One of the roles I really like to play is that of the homebrew tester. As one of the only BJCP ranked judges in our club at this time, I often get requests to try beers and give feedback. I love to do this for people! Not only do I get to keep my judging skills sharp, but I get to try cool new beers. Testing out beers at meetings is more difficult to do with the chaos of multiple beers and many people, so smaller groups or one-on-one is really the way to go if you want better feedback. Entering competitions is another great way of getting a couple of blinded judge sheets, and I still do this with beers I'm not so sure about. I find it harder to judge my own beers sometimes, usually by being too critical if it didn't turn out exactly like I imagined.
My friend Jeff brought over a few beers yesterday and we sat at the bar and worked through them. Jeff makes some great beers considering he hasn't been brewing all that long, and only recently moved to all-grain. The main reason he likes my opinion is to figure out where these beers might fit into competitions. I think that it's extremely smart to do before wasting your money on beers by putting them in the wrong category. Just because you brewed an IPA doesn't mean you ended up with one! If it is not hoppy enough, maybe it really should be a pale ale. Or certain beers like blonde and cream ale have a very similar taste profile and might do well in either category. And some beers just won't fit a a style, even if they are a really nice and drinkable beer. Some of my best beers just don't fit a style and so I reserve them for drinking and enjoying only!
I encourage everyone to get opinions on your beers if you want to keep improving. Even if you aren't a competition person, learning about those styles and guidelines will help you understand the process and final product.
Oh and to all of you who have shared with me, thanks!