Beer Judge Certification Program

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The Beer Judge Certification Program, or BJCP, is an organization dedicated to promoting beer literacy and the appreciation of real beer, and to recognize beer tasting and evaluation skills. The most visible programs run by the BJCP are the BJCP beer style guidelines, which define the beer style categories used in many homebrewing competitions, and the BJCP exam, which is used to qualify judges for BJCP-sanctioned competitions.

Although only beer appears in the organization's name, the BJCP also publishes style guidelines for mead, cider and perry, and separate examinations and certifications are planned for these beverages as well.

History of the BJCP

Origin of the BJCP

The BJCP was originally conceived as a joint project run by the American Homebrewers Association and the Home Wine & Beer Trade Association in an attempt to standardize and raise the quality of judging at homebrewing competitions.

The first BJCP exam was given on May 31, 1985, at the AHA National Conference in Estes Park, Colorado. Fifty-one people took the first exam, and forty-two passed.


In April of 1995, the AHA decided to drop its support of the BJCP in order to develop its own beer judge program. At the time, many people expected the BJCP to simply disappear. Instead, the BJCP developed a new structure and continued operating as a fully independent organization, and soon the AHA cancelled its plans to develop a competing program. In 2004, the AHA and the BJCP announced a joint sanctioning program for homebrew competitions, and all AHA competitions are currently BJCP sanctioned and run with BJCP judges and style guidelines.

Controversy and Litigation

On May 17, 2007, the Department of Justice brought a fraud indictment against William R. Slack, alleging that between January of 2001 and April of 2004, while Slack was treasurer of the BJCP, he embezzled an unspecified amount of money from the BJCP accounts for his own purposes. Mr. Slack's trial is currently set to begin on October 10, 2007.

The BJCP Style Guidelines

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The BJCP publishes probably the most influential set of beer style definitions among homebrewers. The most recent revision of the guidelines was issued in 2008. This was a significant revision of the 2004 guidelines, and includes twenty-three beer style categories, most of which have multiple subcategories. There are also three categories of mead, and two categories of cider.

The BJCP category definitions are designed to reflect the beer styles most commonly entered in homebrew competitions, and not to provide a comprehensive outline of beer styles. Some similar styles are lumped together, and others are left off entirely; beers brewed in these categories should be entered in homebrew competitions in one of the BJCP's specialty beer styles designed for beers not in a defined category. BJCP style descriptions, which they call guidelines, are designed to help competition judges evaluate entries in terms of how well they fit. Since most of the guidelines are fairly broad, reflecting the wide range of homebrewed and commercially available beers in each style, there is no attempt made to dictate exact specifications, only ranges.

For a more complete discussion of beer styles in general, and the role of competition guidelines like the BJCP's see the main Beer styles page.

The BJCP Exam

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