The Origins of the BJCP

Every episode of Brew Bloods we bring up the BJCP standards for the style of beer that we’re drinking. But what is the BJCP?

BJCP stands for Beer Judge Certification Program and is a non-profit organization that provides standards for the commercial beer, mead, and cider industries, as well as home brewers, and and to provide a stable of qualified judges for sanctioned competitions that are certified through BJCP exams.

Back in the early 1980s, the American Homebrewers Association and the Home Wine and Beer Trade Association were the major domos of beer trade associations, both having national competitions and sanctioning local homebrew competitions. Both organizations were also interested in building up a roster of experienced beer judges and so they joined forces to create the BJCP, overseen by the Beer Judge Certification Committee, which was comprised of two co-directors from each organization. The program was administered out of the AHA’s offices and they issued the first exam at the 1985 American Homebrewers Association annual conference in Estes Park, Colorado.

The BJCP itself was quasi-independent organization, but over the next decade the BJCC grew increasingly assertive in voting on BJCP operations. In 1995 the BJCP put together a plan to get three additional BJCP members on the BJCC and that committee worked to make the BJCP an organization completely independent of the BJCC. However that same year the AHA withdrew its support for the BJCP and announced it was creating its own standards program; the AHA would abandon their plans in 1996.  

The Home Wine and Beer Trade Association was unable to run the ship by itself and everyone expected the BJCP to collapse. However, in the decade since its inception the roster of judges had exploded and a small number of them decided to take over the program and run it on a volunteer basis.

These volunteers established a board of directors, comprised of six regional representatives elected by members of six geographical regions of the United States. And since that time the BJCP has become the authority on beer standards.

BJCP judges are ranked according to their scores on exams and experience points received through participating in competitions. The ranks include Apprentice, Recognized, Certified, National, Master, Grand Master and Honorary Grand Master. Anyone can become a BJCP judge as long as you study and apply yourself.

Today there are 7 regions of the United States denoted by the BJCP and thus, 7 directors on the board. The BJCP itself has a roster of thousands of judges that collaborate continuously to establish and update standards in the rapidly evolving world of craft beer. 

Sources: BJCP, CraftBeer.com, Wikipedia