How do you know if a beer is any good? Just ask David Teckam. The Elk Grove homebrewer and grand master judge has been teaching a course on beer judging for the past 14 years and knows the difference between a brew that’s swell and one that’s, well, swill.
Beer lovers who enroll in his annual 10-week Beer Judge School (beerjudgeschool.com) receive a hands-on education in world beer styles, flavors and aromas, how to describe beer, and the technical aspects of brewing. Once certified, graduates of the course are invited to judge beer competitions across Northern California. “It’s a very fun hobby,” says Teckam.
The majority of Teckam’s students are homebrewers looking to take their skills to the next level. “Many times it’s to improve their own beer,” says Teckam. “It’s also to improve their sensory analysis and learn more about beer styles.”
Of course, it takes more than a love of beer to be a good critic, says Teckam. A competent beer judge must be open-minded about the diverse array of beer styles and their various peculiarities. “They don’t have to like it, but to understand it and appreciate it is important,” explains Teckam. “It’s part of giving proper feedback to the brewer.”
For Teckam, teaching the course is a rewarding way to connect with fellow beer devotees and support the brewer community. “I like the interaction with people who are genuinely interested in beer,” he says. “I like adding to the talent pool so that when I go to judging events, there are other competent and enthusiastic people. It’s a big support to the many beer competitions that we have in Northern California.”