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When you see advertising for beer, some of them advertise awards that they have won at various beer festivals and/or competitions.

What are the judging standards at these competitions, and what are the most prestigious competitions?

  • See @phoebus's post about the BJCP guidelines – hunse Jan 23 '14 at 18:54
  • Note that the BJCP guidelines are not used for many commercial competitions, including the largest American commercial competition, GABF. – Chris Marasti-Georg May 22 '14 at 18:49
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There are SO many different subcategories now. You can download the full judging guidelines and registration into the different styles.

Main categories include:

  • Beer
  • Mead
  • Cider

Some of the sub-categories of beer include:

  1. LIGHT LAGER
  2. PILSNER
  3. EUROPEAN AMBER LAGER
  4. DARK LAGER
  5. BOCK
  6. LIGHT HYBRID BEER
  7. AMBER HYBRID BEER
  8. ENGLISH PALE ALE
  9. SCOTTISH AND IRISH ALE
  10. AMERICAN ALE
  11. ENGLISH BROWN ALE
  12. PORTER
  13. STOUT
  14. INDIA PALE ALE (IPA)
  15. GERMAN WHEAT AND RYE BEER
  16. BELGIAN AND FRENCH ALE
  17. SOUR ALE
  18. BELGIAN STRONG ALE
  19. STRONG ALE
  20. FRUIT BEER
  21. SPICE / HERB / VEGETABLE BEER
  22. SMOKE-FLAVORED AND WOOD-AGED BEER
  23. SPECIALTY BEER

I think winning an award at any sanctioned competition would be huge. I do see the World Beer Awards, the US Open Beer Championships, Great American Beer Festival, and North American Beer Awards, just to name a few. There are also Homebrewing awards that are very competitive.

  • 2
    This is a nice list of categories, but it doesn't answer the "judging standards" part of the question. What, for example, makes porter A better than porter B? – Pops Jan 25 '14 at 5:04
  • Perhaps you should spend the time reading through the link to the judging guidelines. – BryceH Jan 25 '14 at 19:30
  • 1
    You've missed my point. A good answer shouldn't depend on the contents of an external link. At a minimum, the most pertinent parts of the linked content should be included directly in the answer. There are a number of reasons for this, such as protection against link rot and the annoyance of having to do an extra step to get the information you're looking for. For more, see the network FAQ entry on link-only answers. – Pops Jan 25 '14 at 20:04
  • That was more helpful than your original comment. I will correct when able. – BryceH Jan 25 '14 at 21:43
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In a nutshell, most beer judging is based on how well the beer represents the style category that it is entered into.

These aspects of the beer are evaluated to see if they match with what is expected for the style:

  • appearance: color / foam / clarity
  • aroma: malt / hop / yeast / esters
  • mouthfeel: body / carbonation
  • flavor: lots here - see below
  • aftertaste: flavors and aromas that persist after the beer is swallowed
  • overall impression: drinkability

All of these are evaluated with respect to what is expected for the style, and points assigned. The beer may be perfectly drinkable, but be marked down because it doesn't fit with the style. For example, a hefeweizen that is dark would be lose points for appearance since they are light-colored beers by style.

Judging sheets often have a list of flavor descriptors. Some flavors are bad for any beer, such as rubber, astringent, soapy, while others may or may not be considered faults depending upon style. For example, fruitiness in an English Ale is much desired, but not in a Pilsner, similarly low levels of diacetyl in a Stout is acceptable, but not in a Hefeweizen.

The BJCP Scoresheet provides a working example of the notes a beer judge

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