Sunday, August 19, 2012

My 2012 Beehive Brew-off Results

This weekend was the 4th Annual Beehive Brew-off.  I volunteered to steward both days and it was a great experience and it was really cool to see what happens behind the scenes of an event like this.  Thanks go out to all the judges and other stewards.  Special thanks go out to Jamie Burnham and Mark and Kileen Alston for their support of such a great event.  There were almost 600 entries this year, nearly twice the number of the inaugural event!

I had eight entries this year.  Before the competition I ranked them from strongest to weakest based on my own observations as follows:
  1. Tie between Saison 05/2012 entered as a Saison (16C) and Funky Saison 06/2012 entered as a Belgian Specialty (16E)
  2. Smoked Porter entered as a Robust Porter (12B)
  3. English Special Bitter (8B)
  4. Bucksnort Brown entered as an American Brown (10C)
  5. Sloppy Seconds IPA entered as an English IPA (14A) 
  6. Jack's Punkin' entered as a Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer (21B)   
  7. Sweet Stout (13B) 
I didn't place on any of my entries which I'm a little bummed about, but still did pretty well for the most part.  Here the judges' scores in red, an overview of the judges' comments in grey, followed by my comments in blue.

Scoring Guide
Outstanding - (45 - 50) - World-class example of style.
Excellent - (38 - 44) - Exemplifies style well, requires minor fine-tuning.
Very Good - (30 - 37) - Generally within style parameters, some minor flaws.
Good - (21 - 29) - Misses the mark on style and/or minor flaws.
Fair - (14 - 20) - Off flavors, aromas or major style deficiencies. Unpleasant.
Problematic - (0 - 13) - Major off flavors and aromas dominate. Hard to drink.
  • Saison 05/2012 - 39, 38; Nice subtle spiciness, highly carbonated, slight tart, finishes balanced, finishes dry and refreshing, very very carbonated.  I'm pretty happy with this score and the comments. The only thing I'm a little confused by was the carbonation comments since this is supposed to be a highly carbonated style.  I plan to let this one age and enter it again next year.  
  • Funky Saison 06/2012 - 43, 39; Great brett character, aged appropriately, spices blend well.  I really liked this one and I'm happy with how well it did especially considering how young it is for a brett beer and for a Saison.   I plan to let this one age and enter it again next year.
  • Smoked Porter - 43,43; Really good robust porter,a little dark but other than that it is spot on, I finished it.  I really liked this beer as well.  I was a little surprised that it scored so high but still didn't place.  I thought it was good but I still think both the Saisons are better.  It's a Smoked Porter, but most of the smoke character was subtle to begin with and had dissipated since it was brewed, so it was too subtle to enter as a Smoked Beer. 
  • English Special Bitter -30, 33; I really like this beer, but it doesn't have the bitterness or the hop flavor to match the style.  You may have entered it in the wrong category as Extra Special Bitter.  I agree with the first comment on this one, but I'm surprised it didn't score a little bit higher.  My efficiency was higher than expected on this brew and it could have used more hops to balance out for the higher efficiency.  Also it was a little older so it has lost bitterness since being brewed.  The base malt is Maris Otter which results in a very malt-forward beer so that could be contributing as well.  It would probably be a better idea to enter a younger beer before the hop profile is diminished.  The second comment kind of pisses me off because I didn't enter it as an Extra Special Bitter, I entered it as a Special Bitter.  Regardless, I think the comments are fair.  
  • Bucksnort Brown - 35, 33; This is a good flavored beer with a couple of flaws.  Look at exposure to oxygen during mashing and transfer.  Full fill, a little too high.  This is the brew we did for our Big Brew Day.  I didn't care for this one too much right after it was kegged when it was a bit green, but I really like it now.  Both judges made comments indicating it was oxidized.  I didn't detect this at all when I had it on tap, so I wonder if it could have happened when bottling from the keg. I usually use oxygen absorbing caps, but I ran out and I think this beer got a regular cap.  The comment about the fill is a little odd...I use a bottling wand or my counter-pressure filler on all of my beers, so the fill is pretty much identical.  All of the other judges on my other entries said the fills where appropriate, so I'm not quite sure what the judge was thinking on this one.
  • Sloppy Seconds IPA - 25, 28; Just not a English IPA, no hop aroma, too sweet, too malty, would make a great Scotch Ale.  Wow...I'm 99.9% positive my bottle got mixed up with another bottle.  Both judges commented that there was no hop aroma and that it tasted like a Scotch Ale.  I just poured one for myself and it has unmistakable hop aroma and it's on the dry side.  I was actually afraid that this one didn't have enough malt character especially for an English IPA.  From what I can tell, Citra dominates the hop aroma so I was expecting to get dinged for using an American hop in an English IPA, but there's definitely a lot of hop aroma there.  I knew it wasn't the best example of either an American or an English IPA, but the comments are so far off on this one that I can't help but think that somehow my bottle got switched.  There's probably someone out there that's reviewing their Scotch Ale scoresheet and wondering why the comments say their beer tasted like a hoppy IPA.
  • Jack's Punkin' - 37, 37; Aroma is fabulous!  Beautiful color.  I would cut back on the cinnamon to let the other spices come through.  I was surprised this scored as well as it did.  I thought it was a little bit too rich/malty, and I thought that was going to count against me.  Both judges commented on this brew having too much cinnamon.  This kind of made me laugh because I purposely added more cinnamon to this batch compared to a batch I'd made a couple years ago.  That said, I think the comments are spot-on.  There is a slight harshness in the aftertaste on this brew and I think it is related to the amount of cinnamon I used.  I think it could use a little more hop bitterness too...but this could be due to it being an older brew.
  • Sweet Stout - 28, 25; Sweetness is a little high for the style.  The quality is good and drinkable still.  I didn't expect this one to do all that great.  This one actually won my brew club's stout meeting earlier this year.  It went to the national club-only competition and scored very similarly to these scores.  I agree it's way sweet.  In fact it's so sweet and filling that I don't like drinking more than six ounces at a time.  One of the reasons I entered it was because I was tired of having it sitting around taking up space in my beer fridge.  I personally like some of the other stout categories a lot better, so I doubt I'll be making another sweet stout anytime soon.
All in all it was a good time and I got some good feedback on my beers that should help me dial things in and make some better beer.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Salsa Recipe

