Guest Post- Judging the Longshot Homebrew Competition

This guest post comes from Brett (@brett_ski) who had a great experience Judging the Samuel Adams Longshot Homebrew Competition. He offered to write a post on what it takes to submit a homebrew to such a competition, as well as judging one. Check it out!

Last weekend I had the privilege of helping the Boston Beer Company in judging the 2011 Samuel Adams Longshot Homebrew competition. New Hampshire’s own homebrew club, Brew Free or Die is a driving force behind its organization when it helps out with running the competition. Many thanks go to Rob North, of Brew Free or Die for overseeing the event and organizing the judging and itinerary of the day.

Introduction: Judging Homebrew

Do you think you have what it takes to endure a day of judging homebrew? Take a look at the following guidelines, the following is an Introduction to the world of judging homebrew that lives up to the standards of the Beer Judge Certificate Program, otherwise known as the BJCP. Your average homebrew will score in the 20s, especially if it’s submitted by a first-time homebrewer. After years of dedication to the craft, you will see your scores start to increase. A lot of first-time entries make the mistake of placing their homebrew entries in the wrong category. Familiarize yourself with the various styles of beer, by reviewing the Beer Style Guidelines.

A fun way to practice familiarizing yourself with the many different categories is to pair commercial examples of that particular style while reading over the guidelines.

The official BJCP Style Guidelines can be downloaded here:

So, when I do receive my Scoresheet back from the competition what does the final number mean, how did I place? Here’s the BJCP Scoresheet broken down and what the numbers behind the placement that the judges scored your homebrew represent:

00-13 Problematic: Major off flavors and aromas dominate
14-20 Fair: Off flavors, aromas or major style deficiencies
21-29 Good: Misses the mark on style and/or minor flaws
30-37 Very Good: Generally within style parameters, some minor flaws
38-44 Excellent: Exemplifies styles very well, requires minor fine-tuning
45-50 Outstanding: World class example of style

The BJCP: The Basics of Beer Judging 101

Judging a homebrew competition is often broken down as followed: Each table consists of one Steward, one sanctioned BJCP-ranking Judge and one Co-Judge, often considered an apprentice Judge or non-BJCP ranking. The Judges job is to judge the entry by Aroma, Appearance, Flavor, Mouthfeel and an Overall Impression. They record their notes separately then discuss their opinions, making sure that their scores are no more than five points off. Then they calculate their average for that entry.

Every Homebrew competition runs differently, homebrews can rank a minimum of 19 all the way to 50, the higher the score the better the homebrew. Most of your typical entries on average will rank in the 20’s. I don’t say this to be discouraging, but if you’re considering entering your latest batch of homebrew, the Score Sheets are mailed back to you, which are filled with the judge’s comments and is an invaluable critique. If you brew the same batch of beer it’ll help you strive for consistency and improve the quality of your output. And let’s face it, homebrewing is a labor of love and what’s unique about this hobby? As brewers we are always learning!

I highly recommend entering your beers into a competition not for the sake of winning, but for the sake of learning. If you have access to a homebrew club in your area, join up and learn what you can – don’t be ashamed to share embarrassing stories as a brewer, because we have all been there and have experienced them.

Learning from the experiences is the real trick. So keep on brewing, and I look forward to judging your beers in future competitions.


Thanks Brett!