I used to wonder about the judging as well so I did something about it. I contacted the folks that manage the judging and found out how to become one and judged this year.
It is a tough job. There are so many beers in a flight that it is difficult to really cut down the entrants to start. Slight nuances make the difference and there are so many really well done beers these days that it depends on what order a beer is presented and the make up of the judge panel.
For example, if you judged say, a Double IPA flight and the first beer you sampled blew your tongue out and all the rest tasted like candy. You know which beer will go forward.
I have won Gold and two Silver medals for my Kolsch and thought this year would be a possibility, no go. I have won two Silvers and a Bronze for my Wee Heavy, this year, no go. In fact no medals this year at all and I look over the list of those awarded medals and realize that there are many great brewers not on that list. There are also some guys that consistantly do well, congrats to them and all those awarded medals this year. I will be back next year and know that the competition is tough and getting tougher.
I also know now what happens in the "Star Chamber"...not much more than a qualified group of folks trying really hard to ensure that the best beers are chosen.
CEO and Brewer
Mad Fox Brewing Company