My 2013 Beehive Brew-Off Results

>> Monday, August 05, 2013

This past weekend was the 5th Annual Beehive Brew-off. I volunteered to judge both days this year and had a chance to try some fantastic beers. I also got to meet and talk with homebrew celebrities James Spencer and Steve Wilkes of Basic Brewing Radio.

Judging this comp was a great experience. On Saturday I got to judge category 15 German Wheat and Rye Beers and category 21 Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beers. On Sunday I judged category 22 Smoke-Flavored and Wood-Aged Beers. One tip I have for anyone entering categories that cross traditional styles 21, 22, 23 (Specialty Beer), etc. is to provide as much detail about your beer as possible. For example, I'd recommend always specifying the base beer in addition to details about process/ingredients that made you enter a beer in one of these categories. I've been guilty of this too, but don't put it on the judges to try to figure out where you were trying to go with a beer. Also, if you call out a certain ingredient, make sure it's identifiable in the finished beer. For example, if you were entering a Pineapple Saison in the Fruit Beer category but there isn't any hint of pineapple in the aroma or flavor, you might want to consider a different category.

I had five entries this year. Based on my personal preferences, I ranked my entries from strongest to weakest as follows:
  1. Berliner Weiss (17A)
  2. Flanders Red (17B)
  3. Tie between Brett Saison (16E) and Belgian Red (20A)
  4. Saison 2013 (16C) 
Only one entry placed, but the rest received fairly good scores and had pretty good comments. Here are 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.
  • Berliner Weisse 2013 - 35, 34, 36; Judge A - <every other word is illegible>. Judge B - Nice dry sour. Perhaps slightly a bit too sour that slightly covers up the wheaty breadiness. Judge C - Quite nice. The sourness is near high threshold. Nice natural fruitiness. Watch the sourness. It's near lambic territory. Not bad comments. This beer is very acidic, but that's what I was shooting for. In my opinion, it's a very different sourness than a lambic. We all have our own preferences, but I don't plan on changing much on this one.
  • Flanders Red #1 - 31, 30, 33; Judge A - Malt and fruitiness seem lacking. Sourness dominates palate. Could be better balanced. Judge B - Sourness overpowers everything else. Hard to taste malty richness but some evidence exists. Judge C - Fruity/sour/barnyard. Nice example of style. Improvement on head/increasing non-fermentables maybe. I agree this one is very sour and the malt character is a bit low. However, as to fruitiness, this beer screams pie cherries. I really like this beer, but I also really like bold flavors in food and beer. From a competition perspective, this beer would probably do better if it was blended with a younger less sour version. Also, this one is under-carbonated. In the mouthfeel section, the judges commented that it had medium carbonation. Honestly, I'd be surprised if there was more than 1.0 volume CO2, so I'm surprised they didn't catch that.
  • Saison 2013 - 32, 29; Judge A - Very tasty beer. Would have another. Maybe clean up astringent issues and age on yeast longer. Judge B - While some sourness is appropriate, the sourness here tends to slightly dominate more phenolic flavors. I thought this was a good saison, but it wasn't a standout. So going in I wasn't expecting it to do all that great. I think it's kind of funny that the one judge recommended aging on the yeast longer. This one spent a lot more time on the yeast than I'd planned. 
  • Belgian Red -35, 32Judge A - This is a drinkable beer. I would like a little more cherry. Carbonation might be a little high but ok for style. Judge B - Nice drinkable beer. True to style. This beer ended up winning the gold medal in the Fruit Beer category. I thought it was a great beer, but honestly I thought my Berliner Weisse was a stronger entry. I agree, it's very drinkable and the tartness from the cherries makes it very refreshing. This is my first win in a comp other than club-only comps, so I'm pretty excited about it. I was torn on which category to enter this in and at the last minute I switched it to Fruit Beer. 
  • Brett Brux Trois Saison - 38, 37, 36; Judge A - This is a very good drinkable beer. Overall balanced. Loved this beer. Judge B - Good drinkable beer. High in carbonation. Judge C - Dry, light, "champagne" beer with some Belgian character. I was pleased with the scores on this one but a little bummed it didn't place. A few of my brew club buddies have absolutely fallen in love with this beer. It's developed some great brett character over the past year. My only knock against it is some of the peppery/spicy notes have mellowed with time, so in one sense it's lost some complexity, but in another it's added complexity with the brett character. It's one of my favs and I'll definitely be making this one again.