As I indicated in my last post I took the BJCP Tasting Exam yesterday and it was quite an experience. I was incredibly nervous walking in there, but I soon found my rhythm. The first beer was an Oktoberfest that I feel like I screwed up pretty badly. There was something obviously off about it, but for the life of me I couldn't figure it out. It's a lot harder to detect off aromas and flavors in a beer that has aroma and flavor. For my off flavor practice I only used light lagers which make it to easy to pick out. After that I was blessed with a Wiezen, a style with which I am very familiar. I don't want to jinx anything by saying how I scored the beers or if I think I did well. Mostly I just wanted to reassure anyone who might be taking the exam not to stress too much. I was constantly worrying that I would forget how off aromas smelled and off flavors tasted, but when it was game time my brain made the association and pulled through for me. I didn't have the luxury of having a class available in close proximity to me so I was doing all my preps and studying on my own. If you can, though, get involved with a class; it will help you immensely. They will be able to help you recognize off aromas and flavors that you're having a difficult time getting down as well as teach you how to be more descriptive when filling out your score sheets, which is something that can make the difference between a good score and a great score. The only other piece of advice I have is to start looking for an exam as soon as you pass the Entrance Exam. I was very lucky to land a spot in an exam only four months from when I passed the Entrance Exam. Other exams a year and even further out were booked solid with substantial waiting lists. Good luck to all you prospective judges. I hope to see you at the judging table some day. Cheers!
For an excellent introduction to the finer points of tasting beer along with a bit of history check out Randy Mosher's Tasting Beer: An Insider's Guide to the World's Greatest Drink