Monday, April 30, 2007

Overall Impression: 3/10

On the way home from Portland, reflecting on that days' judging experience, I decided that unless you're putting your ass in a chair to judge at home brew competitions you have no business entering beer into home brew competitions for judging. Competition organizing and judging take up a huge amount of time and effort. Judging your home brewed beer is a lot of work. There are many entries that absolutely require very thoughtful deliberate consideration. Particularly when a Quality Judge is working at rating the beer accurately for competition and providing meaningful feedback for you, the brewer. The program needs more judges, especially in regions like ours where there are a lot of very active competitive home brewers, great distances seperate our events and the ratio of entries to available judges is high. The goal should be to minimize the number of entries each judge has to evaluate. Fewer entries means less palate blow-out, higher quality feedback on the scoresheet and I don't go home feeling like I spent the day drinking hairspray. Home brew judging should be enjoyable.

Entrants are hopeful that the feedback they receive from the judges will help them brew better beer. Sounds good, but the best way to develop a better understanding of beer flavor profile and process is by judging beer. I repeatedly hear two comments from beer judges; "I got involved with judging because I wasn't satisified with the quality of the comments I received for my entries and I knew I could do better" and "Once I started judging beer the quality of my home brew improved". Cheers to the former as I think the program is strongest when we take responsibility for it by entering beers into home brewing competitions for judging and then supporting home brew competitions by judging in them. In regards to the latter, the quality of your home brewing (beer, mead, cider, sake, experimental, extreme, kitchen sink beers, whatever) will improve to a greater degree with involvement in judging than by simply relying on a judges' feedback. Learning to judge beer, developing the understanding of every aspect of brewing, flavor evaluation and quality assessment necessary for Quality Judging will do better for your brewing in a way that comments on a scoresheet never will. Cheers!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I Heart Portland

3/28: Got a wicked early start and hit the road for Portland to judge the second split of our regions' entries for 1st Round Nationals. Failed a saving throw against getting lost but still made the venue early. My Judging Mentor made an appearance. Hadn't seen him in awhile, so it was cool to get caught up with him. Sat a flight of 7 entries in the American Pale Ale category (with a taste off between the high scorers of 4 flights of APA) and after lunch a flight of 6 entries in the Robust Porter category (with a taste off between the hight scorers of 2 flights of RP). The APA's were mostly high 20's/low 30's and mostly to style with the exception being an overall lack of well balanced hop character; over bitter without much forward aroma and flavor. There were a couple real nice Robust Porters though. The best one was well bittered, had nice raisiny black malt flavors and a stiff alcoholic backbone. Very well made.

My first out of town judging experience was mostly positive. First off, I appreciate and understand the time and effort made by anyone undertaking the task of organizing a homebrew competition especially a first-timer. The Organizer, his staff, the 'Brew Crew and allied judges in attendance were friendly, capable and on mission. A lot of credit goes to the Organizer and his staff for keeping the judges assigned to flights a mix of experienced BJCP and less experienced BJCP/non-BJCP. With the amount of entries and typical judging day madhouse this effort to support the BJCP programs' mission of beer judge education could have easily been set aside to simply plow through the assembled entries. Now, the "wah-mbulance"; I would have preferred that the judges been assigned to their flights and not left standing around like my amigos at the Home Depot, stepping forward willy-nilly as the flights were brought out. Also avoiding the situation where the local bull judges are zipping up the foxiest categories. I would have liked some preference shown to the judges from out of town. Like maybe some locals stepping forward to help pull the first couple flights instead of the judges from Seattle and Redmond. Anyway, maybe I can squeeze a staff point out of it.

Wimped out on sitting a 3rd flight. A long drive home and still had some errands to run. Hit the Roots organic brewpub for a short pour of their IPA. Awesome glass of beer; huge hop aroma (cut grass/lemon pepper, some sweet resin) wicked up front bitterness, huge herbal/resinous hop flavors, firm lightly sweet malt and very well carbonated. Tasted like weed, yummy. Found the Belmont Station at their new location. Went into the cafe and sat down to a glass of Chouffe Houblon Belgian-style IPA. Delicious. Chatted with the beertender, Wade, super nice guy. I made a pass through the bottleshop on the way out to pick up a few things that aren't distributed up here in Seattle. Mostly Jolly Pumpkin stuff. I think I may have pretty well wiped the Blemont out. Some Roja, some Maracaibo, some Blanca, the last of their Oro and most of the Bam 12 ozs'ers they had on hand. They talked me into a bomber of the 2006 Barley Wine from Pelican, in place of a very expensive Arctic Devil. And then back to the house.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

BJCP Style Guide Amendment

Just had a really obnoxious idea. How 'bout adding food pairings to the BJCP Style Guide? Ya know, just slipped in after the list of commercial examples.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Korean-Style Short Ribs + Export-Style lager = TL4E

Came up with a wicked simple marinade that is simply wickedly delicious.

