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

Intangibles

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

Intangibles

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

Intangibles

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

Intangibles

Wonderful _ _ x _ _ Lifeless

 

 

 

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This Week in BrewZasters: MyBrewCo and the Accidental IPA (on purpose)

This past week I have had some good exchanges with Michael, the designer of the MyBrewCo.com website. Being a typical male, after reading in Brew Your Own (BYO) magazine that MyBrewCo existed, I jumped in and set up my own “Batch-22 Brewery (tagline: There’s Always a Batch). After I set up the Batch-22 Brewery, I posted my observations on this site (here) and Michael had responded to those (see the comments).

An Unexpected IPA. It was supposed to be an American Pale Ale.

An Unexpected IPA. It was supposed to be an American Pale Ale.

Thinking there was no time like the present to start tracking my brewing online, I tried uploading an XML file for the Accidental IPA that was exported from my BeerSmith program. This led to an error message that the recipe didn’t meet the database’s needs.  Databases are notoriously literal and don’t handle human inconsistencies well. (Michael says the standard procedure for standards is to deviate slightly from the standard.) In the end, I created the recipe on the website by picking ingredients from its drop-down menus. (Note: now when you upload a recipe the site tells you that your “File has been uploaded. We’ll process the file and let you know if the recipes need repairing. You can navigate away from this page.”)

Brewing the Accidental IPA on purpose

As you may recall, the first version Accidental IPA was supposed to be an an American pale ale from the book, “Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew” by Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer. However the original gravity was higher than normal due to some alignment of things* that weren’t there before in my brewing that affected the efficiency of the brew session (apologies for the awkwardness of the sentence).  More sugars in the wort means more food for the yeast which gives the beer more alcohol in the end.

Yesterday, the plan was to brew the Accidental IPA on purpose. As always, I got out the trusty Brewer’s Logbook from BasicBrewing.com for my notes–paper and pencil really help capture stuff as it’s happening. I hit the numbers that the beer needed: 12.5 gallons of 1.057 wort pre-boil and 9.5 (I wanted 10) gallons of 1.072 wort into the fermenters.

One reason for notes is that I follow Tasty McDole’s method of mashing, in that I don’t sweat trying to calculate the exact strike water amount (at 1.25 quart/1 pound of grain), but simply put in 10 gallons and then fly sparge (rinse) the grains. Keeping track of the strike water temps for different size grain bills for 10 gallons of water becomes important to put in your notes, if you want to replicate the results.

I also went to MyBrewCo.com and set up a “Brew Job.” (You may set up a Brew Job only if you are registered as a “Brewery.”) I picked my recipe, named it On Purpose IPA, picked the mash schedule from the Mash Template (Infusion, Mash Out, Fly Spare, Medium [body])**, the Brewing Method (all-grain), and a few other details and told the program to “Create” the Brew Job. The program then gives you an overview of the job, including the beer’s profile (tachometer-style dials indicate the IBUs, the predicted original gravity, final gravity, ABV, and color***).  Above the dials are tabs relating to the batch: Job, Brew Day, Mashing*, Schedule, equipment, Fermentable, Hop, Miscellaneous, Yeast, Actuals (actual volumes of wort produced), Readings, Notes, Carbonation, and Batch Split.

After the instructions, the “Readings” tab is probably the most beneficial/important. It is here you add a “Reading Type” (Gravity or Temperature). Within the drop-down menu of the Temperature choice you will find: “Ambient, Grain, Mash-In, Rest, Mash-Out, Boil, Into Fermenter, Pitch, Primary, Secondary, Container, Serving.” What was missing, for me, was Strike Water temperature****.  I track the strike water temperature so that I can duplicate (or, more often, tweak it up or down because the mash temp was off) the result next time. I would like to see the strike water temperature in there (maybe it is and I missed it). I would also like to see the mash temperature listed in the recipe–mash temp controls the body of the beer. (for more on mash temperature and the body of the beer, see Brad Smith’s write-up here.)

Brewing is a craft–a mixture of art and science. You may think of brewing as I do, a simple process of making a porridge, saving the liquid and tossing out the grainy bits, boiling, cooling, and fermenting. But as you get better and acquire more knowledge, you consider more and more steps/requirements–and there are lots of those. MyBrewCo tries to help you track and manage the stuff involved in making consistently good beer, while trying to be different/better than other online brewing sites such as BrewToad.com. I wish Michael luck in this and will continue to help in dialing in the process.

