Last summer, I was awarded the BJCP Mead Judging exam scholarship from Fermenta. The BJCP (Beer Judging Certification Program) Mead judging exam had been revised earlier in 2016 to bring it more in line with the beer judging exam. It now starts with a timed, 200 question on-line exam. Once you pass that initial on-line exam, you have a year to take the tasting exam- a 1 1/2 hour session in which you judge six meads.
The first step to pass the initial on-line exam was to find the study materials required to pass. In researching the study materials, I amassed over 150 pages of information. Luckily the exam is open book! I was already a mead geek and had tried a lot of meads, but now I had to be able to describe over 20 honey varietals, lots of different fruits and spices, flaws and what caused them….the list was long and I learned a lot! I passed the exam in July of 2016. Now all I had to do was practice judging meads while I waited for January 2017 and the second part of the exam.
The second part of the exam is an actual judging session. There are 6 meads to judge (15 minutes for each mead) and judging sheets are provided. I was very lucky in that I found a group of people who were all taking the exam and we had a couple of practice judging sessions before the exam. Again…I learned a lot! Working with other people meant that I had the benefit of hearing what they found in the meads, letting me expand my vocabulary. We all took the exam on January 21. It was intense. Now, we wait. Our score sheets were sent to a grader and after that, they will be sent on to another grader. Our comments will be compared with the comments made by the exam proctors. The exam is based on 100 points and a score of 60 points passes. Until I get notice that I have passed, I am considered a provisional judge. So…as a provisional judge, I am headed out to Colorado in March to judge at the Mazer Cup (the biggest mead competition in the United States).
If you are considering taking the exam, do try to find a study group. It was a huge help to me! I am very thankful to Fred Bonjour (the test giver) for getting us together and for attending one of our sessions to help direct our efforts. I have learned a lot and look forward to continue refining my palate. And now…I wait. I should hear my results by the beginning of April.
By: Annie Zipser