Equal parts soy sauce and brown sugar (1/2 cup or so each)
8-ish garlic cloves, minced (better yet, half a head of garlic, minced)
A wee dribble of Mirin
A not-so-wee dribble of Sesame Oil
Many grinds of white pepper
A handful of sliced green onion

Threw this into a zip-bag with some good looking Natural Beef short ribs cut Kalbi style. Just short of 4 pounds. Zipped up, massaged it a bit and then into the fridge. Let it rest about 2 hours. Got a nice medium-afterburner fire going in the Egg. I've been rocking the Kingsford brand hardwood charcoal lately. Not bad at $6.99 for a 10# bag (should probably have stocked up). Burns clean and hot with some nice campfire notes. Anyway, on with the ribs. Centered over the fire at 2 mins. per side. Just enough for some good color and cooked to medium (maybe 3+ mins. on that 1st side next time). Served with chili/garlic stir-fried Asparagus and steaming hot white rice. Very nice indeed.

The only thing missing were quarts and quarts of cold and crisp home brewed Export-Style Lager to wash it down. Export is one of my dream styles. Medium-full bodied, lightly malt sweet, firm underlying bitterness, tight conditioning and a snappy finish. I love it. Made do with Singha for the ribs. I like the Singha but it's a bit moody and you don't always end up with a brightly flavored glass of beer. If it's off, it's usually stale. BJCP places Singha in the American Premium Lager catagory. I'm thinking "Not so much". An OG of 1.064 and medium-full body with a well distinguished malt complexity should place it well outside the American Premium standard. When I want Export-Style beer I go for Singha (though that 1.064 is still off the BJCP chart). One of my peak beer experiences is on one of our early trips to Frisco when the Gordon Biersch off Harrison was still fresh to us. We dropped in for lunch on an afternoon when they had their "Golden Export" on tap. A sublimely delicious glass of beer. Half order of zesty BBQ'd Baby Backs, salty garlic fries right off the oil and that Export-Style beer. Very, very nice indeed.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

1st Round Nationals - Seattle

4/21: Sat three flights for the 1st Round National Homebrew Competition Mountain/Northwest Region. American Premium Lager, Schwarzbier and Vienna Lager. At least one good Premium; spot on balance and clean as a whistle. Schwarzbiers were interesting; seems the approach most of the entrants were going for were lagered Porters. The Viennas' were tough. Cloying malt sweetness is not the same as malt complexity. Oh, and consider shooting for the low end of the OG range on these beers fellas. Top end of the range in the Style Guide is 5.7%abv, kick those 6+ percenters up to 5A/Helles Bock. The last couple entries seemed a bit alcohol-sweet too.

We'll choogle down to Portland next Saturday for the second Mountain/Northwest Region judging session. Closing in on my National pin. Should think about retesting and scoring high enough for Master. Just need to make up 9 points on the exam. Hmm....

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Twist and Stout

4/11: Took some of the Stout to the Club meeting. So much for a Dry Stout, it's showing much, much better as a luscious chocolatey Sweet Stout.

Oh, and mind the difference between "Sterile" and "Sanitary". Harumph!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Golden Strong Ale

Scored some yeast from the Pike. A bit of their Belgian strain (White Labs 530) which is similar to the one from Westmalle.

4/5: Brew

6# Belgian Pils
6# Marris Otter
1/2# Biscuit malt
1# Flaked Barley

Gave me 5 or so gals. of 16P wort

.6 ozs. 13.3% alpha Simcoe @ 60
2 ozs. Czech Saaz plugs @ 20

Pitched the Pike/Westmalle.

This went into one of my brewing vessels lined with a fresh 33 gal. trash bag liner. There was an article in a recent Zymurgy about the effects of fermenter geometry on flavor profile. So I thought I'd try something in that direction. This setup is good for a shallow (8"-9"), open ferment. We'll see what happens.

4/11: Transfer

Into a clean, sanitzed glass carboy. Then added a syrup made up of 1 and 1/2# corn sugar and a quart or so of water.

Not being one to simply change one aspect of the process at a time; the other novel approach I'm trying with this batch is a new way of using sugar. I skipped the sugar addition in the kettle and racked the beer onto a syrup solution just past high krausen instead. Tried this to help ensure a greater degree of attenuation. Yeast will ferment simple sugars preferentialy. In a wort of complex malt sugars and simple sugars, there's a chance that as the simple sugars are completely fermented there might be viability issues that affect the fermentation of the more complex malt sugars. Leaving a relatively high terminal gravity. In this case I'm adding the simple sugars after a fair amount of the complex sugars have been taken up. So, we get attenuation of the complex sugars and nearly complete fermentation of the simple sugars and we hope a nice dryish, "digestable" glass of beer. Jamil can explain it better.