Meet the Van Mag Craft Beer Awards judges

The judges of our 2016 Craft Beer Awards were a diverse group, but they all had something in common: immense beer knowledge

The judges of our 2016 Craft Beer Awards were a diverse group, but they all had something in common: immense beer knowledge

How do you define ‘beer expert’? Fortunately, there’s a well-established system in place to help answer just that. Launched in 2007, the Cicerone Certification Program is the leading North American organization for beer knowledge, testing, and education. The program encompasses four ascending levels, each one much more difficult than the last: Certified Beer Server (just an online written test), Certified Cicerone (a four-hour in-person exam that includes written, tasting, and demonstration segments), Advanced Cicerone (a full day in-person exam given only four to six times a year in a few locations), and finally the Master Cicerone (a 14-hour exam over two days that puts the taker through written and oral exams, tastings, presentations on food pairings, essays, and sections pertaining to brewing and draft systems). The Master Cicerone tests are given only once or twice a year in Chicago—at Goose Island Brewery—with spots for the examination being awarded by a lottery.Chester Carey, who was the first person to achieve the Certified Cicerone level in Canada (and one of Vancouver’s leading beer specialists) has attempted the Master Cicerone exam the past three times (this is quite common, and as of now only 11 people worldwide are listed as having earned the Master Cicerone level). The implementation of the Advanced Cicerone level by the program is quite recent, due to the the jump from Certified Cicerone to Master being described by Chester as “incredibly extreme.” He’ll be attempting the Advanced exam in the fall, in Dallas.An entirely different entity, the Beer Judge Certification Program, serves as the standard for home brew judging in North America, having been founded in 1985. A non-profit organization, the BJCP is intended to “certify and rank beer judges through an examination and monitoring process, sanction competitions, and provide educational resources for current and future judges.” It’s a volunteer program designed to help further the home brew and craft beer community through feedback for the brewers.This year, for the 2016 Vancouver International Craft Beer Awards, a BJCP-oriented system was adopted, using their scoresheets, rules, and regulations. Chad McCarthy, our chief judge, is a longtime member of BJCP. Speaking to Van Mag, he extolled the benefits of BJCP and the high standards it sets for proper knowledge and judging. Many of the judges for the 2016 awards were either BJCP- or Cicerone-certified (or both).

Meet the Judges

Matt Anderson is a renowned Vancouver home brewer who won the Dan Small Homebrew award at the BC Beer Awards in 2014. He has been involved with both CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) and VanBrewers (Vancouver Home Brewers Association).Ken Beattie is a Certified Prud’homme Beer Specialist who is the executive director of the BC Craft Brewers Guild. He also owns Eureka Beer Guide, a beer education and event company.Robert Belcham is executive chef and co-owner of Campagnolo and Campagnolo Roma, and has also collaborated with R&B Brewing.Cameron Bogue is the director of beverage operations at Earls, maintaining and developing both the beer and cocktail programs. Scott Butchart, president of VanBrewers, is an award-winning home brewer and cider maker, and is also a BJCP judge.Chester Carey, Canada’s first Certified Cicerone, is the head brewer with Brewery Creek Brewing, and he also teaches the Serious Beer course at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. He is also a partner at Re-Up BBQ in New Westminster.Adam Chatburn is co-owner of 12 Kings Pub and also a brewer with Callister Brewing, operating the Real Cask brand. He’s also the former CAMRA Vancouver president.Kent Courtice, a decorated home brewer, also brews with Boombox Brewing, whose IPAs and sours will soon be available through Callister Brewing.Damon Elgie brings 20 years of home brewing expertise to the awards judging and is a recognized BJCP judge.Ari Giligson, another experienced home brewer, is a BJCP judge who took home fourth place in 2012’s Canadian Brewer of the Year competition. His brewing endeavours also extend to mead, cider, wine, and sake.Brendan Grills is a Certified Cicerone who works at Brewery Creek Cold Beer and Wine Store.Colin Johnson is head chef at Chinatown’s beloved sausage shop, Bestie.Jay Jones, a veteran Vancouver bartender and mixologist, is the current bar manager at Vij’s. Previously, he was employed with the Vancouver Canucks organization as director of wine and beverage.Chad McCarthy is chief judge of the 2016 Van Mag Craft Beer Awards. He is a Certified Cicerone, a national-level BJCP judge, and a VanBrewers member.Kai Miller is the CAMRA education liaison. He is a BJCP judge who has worked as a brewer for 33 Acres Brewing Company and Parallel 49 Brewing.Jason Newton, an avid home brewer and VanBrewers member, invents automated home-brewing equipment in his spare time.Daniel Olsen is a home brewer and previously was the membership coordinator for CAMRA.Liam Peyton is the beer ambassador of the Donnelly Group and also was the beverage operations manager with Pemberton Music Festival (in 2014 and 2015).David Scholefield is a wine expert and consultant employed as VP of wine strategy for Trialto Wine Group. He also works as a wine advisor for Okanagan Crush Pad.Nathaniel Senff, an active member of VanBrewers, is a BJCP judge who will soon be launching Lightheart Brewing through Callister Brewing.Jessica Sharpe is the in-house Certified Cicerone for Steel Toad Brewery. She previously worked with Toronto’s Bar Volo and Cask Days.Dave Shea is the co-founder of the saison- and sour-focused Farmhouse Fest. Known as the founder and creative director of Bright Creative, he is a Certified Cicerone and a BJCP judge.Phil Spurgeon, an award-winning home brewer, is a BJCP judge and a part of Boombox Brewing, available soon through Callister Brewing.Tim Vandergrift has been a BJCP judge since 1995 and consults for Northern Brewer, the largest home brew supplier in the world.Rebecca Whyman is a beer writer and blogger. She discusses craft beer and the industry every second Tuesday on CBC’s On The Coast with Stephen Quinn.David Wolowidnyk is the bar manager of Cin Cin, and he spent 10 years before that as bar manager for West. An accomplished barman, he has won numerous awards, including Bartender of the Year from this magazine.Jan Zeschky is a food and beer writer and an assistant editor for the Province. As a Cicerone Certified Beer Server and BJCP judge, he has years of experience covering beer.

See our Craft Beer Awards winners here >>