Certified beer judges evaluate and score beer, cider and mead in competitions. They must be knowledgeable about beer types, appearance/packaging, aroma, taste, and quality. Competitions could be local, national or international. Beer judges become certified through both a written and practical exam.
Certified beer judges score and rank beer, cider and mead based on designated qualities. They may judge home-brewed beer or commercial batches at competitions. Certified beer judges are required to pass several tests including a tasting test.
|Requirements||Certification by the Beer Judge Certification Program|
|Median Annual Wage (2015)||$24,940 for demonstrators and product promoters*|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||9% for demonstrators and product promoters*|
*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Certified beer judges participate in competitions that score beverages based on appearance, aroma and flavor. They rank brews based on their ability to meet the ideal qualities of the style they represent. Judges must understand style differences, so that they may score effectively and provide constructive feedback to brewers.
Competitions occur at all levels. Homebrewers often compete in local competitions, while larger breweries may participate at an international level. Competitions serve to increase consumer awareness of and appreciation for beer. They promote responsible alcohol consumption and provide education to brewers at all levels.
Certification comes through the Beer Judge Certification Program. To become certified, a beer judge must pass a written examination as well as tasting and scoring beers. The program administers a separate exam for mead judges. Individuals may receive points that count toward the exam by submitting paperwork from competitions in which they've previously participated.
Beer competitions usually contain many styles of beer. Certified judges must be familiar with the ideal qualities of each style and can benefit from reviewing style guidelines prior to sampling. For example, a German-style pilsner is judged on different qualities than a Scotch ale.
During a competition, judges generally serve on a panel and must work together to give a beer an overall score. First, each judge inspects the bottle. Then judges pour the beer and immediately evaluate the aroma and appearance of the brew. Judges must take notice of color, head and clarity. After noting these qualities, they taste the beer.
Judges must isolate the initial flavors they detect and take note. Then they re-evaluate the taste and fill out the score sheet provided by the competition host. Following cleansing their palates with water and bread or crackers, judges will then sample the remaining beers in each category by following the same steps. After tasting, judges confer to determine overall scores and winners. They must give reasons for their selections and provide constructive feedback for the contestants.
Each competition may be run slightly differently, and judges must follow the guidelines set forth by the hosting organization. Depending on the size of a competition, judges may only score certain categories. Most judging is blind and competitions usually prohibit judges from scoring a beer in which they may have a stake.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't publish information specifically about beer judges, it does offer information about food scientists and technologists, who analyze and inspect foods. From 2014-2024, jobs for these workers were expected to grow at an average rate of 5%. The BLS also noted that they earned an annual average salary of $72,030 in 2014.
Another related occupation is product promoters and demonstrators for beer, wine and liquor stores, who were paid a mean annual wage of $24,940 that same year. These workers could expect an employment increase of 9% from 2014-2024, per the BLS.
Certified beer judges are knowledgeable about beer, cider and/or mead, and evaluate these based on certain qualities. They work at beer competitions, which could be local, or larger. Certification is gained through passing a written exam, as well as tasting beers and giving scores.