Competition Planning Overview

Competition Planning Overview

Planning and running a high-quality competition that provides good feedback to entrants and enjoyment for participants is hard work. There are a great number of tasks that need to be executed competently that can make or break a competition. This section provides a brief overview of some of these major tasks. The remainder of the document addresses these tasks and others in detail.

Every competition has an organizer who is responsible for pulling the competition together, overseeing all aspects of planning and running a competition, paying attention to all details, and tying up the loose ends afterwards. The organizer can work solo or have the support of a committee. In general, the organizer and/or staff selects a venue, sets a date, determines competition-specific rules and regulations, sets entry fees, registers the competition with the BJCP, and publicizes the event. Competition supplies and awards are purchased, judges and stewards are recruited and confirmed, and entries are registered, received, unpacked, sorted, and stored until competition day. Information is then entered into the database being used so judging and stewarding assignments can be set. If food is to be served during the competition, details need to be ironed out in advance and confirmed. On competition day, the judging room needs to be set up as desired, judges registered, entries further sorted and delivered to appropriate judge teams, who then judge them in a blind tasting format. Winners need to be determined by award category and best-of-show winners selected. At the close of the competition, the room must be returned to its original state, all paperwork collected and scores entered into the database, and all supplies packed and ready to store for future use. After the competition has been completed, all scoresheets and awards must be sent to individual brewers and the on-line BJCP competition report completed in a timely manner.

Sanctioned Competition Requirements

The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) sanctions competitions, but does not operate them. Competitions are run by independent organizations that may or may not involve BJCP members. Any competition sanctioned by the BJCP must agree to follow these few general rules:

  1. Organizers have the right to run their competitions as they see fit, consistent with these rules and any applicable local laws. Organizers have wide latitude to create a unique competition experience. The Sanctioned Competition Handbook provides good guidance and advice, but is not binding. Just keep in mind that experienced judges anticipate a certain rhythm to competitions, so be sure to advise judges when the competition has unusual or out-of-the-ordinary elements.
  2. Organizers have the right to select the judges and staff needed to run their competition. No judge has a right to be seated at any competition, session, or panel. Judges may not “pull rank” to get a judging slot.
  3. Organizers have the right to remove or replace disruptive or non-performing judges or staff at their discretion, and to optionally ban them for cause from future competitions they run.
  4. Organizers have the right to exclude scoresheets from any judge who are clearly not performing their duties.
  5. Competition-specific rules must be published and not be changed from the time registration is open until the competition concludes. Unpublished rules cannot be enforced. If any entries are not eligible for any award, these criteria must be explained in advance.
  6. Judging must be fair to all entrants. Competition rules must be applied and enforced uniformly. Competitions must be run in a spirit of fairness, even as unique characteristics are incorporated.
  7. Blind tasting must be used. Judges must not be given the identity of the brewer or entrant. Competition staff are allowed to judge provided that they do not know the association between entries and entrants. Judges may enter competitions in which they judge provided they do not judge any competition category in which they have entries.
  8. Entries must be judged to published styles. The BJCP Style Guidelines are preferred, but any other published guidelines may be used provided that entrants and judges are using the same guidelines. If styles require additional information, organizers must provide this information to the judges.
  9. Judge panels must have a minimum of two judges and a maximum of four judges, including any non-BJCP or provisional judges. Excess judges should be encouraged to steward or observe the judging, provided they are not a distraction and that adequate sample volume exists for judging.
  10. Judges must always pick the best beer from those eligible. Judges, not organizers or staff, determine scores, ranking, and winners. Winners must not be selected on score alone when scores were determined by multiple panels of judges.
  11. Feedback must be given to the brewer or entrant. BJCP Judging Forms are recommended, but are not mandatory. Scoresheets must be returned promptly to entrants.
  12. An organizer’s report must be filed with the BJCP within 21 days, preferably using the BJCP Organizer Reporting System. The BJCP Experience Point Award Schedule must be followed.
  13. The BJCP Privacy Policy must be followed. Judge data may only be used to run the competition, and not be used for other purposes or shared with third-parties.
  14. The BJCP Disability Policy must be followed.