My fermentation chamber is full so there's no room for brewing another batch this weekend. Instead, I'm making up some fresh salsa with heirloom tomatoes and jalapenos from our vegetable garden. I found this recipe last year by googling for "World's Best Salsa Recipe" and I gotta say it's pretty darn good plus it's pretty easy to make.

6 large heirloom tomatoes of different colors (or a blend totaling about 4 lbs-5 lbs), washed,cored and quartered
4 jalapenos, chopped finely
1 sweet onion, quartered
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp. table sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
Juice of 3 fresh limes
2 large bunches of cilantro, stemmed and chopped

Combine everything but the jalapenos in your food processor. Pulse until not quite pureed. Pour into a large bowl, add jalapenos, and mix well. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, then refrigerate. I usually wait at least a few hours before serving so that it has enough time for the flavors to blend. This is a great summertime snack to enjoy with a pint of your favorite refreshing lawnmower beer.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

American Rye

Today I'm brewing an American Rye for next month's Light Hybrid Meeting. Compared to my last couple brews, there isn't anything too crazy going on here. I've used rye in other recipes, but this is the first time I've brewed an American Rye "to style". This style should be a refreshing beer with a bit more hop character than the German counterpart. The rye contributes a unique but pleasant spiciness and crispness. Like wheat, rye does not have a husk so it is a good idea to incorporate rice hulls into the mash to help avoid stuck sparges. This is especially important when brewing on a RIMS or HERMS system as the constant circulation can quickly result in a compacted grain bed if the flow is too high. So word to the wise, use rice hulls and circulate/sparge slowly. 

Here's the recipe as I made it today. 

4.5 # Briess Pale Malt
3.0 # Briess Rye Malt
1.5 # Briess White Wheat Malt
Rice Hulls (about 3/4 pound is what I used)
1.00 oz Amarillo (35 min)
0.66 oz Liberty (0 min)
0.66 oz Amarillo (0 min)
0.33 oz Amarillo (hopback)
1 Whirlfloc
Wyeast 2565 K├Âlsch yeast in a 1L starter

Mash at 150F for 75 min. 90 min boil. Start out fermentation at 60F then ramp up to 65F near the end of fermentation.

Brewing Notes
The brew day was fairly uneventful. I had one minor problem during the chill. The Amarillo hops where whole hops and they clogged the pickup tube a couple of times, so the chill took a little longer than expected.

Update 9/19/2012
I think I lost some of the hop character (flavor and aroma) because of the extended chilling time, but it still turned out well. The Light Hybrid style is not one I'd typically brew; I don't hate them, but most of the subcategories just aren't styles that I love. Anyway, this one placed first in my club meeting.  It seemed to have a slight astringency and finished dry.  The slight astringency may be confused with the spiciness from the rye malt.