With the BJCP exam now relievingly in my rearview mirror, I had the opportunity this weekend to flex my judging skills in a different way: County Fair Queen. I’m either the best or worst candidate on Earth for such a task, but I took it on, and took it as seriously as beer judging.

It works out to be the same basic deal. You have your criteria before you. On one hand, it’s aroma, flavor, appearance and mouthfeel. On the other hand, it’s community and school involvement, interviewing skills, resume prowess and social grace. It was a fun and interesting experience, and we met a number of fine candidates. I’m sure they’d be surprised to know that their fierce interviewer was comparing them to beer in the back of his mind all the while.

While I can’t say who won, I can say that having received some lousy feedback on beers in the past, I’d like to challenge everyone out there to re-commit themselves to the most solid and mindful judging they can muster. Entrants at a homebrew competition have paid good money to have their beers scrutinized and judged in a careful and thorough way. More than just the word hoppy should appear on the lines devoted to aroma. Something more pensive than “I didn’t like this beer,” should be written in the overall impression section. If a judge doesn’t personally care for a style he or she is judging, that shouldn’t influence a lower score or negative comment. Judge the style to the criteria outlined, like so many conscientious judges do. I’ve received some strong feedback for improving beers from excellent judges. This weekend, I would not have done these young ladies justice if I hadn’t offered them well-worded constructive criticism on how they can improve their resume writing and interviewing skills. My efforts might help them land a good job a little further down their long and winding road. And I could help the up-and-coming brewer earn his first blue ribbon.

This is the task of the judge. Be objective, informed and conscientious, whether judging beer, dancing, jelly, cows or queens.


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