Another BrewZaster: Feedback Edition


I thought it might be fun to share the tasting notes on two of our beers.An Unexpected IPA. It was supposed to be an American Pale Ale.

Last month two of Flogthis Brewing’s home brewed beers were judged as part of the Battle of the Brews home brew competition. We here at Flogthis Brewing want to thank the Sonoma Beercrats for the home brew portion of this event.

The two beers were part of a split batch of our House Pale Ale (recipe here); one batch was pitched with Safale S-05 yeast and dry-hopped with Australian Galaxy hops, and the other with Safale S-33 yeast. The beers were entered as a Pale Ale (BJCP Category 10A) and a Blonde Ale (BJCP Category 6B) respectively. Given the hopping schedule, the Blonde category was a bit of a stretch, but the S-33 yeast does eat a bit of the bitterness.

The Pale took Second Place.

Here is the feedback the beers received from the two sets of judges:

Judge #1 – 10A American Pale Ale entry 45

Aroma                                                                      9/12

Nice hoppy aroma, citrus, floral, piney-good array of American aromas.

Appearance                                                           2/3

Clear, good Golden-Amber color, moderate head falls quickly.

Flavor                                  13/20

Good hop flavor supports aroma. Crisp, refreshing. Good bitterness, not overdone. Malt flavor is a bit neutral; more like a blonde ale.

Mouthfeel                           3/5

Well carbonated, medium-full mouth feel. A bit astringent.

Overall impression                                 8/10

A very nice example of the style. A little more richness from the malt would better support the well-chosen hop profile, maybe a touch of caramel malts?

Total                                                                                                 33/50

Stylistic Accuracy

Classic Example _ _ _ _ _ Not to Style

Technical Merit

Flawless _ _ _ _ _ Not to Style


Wonderful _ _ _ _ _ Lifeless


Judge #2 – 10A American Pale Ale entry 45

Aroma                                              8/12

Has hop and malt aromas. light bready aromas from the malt, but distinctly missing the hallmark hop character of an APA. No diacetyl or DMS. Some hops come through as it warms up.

Appearance                                   2/3

Very clean gold color with off-white head that quickly subsides to a thin foamy film.

Flavor                                              13/20

Light vegetal flavor (DMS?) Comes through over the malt flavor. Strong hop bitterness but surprisingly less hop flavor. Malt comes through with bread and crackers. Slightly sour character too. Maybe from grain hull tannins?

Mouthfeel                                                   3/5

Medium light body, a little light on the carbonation and some astringent dryness in the finish.

Overall impression                                 7/10

I see where this beer is going but it seems too bitter, and without enough aroma and flavor. Also there is a little sour/astringency that distracts from the overall character. But, with lesser bittering and more hop flavor/aroma this would be right on track.

Total                                                                                     33/50

Stylistic Accuracy

Classic Example _ _ _ x _ Not to Style

Technical Merit

Flawless _ _ _ _ _ Not to Style


Wonderful _ _ _ x _ Lifeless


Judge #3 – 6 B blonde ale entry 46

Aroma                                                                      8/12

Hop-dominated aroma, yet light overall. Vinous, grapefruit-rind, orange-rind combo. Lighter fruits like melon, peach appear. Light malt graininess, no off aromas.

Appearance                                                           3/3

Clear, golden, SRM ~ 5. Thick, long-lasting head and fine white bubbles. Looks great.

Flavor                                  12/20

Balanced flavors of hops and malt, though pushing the upper “west coast” and of the blonde style on hop flavor and bitterness. Appropriate fermentation, no off flavors. Aftertaste.

Mouthfeel                           4/5

Medium body, high carbonation, some astringency. Light warmth from alcohol.

Overall impression                                 6/10

This is a “West Coast” blonde. Although I prefer a less intense blonde with hoppiness, this is mostly to style. My biggest criticism is the lingering bitterness. As this should be an entry-level craft beer, the lingering bitterness reduces over all drinkability.

Total                                                                                                 33/50

Stylistic Accuracy

Classic Example _ x _ _ _ Not to Style

Technical Merit

Flawless _ x _ _ _ Not to Style


Wonderful _ x _ _ _ Lifeless

Judge #4 – 6 B blonde ale entry 46

Aroma                                              7/12

citrus and peach hop aromas-medium, some grainy malt in background, light esters-OK for style

Appearance                                   3/3

deep gold-like copper, clear, light phase, persistent white head

Flavor                                               11/20

light, clean malt flavor, some slight graininess-wheat? Medium hop flavor-American, moderate bitterness

Mouthfeel                                                   3/5

Medium-light body, medium-high carbonation, some alcohol warmth-not to style

Overall impression                                 6/10

This blonde ale is close to crossing the line to pale ale territory. The hop bitterness and alcohol are too high for a blonde ale. The fermentation and execution otherwise is fine; lower your malt and hop bitterness.