About MyBrewCo.com

The MyBrewCo website says it is designed to, “Manage your brewing online.” You can:

  • “Create and upload Recipes”.
  • “Convert Recipes between brewing methods, unit of measures and automatically scale to equipment”.
  • “Let the system manage your efficiency and automatically scale recipes”.
  • “Manage recipe versions, copy and modify any recipe in the database”.
  • Create “An online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when a job is created”.
  • “Use our calendar or plug your brewing schedule into your favorite application using the internet calendar”.
  • “Use our online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when Use our online shopping list, add custom items or let the system populate when” you are ready to do so.
  • “Manage Brew Jobs, view recipe and instructions”.
  • “Record brew day statistics for analysis.”
  • “Track efficiencies between equipment profiles”.
  • “Record gravity readings and track your beer’s fermentation”.

*Perhaps my grain grinder has the perfect alignment of its teeth so it gives the perfect crush or switching from brewing in a bag (BiAB) to fly sparging or something else made the mash efficiency go up.

**The choice of the Mash Template is quite important. On my first attempt I wasn’t paying close attention and missed this selection and the first choice in the queue was chosen by default. This would normally not be a big deal, you would go to where you could edit the mash schedule and change it. The only change allowed after the program creates the Brew Job is to change the name of the mash; the temperatures, times, and steps cannot be altered. You will need to delete the Brew Job and reenter the data.

***The color that the program gives is a 10 SRM and the beer is probably a 4.0-5.5 SRM.

****The rule of thumb is to heat the strike water 10F more than the mash temperature desired due to the cooling provided by the grain (at 1.25 quarts of water per 1 pound of grain).

Good people drink good beer

Good people drink good beer – Hunter S. Thompson

This is one of those “good news, bad news” sorts of things. The good news is that the number of craft breweries in the United States has hit a 125-year high,  and mega-breweries continue to lose market share. The bad new is the consumption of beer (and beer-like substances) is dropping. (see graph at bottom of post)

Still California is part of the boom, according to beerinsight.com; California “saw a full 43 openings recently: 27 microbreweries, 11 brewpubs and 5 contract breweries.”

The California Craft Brewers Association says California’s craft breweries produced “more craft beer than any other state, brewing more than 2.4 million barrels (32 gallons per barrel),” meaning that “one in five craft beers brewed in the United States” is produced in California. Also, “California has more craft breweries and had more breweries open in 2012 (56) than any other state.” What can I tell you? We Californians are good people and we like good beer.

Beer trend 2000-2011 for total industry shipments. (All figures in Bbls-000. Source: http://www.beerinsights.com/popups/trendshipments.html)

Online Brewing Software – MyBrewCo.com

Over time, I will be copying recipes over to https://mybrewco.com/. MyBrewCo is, according to the site, a “free online brewing system to manage your brewing, share recipes and connect with friends.”

It looks to have promise, but I found some drawbacks as well. I have entered the Accidental IPA recipe onto the site (see that here). I could not enter my outputs from that recent brewing session. Apparently, only “Brew Jobs” can be entered and those occur on a date in the future (or that day). Also, the notes features and mashing information–for all-grain batches–is limited or missing. The xml file upload did not not work for the BeerSmith generated xml (which according to the beer xml site is xml compatible); I had to pick out the ingredients off the site’s system.

MyBrewCo.com is working on more features (see here). I am not seeing the brewing management tools such as the ability to take notes during brewing sessions that every brewer needs and there is no forum, which would seem to be necessary to “connect with friends.”

Despite these drawbacks, MyBrewCo.com does have some good features. The ingredients lists were extensive when I was posting the recipe.

The Beer Brewing Process Infographic

I like this infographic showing “The Process of Brewing Beer” (hat tip to Jay Brooks at the Brookston Beer Bulletin). The graphic provides three steps that do not need to happen (but can, and often do, at the craft brewery and mega-brewery level): whirlpool, hopback, and filtering. Those three steps do not have to happen to make beer.

