On Saturday, 21.05.2016, several brewers gave up a couple of hours of their Saturday afternoon in order to take part in the Judge Qualification Tests for the Berlin Homebrewing Competition.
For this year, we specifically set the goal of having objective tests, with standardised sensory tests (via FlavorActiv off-flavour kits) as well as technical written test. The bar needs to be raised on judging homebrewing in Germany and the most effective way to do this is in such competitions and setting high requirements for all participants.
Today, I had the unenviable task of reviewing these tests and informing the judge applicants about their abilities and suitability to be on the judging panel. As is always the case with such selection processes, some homebrewers will be disappointed not to be included. The goal of this article is to be public and open on what basis our judges were selected and to stand by our decision.
Summary of the tests
- Written Test:
- Eight broad technical questions were asked about brewing methods and beer judging.
- Berlin homebrewers were all technically competent, with consistently high marks across all applicants.
- Off-Flavour Sensory Test:
- 4 samples prepared with FlavorActiv off-flavour kits for beer were used: acetaldehyde, DMS, cardboard and Phenolic (4-vinyl-guiacol) notes.
- This is the test that was the most challenging – with only one participant scoring 3/4.
- Notes on the objectivity / difficulty of the test:
- Each of the off-flavours could be detected by at least 1 participant (i.e. none were impossible to detect)
- DMS and phenolic (4-vinyl-guiacol) were the most easily detectable, as indicated by over half the participants
- Papery/Wet cardboard (Trans-2-nonenal) was the most difficult to detect.
- Due to the difficulty of this test, the total passing level was reduced to 60% for the combined score
- Sample Judging of Homebrew:
- Two beer samples were presented: Ordinary Bitter (weak beer with strong oxidation flaws) and an Imperial Stout (with more minor grain bill and acidity flaws)
- Participants were rated on their ability to notice strong off-flavours and brewing flaws.
- Correct analysis was rewarded, while false positives and false negatives were both penalised
Congratulations to the five Beer Judges who have been selected for the Berlin Homebrewing Competition 2016!!