Total                                                                                     30/50

Stylistic Accuracy

Classic Example _ _ _ x _ Not to Style

Technical Merit

Flawless _ x _ _ _ Not to Style


Wonderful _ _ x _ _ Lifeless




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Taking a beer with off flavors to 1st place at Battle of the Brews

Oh Well, What the Hell a couple of weeks following bottle conditioning.

As you may recall (well probably not), on December 28 I brewed a beer that was supposed to be a Laurel India Pale Ale. Since the pre-boil specific gravity came in way too low for an India Pale Ale, I decided to make it a Pale Ale. Simple Pale Ales are not simple to make. There is no place to hide any imperfections. And, after 10 days in the fermenter, I tasted slight soapy and buttery flavors in the new beer. According to John Palmer’s “How to Brew” website, a soapy flavor can result from the breakdown of the fatty acids that are in the trub at the bottom of your fermenter. Butter flavors can result from diacetyl. To some extent a buttery flavor might not be bad. But it can also indicate that your yeast did not start on time.

It has 5.5% ABV and and calculates out to 43 IBU.

Given these imperfections, would we bottle or would we throw the whole batch down the drain?

Well, we here out Flog This Dead (Mule) Brewery looked at our flavor profiles and realized we have no flavor profiles. We wondered if our degrees Plato were met, and we had no idea what that meant. Finally, we checked our standards, and realized we had none, well, maybe not none, but extremely low.

So, since we have incredibly low standards (after all, we answer to no one but ourselves) we went ahead and bottled, and hoping to mask the dish soap flavor, we used honey for the bottle conditioning fermentation.

Now, with only moments to go before we have to serve this beer–which we have renamed after some dead guy and claimed that it’s based on a 1200 year-old recipe involving wild honey and monk sweat–at the homebrewers portion of the semi-prestigious Battle of the Brews beer event. Let’s hope the honey will fool people into thinking the stuff tastes okay.

[Norm smiles and opens doors while carrying boxes filled with bottles of beer named after some dead guy and claiming that it’s based on a 1200 year-old recipe]

The Oh Well, What the Hell Pale Ale garnered 36 points at the Battle of the Brews in Santa Rosa, 2nd place had 35 points, and 3rd had 33.5 points. Woo hoo!

Success! Oh Well took 1st place in the homebrewers tasting competition in BJCP #10A American Pale Ale category.

BrewingTV Reviews Heretic Brewing’s Evil Cousin

JZ on Mayhem

JZ on Mayhem (Photo credit: epicbeer)

It is great to see that Jamil Zainasheff‘s Heretic Brewing’s beers are now finding their way out onto store shelves. In this BrewingTV video Jake Keeler and Michael Dawson from Northern Brewer review Heretic Brewing’s Evil Cousin.

What they say makes me want to scour the countryside looking for this (West Coast) Imperial India Pale Ale (BJCP style 14c).

Working on developing a ‘house’ pale ale


Image by uberculture via Flickr

Yesterday, I went to MoreBeer‘s showroom in Concord, CA to pick up supplies plus ingredients for my next beer. I want to give a shout out to the good people there. Every experience I have had there has been positive and completely enjoyable and I must have gone there dozen of times now.

One of the cool things that MoreBeer does is offer feedback on homebrews (all of the homebrew stores I patronize do too). Most of the staff (maybe all the staff for all I know) are avid homebrewers and are passionate about beer.

So, I brought in Brew Disasters the “Oh Well, What the Hell” pale ale for an evaluation. The consensus, of the three fellow brewers who were in the showroom at the time, was that the flaws (if there were any) had been nicely masked by the honey. They would have liked a bigger hop presence, a little less carbonation (good thing I didn’t try for the top of the carbonation range–always a bit of a crap shoot when bottle conditioning and not force-carbonating in a keg), a little less alcohol “heat.” They agreed it needed to age a little longer to mellow it some more. All in all, they felt it was a serviceable pale ale.

My next beer project will be a pale ale, though since it will be brewed with Wyeast 2007, Pilsner Yeast, maybe it should be called a pale lager (let’s not get too hung up on designations, okay?). I bought 11 pounds of 2-row barley malt, 8 ounces of 60L crystal, and 2 oz of Amarillo hops and 2 oz of Cascade hops. I’m hoping to come up with a “house” pale ale with loads of flavor and aroma and not too bitter. I want a “Session” beer. To get that high flavor, low bitterness and keep the IBUs within Beer Judge Certification Program‘s (BJCP) Style Guidelines, the first hop addition will be 1 oz of Amarillo at 20 minutes rather than the standard 60 minutes before the end of the boil. The next hop additions will be 1 oz of Amarillo at 10 minutes, 1 oz of Cascade at 5 minutes, and lastly 1 oz of Cascade at 1 minute before the end of the boil. According to the BeerAlchemy software I use, this hop addition schedule should give the beer about 40 IBUs.

