What Goes Into Judging the Great American Beer Festival?

There is never a shortage of volunteers to taste beer, but not many people understand the dedication and rigors of judging, especially at the Great American Beer Festival® (GABF). For those who feel they are up to the task, the challenge can be daunting, but for Melody Daversa of Karl Strauss Brewing Company, the experience was truly very rewarding. We caught up with her after the festival to hear about her first adventure into the world of judging.


After collecting multiple letters of recommendation and waiting more than two years, I was finally called up as a GABF judge. I serve on our Karl Strauss’ daily tasting panel and I’ve completed the Beer Judge Certification Program and am a Certified Cicerone®, but I was still a little nervous about judging in “the big leagues.” Our brewmaster and head brewer had both judged in previous years and encouraged me to hold my ground and stay true to what I tasted. With that advice in hand, I set off for Denver.

The three-day judging process was a complete whirlwind. It was challenging, exhausting and totally rewarding. I have to admit that going into this, I was a little nervous that as a woman I might be treated differently, but that was not the case at all. My fellow judges were happy to welcome me into the fold and if anything, I was asked how we could get more women involved in the judging process.

By the end of the first day I had sampled more than 40 beers and met dozens of new people. The next two days flew by as we sampled some of the best beers I’ve ever tried. I learned that one of the hardest parts about being a judge is choosing only three winners from a pool of so many worthy candidates. It’s a responsibility that every person I judged with took to heart, and that was evident from the amount of time and lengthy discussions that took place to award the top three in each category.

Judging the GABF is a privilege that not many people get. I feel honored that I am now part of the club. After seeing how much work goes into the judging process—from the stewards to the BA staff to the judges themselves—I have a much greater appreciation for what it means to win a medal here. Congratulations to the 2012 winners and I look forward to being part of future judging sessions.


Melody Daversa is the PR and Ad Manager for Karl Strauss Brewing Company in San Diego, Calif. She is involved in the San Diego Brewers Guild and was prior chairperson of the San Diego Beer Week committee. She is a BJCP beer judge and Certified Cicerone™. When she’s not working she enjoys traveling and making a mess in the kitchen. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Integrated Marketing Communications and looks forward to the continued growth of the craft beer industry.