Sal Mortillaro II – Grand Master BJCP Judge
Sal is from Mandeville, Louisiana and has been a certified judge in the Beer Judge Certification Program since 2012 where he currently holds the rank of Grand Master; one of 68 out of almost 8,000 BJCP judges in the world. He is also a Certified mead judge with the BJCP. He currently serves as a BJCP exam proctor, exam grader, exam administrator, and Assistant Regional Representative for the Southern Region. Sal is no stranger to commercial beer judging as he has served as a Best of Show judge for the Alabama Craft Beer State Championship commercial competition, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, and judge for The Beer Connoisseur Magazine contributing to blind reviews of beers submitted to the magazine . He is a regular guest on the NOLA Drinks radio show & pod cast and contributor to Louisiana Craft Beer Magazine (the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild official publication).
He has been an avid homebrewer since 2010 and has won several awards and medals during this time. He is also a founding board member of The Bayou State Homebrew Competition Circuit. He is the competition coordinator and head judge for several local charity beer events in the New Orleans area. He has served as a “Beer Geek” in the New Orleans area for a well-known, national chain of natural grocery stores reviewing and recommending beers to their customers.
Sal is excited to taste and judge all of the great beers from across the state of Montana!
Bill Downs, Certified Beer Judge #D1349
I am a beer journalist, published author, award wining homebrewer and have been judging beers for almost 20 years now.
Beer has become a passion of mine, as a judge, homebrewer, author and “staff historian” for the Rocky Mountain Brewing Newspaper. It is my way of releasing my “inner-artist.”
When I was asked to help with Craft Beer Week again this year, I became very excited. As a former Great Falls resident, I really have learned to love the people that I work with in Great Falls, and all the people I have met in the city of Great Falls. It is always great to return, and it is even better when I see just how much the quality of beer has improved in Montana since the first time I was involved 5 years ago. Montana truly does have world quality beer, and I have enjoyed being a part of that and watching beer in Montana evolve over the years!
Thank you to everyone involved in the Brew Fest and for inviting me and allowing me to share in the evolution of the world class beer in Montana!
Graham Linder – BJCP Certified Judge (F1033) Little Rock, AR
I acquired a taste for great beer in 2005 while traveling Europe on a study abroad program. I fell in love with being able to drink local beers at every stop along the way. On return stateside, the options for local beer were almost non-existent. With only a few breweries in Little Rock, the options were limited but craft beer is worth seeking out. Vino’s Brewpub in Little Rock was my go-to for a microbrew and slice of pizza.
In 2012, unbeknownst to me, my wife signed me up for the local homebrew club (Central Arkansas Fermenters) on advice from some friends. At first, I thought it was a crazy idea. I had no idea how to make beer and didn’t think the Mr. Beer kit I received as a gift a year before (and never made) was a great requisite for joining the homebrew club. Fortunately, I went to the meeting and made some new friends that were willing to help me learn. A few of weeks later, we made the Mr. Beer kit and a batch of all-grain beer the same day. The Mr. Beer kit was not great, to say the least, but the all-grain beer tasted great. I haven’t looked back since, logging hundreds of batches and developing award-winning beers.
From 2014-2015 I had the honor of being the president of CAF. Under my direction, the CAF donated over $24,000 to local charities from the proceeds of our fundraiser (littlerocktoberfest.com) – Not bad for a group of homebrewers. From 2016-2017, I was the club competition coordinator and meet some great people from all over the Southern US that helped me develop my knowledge and sensory skills to become a Certified BJCP Judge.
I appreciate the opportunity to judge the Montana Brew Fest competition and help pick the Montana Brewery of the Year. I can’t wait to try the greatest beers in Montana.
Jillian Linder- BJCP Certified Beer Judge (F1170) Little Rock, AR
In early 2012, I was looking for a new hobby for my husband and myself. I decided to sign us both up for the Central Arkansas Fermenters, after meeting a couple of the members at a local event. Ever since, I have been highly involved in the Little Rock beer community. In that time, I have served as chair on the Little Rocktoberfest committee (the largest homebrew exhibition in Arkansas), became the first female BJCP Certified judge in Central Arkansas, earned several awards for my beer and cider, and currently hold the offices of Vice President of Events for the Central Arkansas Fermenters and Co-President for the Beer Ladies of Arkansas.
Making and judging beer has become a special hobby to me. I love collaborating and connecting people with this beautiful art in my community; I truly believe it brings people together and forms lasting friendships. I was ecstatic when Bill Downs asked me to participate in this event because it combines my love of beer, and beer community, with travel. Montana, specifically, is one of my favorite states because of its beautiful scenery. I am so thrilled to be a part of this event and have the opportunity to judge amazing local beers with some amazing BJCP certified judges.
I am thankful to everyone who made this event happen and for asking me to be a part of it, cheers!
Mark Johnson – BJCP Certified Judge (C1042) Willis, Texas
My taste for more “flavorful” beer began when I spent a summer in merry ol’ England after graduating from college. I fell in love with the English style beers and especially liked to order a pint of “Courage” before playing a round of darts in the local Pub.
Fast forward several years and with the receipt of a Mr. Beer kit for Christmas, my homebrewing adventures began in earnest. Since that time, I progressed from extract kits to all grain brewing, honing my skills even more when I joined the Midnight Carboys Homebrew Club in Crystal Lake, IL. I owe a lot to the seasoned homebrewers there for helping me learn to brew the many different styles of beer we all love so much. While a member of that Club, my journey to becoming a Certified judge began.
After judging many competitions over the years, I look forward to sampling the quality beers of Montana.
Matt Miller – BJCP Recognized Judge (D1823)- Missoula, MT
I began home brewing in 2010 after a conversation I had with my wife at a local brewery. She made a comment about how good the beer was and it would be cool to try and make it at home. That night I ordered John Palmer’s How to Brew and began this journey into a very addictive hobby. I started off brewing with extract only to find out that the beer was, albeit drinkable, lacking the bright expressive character that the beers of our favorite brewery showcased.
I quickly realized that the best way to achieve the flavors I wanted was to start from the ground up using all freshly milled malts rather than pre-mashed extracts. My beer drastically improved at this point and I began winning awards in local competitions. Even though I had had some success I also found myself getting scores that weren’t all that great. Mostly due to off flavors that I was not aware of. This led me on the quest for finding these off flavors my beer may have had. After years of self-diagnosing my beer our local homebrew club had setup a 6 session class in 2018 that would prepare us to take the BJCP tasting exam.
We were lucky enough to have a grand master judge and a co-writer of the BJCP style guidelines teaching us how to taste beer and to fill out score sheets properly. The class had really improved my ability to detect different flavors in beer and ultimately led to me passing the written and tasting exam to become a certified judge.