Keep your fingers crossed, this pale ale, erm pale lager, will be brewed this coming Saturday.

Status Check

A while ago I posted about my homebrewing challenges, specifically brewing my Citra IPA (an India Pale Ale flavored solely with Citra hops).  I said time would tell ( or something equally non-committal). So, how did my beer turn out? Pretty darn well.

I took a couple bottles with me to More Beer on the day Gordon Strong (three-time winner of American Homebrewing Association’s National Homebrew Competition Ninkasi Award [1]) would be signing copies of Brewing Better Beer. Gordon ranks at or near the top of BJCP judges, so he knows his stuff. He took a sip, smiled and said “Mmmm.” He then called Nathan Smith (BJCP beer judge, Brewing Network brewcaster, and self-described “Homebrew fanatic”) over to taste it. Nathan liked it also. Other people in the store sampled it as well. One brewer said ‘if this is how Citra tastes, I’m buying some.’

Gordon Strong savoring my Citrazilla IPA

There is no higher praise than to have people who know good brew enjoy the beer you brewed.

I think I’m getting the hang of this brewing thing. That’s not to say that there’s not more to learn; there is a lifetime of stuff to learn. And let me tell you, it’s fun to learn.

BTW: Gordon signed my copy of Brewing Better Beer, “To Norm, I’d drink your IPA anytime. Sure you need this book?” – Gordon Strong.



[1] Ninkasi Award: Named for the Sumerian Goddess of Beer, this award is given to the brewer having the most wins in the Final Round of the National Homebrew Competition. Brewers earn points toward the award by placing in the 23 beer categories, the 3 mead categories, and the 2 cider categories during the Final Round.

Brewing a West Coast Pale Ale

With the Lake County Home Wine (and beer) Makers Festival coming up in Lakeport, California on June 25, 2011, 1:00 PM-5:00 PM; it seemed like a good time to make a session beer for the event.

If you want to brew a session beer it’s hard to beat an American Pale Ale. And, first on its list as an example (in the Beer Judge Certification Program), is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. There must be dozens or hundreds of SNPA clones on the internet in chatrooms, on forums, on homebrewing store sites, and elsewhere.

Cloning a beer is a fun goal to work toward.  Gordon Strong in his book, Brewing Better Beer, says to take a look the brewery’s website for clues as to what’s in their brew.

Here is what Sierra Nevada says about inputs/outcomes of their pale ale:

malts:     Two-row Pale & Caramel

bittering hops:           Magnum & Perle

finishing hops:            Cascade

yeast:                                 Top-fermenting Ale Yeast

alcohol content:       5.6% ABV

beginning gravity:          13.0 Plato (1.052)

ending gravity:             4.0 Plato (1.016)

bitterness units:            37

At the moment, I’m just looking to brew a drinkable pale ale; a house pale ale. One that you can brew and enjoy drinking. I’ll let you know how the final product shapes up.

Here’s the recipe for a 6.5 gallon batch of West Coast style Pale Ale:

West Coast Pale Ale

Mash Efficiency:            65.0%

Volume 6.5 gallon


Ingredient                                                Amount            Per cent

Pale Ale Malt                                                13lb 12oz            95.4 %

Caramel 120L Malt                                    8.50 oz            3.7 %

Carastan Malt                                             2.00 oz            0.9 %


Variety             Alpha       Amount            IBU            Type                                    Timing

Perle                  6.5 %      2.00 oz        29.0     Bagged Pellet Hops            30 Min From End

Amarillo            8.5 %      1.00 oz            4.9            Bagged Pellet Hops            5 Min From End

Cascade            5.0 %       1.00 oz            0.0            Bagged Pellet Hops            At turn off


Safale 05

Wort Volume Before Boil:     7.30 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil:     6.50 US gals
Volume Transferred:     5.25 US gals
Volume At Pitching:     5.25 US gals
Target Pre-Boil Gravity:     1.042 SG
Actual Pre-Boil Gravity:     1.052 SG
Target Original Gravity:     1.047 SG
Actual Original Gravity:     1.058 SG
Target Final Gravity:     1.011 SG
Target Apparent Attenuation:     74.9 %
Target ABV:     4.7 %
Target ABW:     3.7 %
Target IBU (using Tinseth):     30.1 IBU
Target Color (using Morey):     9.6 SRM
Actual Color:     10.3 SRM
Target Mash Efficiency:     65.0 %
Actual Mash Efficiency:     72.8 %