When the term "beer geek" is used, it's more than likely referring to people like Robert Billany and Danny Argudin of the Miami Area Society of Homebrewers.
Argudin, who's also part of the startup Sexy Llama Brewing, and Billany are now also professional beer judges. They earned their new credentials last week after receiving confirmation from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP).
See also: M.A.S.H.: The Original Miami Homebrewers
The BJCP program was started in 1985 to promote beer literacy. The test, which consists of multiple-choice and tasting sections, is administered in two parts.
The tasting -- the hardest portion of the certification -- consists of sampling six beers in a 90-minute stretch, or one every 15 minutes. Between beers, candidates are expected to take extremely detailed notes -- at least a full page -- about the nuances of style, taste, feel, and smell. To pass the taste test, Billany had to memorize at least 80 styles of beer.
It's not an expensive test -- only $40 for the written part and $10 for the tasting. But opportunities to take the test are rare. There's also a waiting list.
Billany scored 70 percent, which puts him midrange among other beer judges. He now qualifies to be a judge at BJCP competitions, of which there are hundreds.
BJCP competitions are not about which beer tastes best, but how beers adhere to styles. "[They] are not beauty contests," Billany says.
It's a rigorous task. During each competition, judges are expected to taste hundreds of beers. And it's not like wine or spirits competitions where judges discard samples in a spittoon. Although it's just two ounces apiece, swallowing hundreds of beer samples a day can get you pretty buzzed, Billany says.
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The BJCP certification is different from the Cicerone certification. Whereas the former recognizes the technical knowledge of beer styles, the Cicerone is geared toward the craft beer industry -- encompassing draft technology and food pairings.
Argudin and Billany are the latest BJCP-certified judges in M.A.S.H., which now boasts at least seven judges.