Observations from the 15th Northern California Homebewers’ Festival

NCHF 15 logo and theme, “Our Founding Fathers.” From left to right: Ken Grossman, Charlie Papazian, Michael Jackson, and Fritz Maytag

It’s ninety degrees in the shade, if there were any shade, and I’m carrying a four-ounce taste of beer and a paper hot dog carrier filled with pulled pork up a hill toward a wooden picnic table underneath some live oaks. There’s reggae music playing in the background behind me, and as I walk, on my right a guy wearing a kilt is talking on a smartphone, “Have you ever strapped on a kilt?” he calls into the phone; as though wearing a kilt is completely new to him and wants to know if someone else has had the same feeling that he is experiencing now.

I’m at the 15th annual Northern California Homebrewers’ Festival and the first I have ever attended. Though the first festival was held in Skyline Park in Napa in 1998,

it is now held yearly at the Francis Lake Resort in Dobbins, California on the autumnal equinox—a religious event, of sorts (that goes a long way toward explaining the chanting and drumming later on at midnight). The festival registrar, Paul Keefer, tells me this year’s attendance is around 500. There are 36 homebrew clubs, under an assortment of canopies, pouring homebrew and handing out food.

“Mary, the Queen of Beers” tells me, “If you can’t find something you like here, you may as well pack up your tent and hit the road.” She is of indeterminate age, somewhere between 50 and death. She wears bangles on her wrists and bottle caps serve as earrings. She is to this beer event what the Annie Savoy is to the movie Bull Durham—a true believer in beer. She has tried them all and the only one that satisfies her is the Church of Beer.

Mary is right. While many of the beers are styles that just don’t appeal to me–meads, bretts, sours, and the like–I found a lot to taste: American Pale Ales, India Pale Ales, lagers, etc.

We are an eclectic mix of geeks (the male/female ratio is about 60/40), who probably enjoy talking about beer and beer making as much as we do drinking our product. And, there is a lot of product. According to Mary, Queen of Beers, there are “278 different tastes on tap here.” She knows because she went around and counted them. One booth had a couple of low-alcohol session beers. The 2.8% ABV one tasted like a liquid pretzel, bready and delicious.  A friend loved the Kölschs and Milds and he said Berliner Weiss beers both straight as well as with the raspberry and woodruff syrups were delicious.

Tossing the keg competition

Tossing the keg competition

From the picnic table on the hill, I see a knot of people at the rustic resort’s baseball field. At first I think it could be a pickup game of softball but the spectators are ringed around the infield. I wander down to the field, stopping only to sample a few more beers and finger foods, to find that it is the brewers’ version of a caber toss from the highland games. Mostly guys, but some women too, are testing their strength and skill at tossing an empty 15-gallon beer keg as far as they can. At the time I checked, the farthest toss was 29 feet.

In addition to the keg toss there are other competitions. There is the club competition for historical beers (one of them used molasses and sunflower and pumpkin seeds) and one for beers using brown malt. A chalice filled with samples of all 278 beers sat on top of the trophy. After the finalists were announced someone was going to have to drink from it–whether that was the winner or the losers was not clear to me.

If you were at this or other NCHFs please leave a comment below. As always, regardless or whether you have experienced any NCHFs, your comments are appreciated.

For more on the Northern California Homebrewers’ Festival see their website (http://nchfinfo.org/)

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Demonstrating how to make beer without taste

Or, at least, demonstrating how to make beer without tastings of already-made home-brewed beer.

Two weekends ago my friend (and prez of the Lake County Homebrewers) Paul and I manned a booth for our homebrewing club at the  Lake County Home Wine Makers Festival in Lakeport, CA. It was the first time in at least five years that the booth for the Lake County Homebrewers’ group did not provide tastings of home-brewed beers. We decided to not pour our beers due to an opinion given to us by local officials of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (CABC) that pouring any of our homebrew at public events violates State law (at least as the local CABC interprets their regulations–regulations transform squishy language found in legislation to more concrete, hence more quantifiable language, then officials charged with enforcing the regulations interpret what the regulation’s language actually means). So, our group decided, we just could not risk losing our equipment to a CABC raid of our homes. Some of our group are going pro and will be opening nano-breweries soon and cannot risk pissing off the people reviewing their liquor licenses.

Consequently, Paul and I demonstrated the steps necessary to make an all-grain batch of India Pale Ale called Hoppiness is an IPA. Its (10 gallon) recipe is available here as a PDF.

Technically, we did not have beer until we added yeast. We split the 10-gallons of wort into two 5-gallon fermenters and took our half home where we added White Labs WP005 British Ale Yeast to the cooled wort.

I bottled my portion today (two weeks later). The starting original gravity was 1.061. The final gravity was 1.014 SG. That calculates to an attenuation of 76.5% and an ABV of 6.3% (almost a session beer by today’s IPA standards). It has ample piney bitterness and not citrusy.

Lake County Homebrew Club to Meet 6 PM June 18, 2012 at Guido’s Pizza

Are you in Lake County and want to learn how to make your own beer? We can help.

Our next scheduled Lake County Homebrew Club (visit our Facebook page here) meeting is set for Monday June 18th, 2012 at 6 PM at at Guido’s Pizza in Kelseyville.

We do not have an agenda, but I would bet we will be talking about the Lake County Home Wine Makers Festival, which will take place in Lakeport, CA on June 23rd from 1:00-5:00 pm.

In the past we have poured samples of our homebrew at this event. This year, sadly, we will not be pouring samples. While the California Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) may issue a special daily license to a group conducting a picnic, social, or similar gathering, the local ABC officials interpret this as applying only to commercially made beer and wine.

According to the American Homebrewers Association page on statutes:

California represents one of the most comprehensive state statutes. §23356.2 also provides for the removal of beer manufactured in the home for use in competitions, tastings, or judgings.

It seems ABC interprets these tastings to be between others who are also homebrewers. And, they can, without a warrant, confiscate brewing equipment.

Related articles

Upcoming Lake County Homebrew Club Meeting May 21, 2012 at Guido’s Pizza

Live in Lake County, Calif and make or want to learn how to make your own beer? Join us.

Our next scheduled Lake County Homebrew Club (visit our Facebook page here) meeting is set for Monday May 21, 2012 at 6 PM at at Guido’s Pizza in Kelseyville.

Among other things, we will talk about the Big Brew we had on May 5, the upcoming Lake County Winemakers Fest, taste and evaluate each others beers, and we will be tasting spices, fruits, and whatever we might want to try to steep in beers using French presses.

Bring a glass (wineglasses work well) for tasting, and (if you are a homebrewer) bring some of your homebrew to share.

For more information, contact Paul at coachpaul707@gmail.com

Cheers!

Tap-A-Draft Review

The Tap-A-Draft system  is a reasonable compromise between the drudgery of bottling and the ease of kegging. Each of the three see-through plastic mini-kegs holds 6 liters (1.58 gallons or 203 ounces) of liquid. The three bottles can hold 4.75 gallons of product. It costs about  $70.

Tap-A-Draft system

Pros:

  • It’s  affordable. It’s significantly cheaper than a kegging system (by 60-100%).
  • You don’t need a second refrigerator  to hold it. In my refrigerator it took up about one-third of the lower shelf. That’s a significant displacement, but not ginormous.  The bottle is 12.5″ long, and 7.5″ in diameter. The dispenser spout adds 4″ to the length.
  • You can see through the PET plastic bottle. So you know how much beer or homemade soda you have on hand.
  • You can force carbonate beer or soda, and drink it darn-near immediately.
  • The dispensing valve has two built-in regulators that maintain a constant 15 psi.
  • You have to fill three bottles only, instead of 51 12-ounce bottles.
  • The CO2 cartridges are easy to handle and change out.
  • The dispenser has a one-way check valve to keep CO2 in the bottle.
  • Pressure relief in case of excessive pressure. If the pressure in the bottle exceeds 60psi, the valve opens to release the pressure in the bottle.
  • The valve carries a one-year warranty against any manufacturing defects.

Cons:

  • The dispenser valve is not spring loaded.
  • You must ensure the valve is completely closed and the locking tab is securely in place, otherwise it will drip. I have lost three gallons of beer in a span of two weeks.  (Yes, it is “operator error” but it requires a boatload of diligence to keep it from happening.)

Because, I have now suffered two dispenser valve accidents and lost some darn good beer (My L’il Sumpin’ gone–I was tempted to lick the floor), I’m going to use fill only one Tap-A-Draft bottle and put the remainder of the beer in 12-ounce or 22-ounce bottles. Your mileage may vary.