hard and learn about brewing to hit them. It also gives the judges something to work with. Given a large body of judges, the average palette sophistication and exposure is quite low. The judges and brewers need the guidelines and commercial examples that best exemplify that style to provide common reference points. The entire process is about accuracy and taking most of the objective nature out of the process.

What does it mean to score well at a BJCP competition? It means you understand how to use ingredients and processes to hit a desired target. Or, in other words – how to make a beer on purpose. Once these skills are mastered, it is then that you can start pushing recipes. Think of it as a set of skills required to produce well-made beer. This is a largely objective and technical target. Given that ability, it is then up to the individual creativity of the brewer to push towards making excellent beer, something that is completely subjective.

This whole ‘burn my BJCP card’ crap because some professional replication recipes fall outside the styles that the BJCP uses to train brewers? Shut. up. You are missing the goddamn point.

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