The Bean Soup approach to Beer Evaluation

First I'm going to ask you to download a BJCP scoresheet. Throughout the course of this class you will be asked to complete many of these. This lesson is about that process.


Beer Evaluation

If you are an experienced judge and are comfortable filling out beer evaluation forms feel free to skip this section, otherwise. . .
I have found that most non-judges and some inexperienced judges are not comfortable writing the evaluation. This is for you.

The Bean Soup approach to Beer Evaluation or How to Evaluate Beer for Beginners.

This is about how to approach beer evaluation for a competition, or during the BJCP exam.

A bit of background: I have found that a lot of ‘beginning’ judges are intimidated by the process, don’t feel they know enough, or are afraid of getting it wrong. This approach is simply to help overcome this fear.

The first question that comes from almost anyone in a beer evaluation or judging situation is “What Style Is This?”, what is it supposed to taste/smell like? My answer, IT DOESN’T MATTER, at least initially. Does knowing the style change what you are going to smell, see, taste, or feel? Of course not, so don’t worry about it. When you are initially evaluating a beer it doesn’t matter if it is an IIPA or “bean soup”. On the score sheet there are four main areas, Aroma, Appearance, Flavor, and Mouthfeel, record what you perceive, what you taste, smell, see, and feel. If you sense that something is there but you can’t put your finger on it, say that. The first part of judging is to simply record your perceptions.

There are only three things that are wrong;
1: To say you perceived something that you didn’t, or
2: To say you didn’t perceive something that you actually did.
3: To say nothing about what you perceive or do not perceive.

Now that you have recorded your perceptions feel free to review them and see if you can trigger recognition of your non-placed perceptions based on knowledge of the style.

NOW, after you have recorded your perceptions, you are ready to evaluate if any of your perceptions are flaws based on the style of the beer and record the flaws, and corrections for those flaws, as appropriate for the style of beer. This, along with your overall impression, gets recorded. Note: Since you have already recorded your perceptions it is NOW ok to review the style guide. You do NOT want to start by going back and forth between the style guide and the beer going this aroma, flavor, sensation is in the style guide, is it in the beer? This is why you record your perceptions first.

Score, now is the time to record and total your scores.


Beers should be evaluated using the following procedure: (Study Guide for a detailed approach)

Prepare a score sheet. Fill it out with everything you can prior to judging the beer.
Visually inspect the bottle (if given the bottle). Check the bottle for fill level, clarity, sediment, and signs of problems.
Pour the beer into clean sampling cup, in a manner that will generate a head.
Smell the beer.
Visually inspect the beer.
Smell the beer again.
Taste the beer.
Evaluate the beer for body (mouthfeel on the new)..
Evaluate the beer for overall impression.
Review what you have written. Now consider style, Add additional comments if necessary
Score the beer
Check your score sheet. Add your category scores.

What do you record? What you perceive, in your own words. We will work on your beer vocabulary as we go. If you say it tastes like grapefruit, that’s what you write, If you say it smells like peanut butter, again, that’s what you put down. It is important to note what you don’t perceive as well. “No hop aroma apparent” is a valid comment, appropriate for some styles, a flaw in others. We want to try and fill all the space, and before we are finished we want to offer advice of how to improve the beer.

You said “John can taste it but I can’t”. All of our palates are different, with different flavor thresholds for each flavor, don’t worry about it, You didn’t taste it, that’s all, John, you be sure to write it down.

OK, now we will do our first tasting exercise, go grab a beer and a clean glass, preferably a beer that you know what style it should be.

Ready? Ok, now put the Style Guide away, you don’t need it yet (we will grab it in a few minutes)

Now evaluate the beer (remember no style guide), just record what you sense.

Done with that, great, now open the style guide and see if the description there prompts you to edit (better describe) what you sensed or put words to what you weren’t sure of.

Finally, did that beer match style, was it “off”, How? This goes in the Overall Impression section of the evaluation form.

What could be done to improve this beer? Feedback is important!!!

At last, score it.

Great, see if you can do this for a couple more beers.