Just got the results from my first Mazer Cup and got some really great feedback for some improvements in the next batches.
I have a few questions. Some might be better answered by judges but I'll throw a few out there to start a discussion.
Where do the average scores fall for the home competition vs pro?
What score do you personally have to get to say "Hey I did a good job there"?
As I've seen others say I got hit for a lack of honey flavor in a couple of my entries. They were all aged a little over a year. They were all dry and not backsweetened. Would backsweetening just a bit bring some of that flavor back or would lowering fruit and upping honey be a better option?
Do you find judges to be consistent in their scoring or do they vary sometimes? I had two with a six point variance.
Ok that's about it for now.
I also just got back my results from my first MCI. I also had a couple comments regarding the honey I used, with one mentioning I might try a less aggressive honey or upping the amount of fruit I used. I've heard that dry meads are difficult to get honey flavor to come through. I'm a coward and make sweets and semi-sweets, but am working on a dry. I racked it yesterday and the alcohol heat is really strong at the moment. From what I've read about dry meads, start off with a honey that has a big flavor, and then age it for at least 2 years. That's just what I've gleaned though. Others can give you better input.
I also had one mead where there was a 5 point spread between the judges. Not sure why that was because the comments from the judge who gave me the lowest score were really helpful, but did not point out any major flaws and the only suggestion he made that I won't be able to put into action immediately with my next batch is aging longer. I had one mead that was a year old and two that were 9 and 7 months.
As for my personal 'standard' of "Gee! I did good!", if I get a score between 38 and 44, I'm darn tickled. My other personal standard is if my keg (3 gallon, not 5 gallon) is floating in the ice bucket at the end of a camp out. I have several friends who are gluten intolerant, so I bring along mead for our camp outs.
I want to thank all the judges who took the time to judge all our efforts. They put in their own money to travel, get hotel rooms and time to do this without pay. I appreciate and will put into use the information given. And to the one judge who said she'd love a bottle of the one mead, well, I hope you were able to snag the other two bottles that didn't make it to the second cut, because that was the last of this year's effort.
"What were you expecting? Thunderbird?" (Bottle Shock)
Well, since I enter as a homebrewer and judge both the home and commercial competitions at the MCI, let me take a cut at answering your questions....
First, it is difficult to compare the home and commercial scores directly, in part because they are on two different scales (BJCP-based home comps are scored on a 50 point system; the commercial comps are scored on a 100 point scale), and partly because the criteria for awarding points are different (BJCP puts a lot of emphasis on being "true to category," and lacking in perceived flaws, where the commercial guys are much more interested in scoring that is based on a perceived positive organoleptics and marketability of the product). That said, there are some "rules of thumb" about the numeric score that are similar between the two systems.
Let me focus on the home scores, since the majority of Gotmeaders are home meadmakers. The BJCP has worked long and hard to quantify an assessment system for meads (and for beers, obviously) that bestows a significant amount of objectivity on the judging process. Nevertheless, numeric scales are our best effort at putting a quantitative score on what is essentially a subjectively perceptive process, so IMHO any mead's numeric total score should be regarded as having a variance of about +-3 points on it.
Now regarding minimum scores, at the MCI we try to give credit, rather than subtracting for fault, in all the judging. The bottom line is that while there are some judges out there who really take a perverse delight in finding arcane reasons to subtract as many points from that perfect score of 50 as they can, we try to discourage that practice at the MCI. Other contests are different, so you may see some differences between average scores at MCI and at some other events. In general, a mead has to really be virtually undrinkable in order to receive a net score below 25 at the MCI. That is entirely consistent with the scoring methodology of the BJCP, and we have found (especially in recent competitions) that home meadmakers are for the most part really turning out quite acceptable meads, although some have more perceived flaws than others. So within that range, with a virtual scoring floor of 25 and a theoretical perfect score of 50, we see that many meads end up scoring in the 35-38 range. That doesn't mean they are "average." Instead, it means that most entries are very good, with only minor flaws. If a score for one of your meads falls in the low 30's (i.e. 30-34) it is still a good mead, but could use a little more work to come up to the current perception of very good. From 38-42, the flaws are detectable, but very minor. Many meads in this range will advance from first flights to subsequent judging rounds. If you score 43 or higher, now you have something truly special with only the slightest hints of flaws. Then there are the truly incredible meads out there -- scoring in the 48-50 range -- and that almost never happens. If you scored there, the judge considers your mead a world class example of its category.
Judges do vary, and in general judges with more experience ranking beers tend to be more sticklers for a literal interpretation of the "guidelines," but mead judges tend to allow a bit of latitude in their interpretation.
when do you push meads to second round of home competition?
Pushing meads to second round is not done based on the numeric score alone. Instead it is a combination of score and ranking within the first round. The highest ranking mead in any first round is always pushed to second. Whether any others are judged good enough to push to second round is a consensus decision of all the first round judges; typically two, or sometimes even three meads from a first round flight can be pushed to second round. That happens usually when the scores of the first rank and second or third differ by only a point or two.
BTW - a typical first round flight of meads at the MCI will consist of anywhere from six to nine different meads.
Would it be possible to get more info on how the professional scoring is done? A link to a sample or score sheet might be enlightening if there is one online. I find this fascinating. As an aspiring commercial meadmaker I'm trying to soak this all in and see where some of my stuff stands. Coincidentally, I have your score sheet for my dry blueberry melomel right in front of me. It scored well and I'm very very happy with it, but I can't help but wonder how it would have in the in the other competition.
Thanks again for all the great information.
As the judge director for the Mazer Cup I wanted to first thank everyone who entered. I and the rest of the staff are humbled and honored every year by all the home and commercial mead makers that send in their meads for evaluation. I have to tell you that the bar goes up every year and we are seeing more and more phenomenal meads in the competition.
My job is to make sure that we hold up our end of the bargain and provide a fair evaluation of every mead that comes our way. As Wayne stated above we really stress to the judges that their job is to evaluate, not criticize. We also ask them to provide positive and helpful feedback to our entrants. I have also been known to remind judges that they do NOT get to take all the points that they don't award with then to heaven.
The judge pool is made up a mix of certified judges (BJCP and MJCP), mead luminaries like Vicky, Oskaar, Wayne and Ken, and some of the best professional mead makers from around the world. This presents some interesting challenges. For instance and I used iTranslate quite a bit over the weekend for things like translating "Huckleberry" into Polish (Borowka by the way).
All in all I think the judges do a great job and I was very happy with the 400 or so random score sheets I pulled and evaluated before we sent them back to all the entrants. This of course is another part of my job, judging the judges. If you received score sheets back that weren't positive/helpful, or that you feel were way off base, I want to know about it.
Before we begin this experiment though let me set some expectations. Please don't expect me to be able to address specifics about any entry. I'm pretty good, but not that good. :-)
I would also ask that you respect the Judge’s privacy and either PM me here, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments.