Do you Know Your Beers Well Enough To Be A Certified Beer Judge?

bjcplogoThe Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) is a non-profit organization that encourages the advancement of education of people who are concerned with the evaluation of beer, mead and cider. The BJCP certifies and ranks beer judges through an exam and monitoring process.

The program was created in 1985 through the joint efforts of the Home Wine and Beer Trade Association (HWBTA) and the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). Since 1995, the BJCP has operated independently of either founding organization, governed only by its membership of participating judges.

In 1985, some 30 people took the BJCP exam and became certified. Since that first exam, over 200 judges have joined the ranks annually. Currently, there are 4,385 active judges in the BJCP with a total membership of 7,945.

Ranks of Judges

Your rank is determined by both your exam score and your experience points. A judge with any passing score and fewer than 5 experience points receives the rank of Recognized. Judges with a score of 70 or above on the exam and who have accumulated at least 5 experience points receive the Certified rank. A score of 80 or above combined with 20 experience points provides the rank of National. Judges achieve Master status by scoring 90 or better and acquiring 40 experience points. In all cases, at least half the experience points for a given rank must come from judging.

There are also the Apprentice rank and several levels of Grand Master. Honorary ranks can be awarded; there are currently the Honorary Master and Honorary Grand Master ranks.

The Apprentice rank was created to encourage those who do not pass the exam to remain active with the program and to try the exam again in the future. Apprentice judges have two years to pass the exam or their status becomes Affiliated – a special type of Inactive status. Judges with this status must start over with examinations, starting with the online exam. The Judge ID and accumulated experience points are preserved, but the judge is not considered an Active BJCP member.

The rank of Honorary Master is temporarily bestowed on judges who serve as operatives of the program (Regional Director, Exam Director, Program Administrator, etc.) at their discretion for the duration of their service if they have not already earned at least the Master rank. The rank may also be awarded, in special cases, to judges who have demonstrated Master Judge proficiency but not necessarily taken the exam. This status is determined by the BJCP Board of Directors.

The rank of Grand Master is a special rank bestowed on Master judges. Masters who accumulate at least 100 experience points, who have graded at least 50 exams, and who have performed special services for the program (such as serving in staff positions) are eligible for promotion to Grand Master I. The rank honors those individuals who give something extra of their time and effort and are extremely committed to the program. Additional Grand Master levels can be earned in 100 experience point increments with additional service and grading requirements. The entire system is described in the Grand Master Service Requirements policy.

In 2005, the BJCP board created a new Honorary Grand Master rank. This is a permanent rank bestowed upon individuals by the BJCP Board of Directors for extraordinarily long and meritorious service involving significant, meaningful and continuous work for the BJCP program. Individuals receiving this rank are authorized to wear and use the Grand Master pin and rank.

Mead Judge and Cider Judge ranks exist for the Mead Exam and the forthcoming Cider Exam. These ranks apply to judges who have taken the Mead and/or Cider Exam but not the Beer Exam. Existing BJCP judges who have passed the beer exam can earn the Mead Judge and Cider Judge endorsements on their record.

The BJCP Examination

The BJCP administers a tiered examination program.

New entrants to the program must pass the BJCP Beer Judge Entrance Examination, which is an online qualifying examination designed to test basic knowledge a judge should know. Passing this exam does not grant BJCP membership, but it is a pre-requisite for registering for the tasting exam. The online exam contains 200 questions that must be answered in one hour. The exam is available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Judges passing this exam are called Provisional Judges, but are not yet BJCP members.

Entrants passing the online exam must pass the BJCP Beer Judging Examination to become a BJCP member. This is a practical tasting examination where six beers must be judged as if in a homebrew competition. The time limit the for the exam is 90 minutes. Passing this exam may grant the Recognized or Certified rank. Failing the exam grants the time-limited Apprentice rank.

Judges wishing to advance to ranks beyond Certified must take the BJCP Beer Judge Written Proficiency Examination, a 90 minute written examination.

Judges may become certified as Mead Judges by taking the BJCP Mead Judge Examination. This exam is open to non-BJCP judges as well as BJCP judges. This exam is currently a combined written and tasting examination, but is being transitioned to separate online and tasting exams similar to the beer exams. A future Cider Judge Examination will also have this format.

In preparing for entering the program, you should acquire a broad understanding of beer styles, know different brewing methods and how brewing methods correlate with style and flavor. Brewing processes should be understood to the point where you can intelligently discuss various techniques and ingredients and how they may have affected the beer being sampled. Frequent tasting of commercial beers will help you gain further understanding of style differences. To assist in the process, the BJCP has created a Study Guide. A current schedule of upcoming BJCP Exams and other exam study materials available at the BJCP Examination Center on the BJCP web site.

Exam Fees

The fee for taking the online qualifying exam (the BJCP Beer Judge Entrance Examination) is $10. The fee for the tasting exam (the BJCP Beer Judging Examination) is $40 for first-time examinees, and $15 for retakes. The Mead Judge examination fee is $50 for non-BJCP members, and $30 for BJCP members. The written exam (the BJCP Written Proficiency Examination) fee is $25

For more information on the Beer Judge Certification Program, visit their website at:

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