Organizers not abiding by these rules may be penalized. Organizer points may be reduced or withheld. Subsequent competition registrations may be denied. Discipline of individual BJCP members involved in violating rules may be addressed in accordance with BJCP policies and guidelines.

Rule infractions should be brought to the Organizer’s attention immediately. Escalation to the BJCP Competition Director or BJCP Regional Representative can be undertaken, but attempts to resolve problems must be made locally first. The BJCP will work with those who escalate issues to the BJCP Competition Director or other officers or staff towards a satisfactory explanation or resolution, but Organizers are encouraged to properly manage their competitions and work with those with report issues.

Competition Roles

Many successful competitions have been organized and run with a single organizer, but it is often easier when the organizer is part of a committee—this is especially true for larger competitions. When this is done, the myriad tasks are shared, leaving no individual overburdened. However, this introduces the requirement for the organizer to communicate and coordinate with others. The committee can be as large or small as the organizer feels is appropriate based on the size of the competition, people resources available, amount of work individuals can manage, and the amount of time available to devote to planning.

The number of staff points that can be awarded varies based on the size of the competition. See BJCP Experience Points Award Schedule on the rules page for details. The tasks that staff members perform may also vary based on the number of members, their strengths, and the amount of work the organizer wants to take on directly. An example of a functional staff includes the organizer, registrar, judge director, and head steward. Each of these staff members has specific tasks to complete prior to, during, and after the competition. The duties to be performed are what is important, not necessarily who does them; therefore, tasks can be combined as needed in a way that works for your club/group. These roles are briefly described below:

  • Organizer – The organizer is basically responsible for planning and running the competition, including making sure that every aspect of the competition is completed on schedule and according to the rules. Some of the duties performed may include setting the date for the competition (which may be done with staff input), securing a venue and handling all venue issues, registering the competition with the BJCP, advertising the competition, setting up competition guidelines (with input from staff, if desired), setting up and troubleshooting the on-line entry process if one is being used, ordering awards, procuring prizes if a raffle is being held, fielding questions, and overseeing task progress and completion by staff members. During the competition, the organizer oversees the competition as a whole and pitches in where needed. After the competition, the competition report must be completed filed, and scoresheets/awards sent to the entrants. Any of the above tasks can be delegated to other staff members, or additional staff may be added to complete some of the tasks.

The organizer should not judge, but can help in an emergency provided that the organizer does not have knowledge of the association between entries and entrants. In any event, no additional points are awarded to the organizer for judging or performing any other role. Organizer points are the only experience points awarded to the organizer.

  • Registrar – This staff member’s duties include maintaining a database of entries registered and received. This database should include information about the brewer, the entries, payment, entry numbers, and results. On competition day, the registrar should check in walk-in entries (if allowed by the competition), and enter scores and winners into the database. This individual must not judge at the competition, and must not divulge this information to anyone involved in judging. This person may also be the organizer or share responsibilities as Judge Director.
  • Judge Director – This staff member recruits judges and assigns them to judge specific categories, determines whether categories must be combined or split, and creates and schedules flights. During the competition, the judge director will shift judges as needed to cover no-shows, determine eligible judges, and assign them for the Best-of-Show (BOS) round. The judge director may also judge, provided the director has no knowledge of the association between entries and entrants, and that the judging will not interfere with the direct duties of the judge director role.
  • Head Steward – This individual is essentially the operations manager for the competition, running the logistics of the competition itself. The head steward recruits, trains, and assigns stewards to various competition tasks. During the competition, the head steward is responsible for all entries entering and leaving the cooler, coordinating the tasks of the stewards, ensuring that entries are accurately sorted into flights and delivered to the appropriate judge team, and accurate completion of paperwork prior to turning it in to the registrar for entry into the database. The head steward is often the liaison between the judges and the organizer and registrar, answering questions and responding to issues as needed. In small competitions, the organizer may perform this role directly. This is a staff position; the Head Steward may or may not actually perform stewarding duties during the competition, depending on its size. Some competitions also create a Cellarmaster position to manage the entries and the cooler and to allow the Head Steward to handle other tasks. Individual tasks can be delegated, and jobs can be combined, shared or split. But all the roles must be addressed in order to successfully run the competition.