Beers In Sacramento reached out to Mike Ungerbuhler to post about his journey to become a certified beer judge. Mike will post every Sunday for the next three months to share his experiences. Mike has his own blog, Insatiable Thirst, make sure to check it out. Here's Mike...

My name is Mike Ungerbuhler and I am passionate about beer. I am part of a Sacramento, CA homebrew club called UnderGround BrewSquad and have been brewing for nearly two years. One could say that I am a bit beer obsessed; I know that my wife would attest to that, especially during that magical time of the year known as Sacramento Beer Week. We’ll let that bottle of splendor cellar a while, for I am on another journey. A journey that I’d like to invite you on; I am going to become a Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) certified judge. This means that I will be in the pool of qualified peoples who are invited to judge beer competitions. Over the next three months or so I will be taking the BJCP Exam Preparatory Course with David Teckam, a BJCP Regional Training Coordinator, and other guest instructors from within the brewing community. Let’s crack this bottle.

Week 1:

This week’s class was held at Brew Ferment Distill (BFD), a local homebrew supply store. I arrived a few minutes early and as I walked up the stairs I saw a couple of members of my homebrew club and a few familiar faces from local beer related events; good people = good times. I’d like to start off by saying that David Teckam is very knowledgeable about beer and I am thankful to be in this course.

We started by talking about the BJCP and the necessity for quality judges, better judges make for better beer. The discussion then turned to characteristics of beer: aroma, appearance, flavor and mouthfeel. The most challenging of these to ascertain and describe being mouthfeel. There are subtleties that are very important to be able to distinguish, between mouthfeel and flavor, one being the difference between astringency and bitterness. Astringency is a tactile sense of puckering where bitterness is a flavor, both of these can be observed in an over steeped cup of black tea, the flavor will be bitter and the mouthfeel will be astringent. 

Beer Flavor Wheel

The class would not be complete without tasting beer, and taste beer we did. This week we had eleven samples. Three of which were a light, base beer that was infused with flavor and aroma compounds designed to mimic off flavors, aroma, and mouthfeel. It is very rare that I leave a sample of beer unfinished, but these remained in the sample glass. We then tasted several wonderful wheat beers ranging from an American Wheat to a Weizenbock. The sample that stood out the most was a homebrewed Belgian Wit that had an aroma that was bursting with citrus blossoms, and a slightly cloudy, pale yellow appearance. The flavor followed the aroma, but with less floral emphasis and a subtlety sweet, light malt character that was well balanced. The mouthfeel was silken with a touch of bubbly carbonation. This beer was, in my opinion, fantastic.

I can say that I am eagerly awaiting the next class and look forward to sharing my journey with you.