Tag Archives: Hoppy Halloween

Brewing/Competition Summary 2012

Good day readers.

2012 – and maybe the world – is coming to an end. We are done with competitions for 2012 so thought it would be good to have a post about what we have gained from competing this year.

I’m going to bring you back to 2011 – this is when we first attempted some all grain beers. The first beer was a Surly Bender clone that I found online (this was before there was a kit for it). This batch, in addition to the next 2 did not attenuate more then 50%. Eventually we figured out that the dial thermometer we were using, although calibrated in ice water, was not at all accurate in the mash temperature range. After several dumped batches a new thermometer was purchased which was a bit more accurate – close enough to be dangerous at least.

A couple more batches were attempted and were drinkable, but had some off flavors. Eventually these were found to be from the water in my city being very poor for brewing (mineral levels are not typical for the area, Mg is especially high and above ideal levels), so we started using water from another city and our beers improved again. By this point we were nearing the end of 2011 and had brewed 16 all grain batches. I’d say 10 of these batches were good enough to drink, the other 6 were bad and were mostly dumped. At the end of 2011 we were pretty dejected and weren’t really sure how much longer we’d keep brewing, there were just too many batches not turning out (due to process issues, recipe flaws, etc). This is basically like in Return of the King when Frodo is ready to give up and Samwise the Brave gives the inspiring talk about there being some good left in the world that is worth fighting for.

I (and my brew-partner Jay) still believed there was some hope, and it was worth fighting for. I immersed myself in brewing literature, podcasts, etc. and figured out a few things to work on. First was to start using Reverse Osmosis water and add back some minerals/salts to desired levels. Second was the use of pure O2 instead of just shaking the carboy to aerate. Third was to stop taking liberties with recipes or to try to create them until we knew more about recipe formulation.

The first batch we attempted in 2012 was Jamil’s Evil Twin. We used RO water and used the water profile that Tasty McDole uses for his hoppy beers (Ca-110ppm, Mg-17ppm, Na-17ppm, SO4-350ppm, Cl-50ppm). We pitched the proper amount of yeast and added 60 seconds of O2. A month later were were drinking a delicious IPA – it really is a great recipe. In addition to the use of RO water and adding O2, an important thing here is that we started to really pay attention to detail with this batch. We took detailed notes, followed the recipe to a T and didn’t really drink much during the brew day – a previous requirement while brewing.

After a very successful batch in Evil Twin we made a special bitter – Jamil’s ordinary Bitter recipe made slightly bigger (by accident). We thought this was a pretty fantastic beer, so we entered it in the 2012 March Mashness competition thinking this would reveal some process flaws we could try to fix next. To our surprise, this scored a 35 and took 2nd in the English Ales category. The only things the judges said was that it was lacking a bit in hop bitterness for the style.

After that competition we really became confident in our process and stopped looking to the next big technique or piece of equipment that could help us make better beer. We kept brewing and started entering more competitions towards the end of summer where we had some decent results. We kept tweaking the special bitter recipe and it eventually took 1st in it’s category at the State Fair (42.5), but since then it has not done well in competition due to oxidation issues.

This is one area of our process that we have now addressed as a result of competition feedback. Instead of racking with an autosiphon and gravity, we have started using a closed transfer system using CO2 to push the beer from a Better Bottle to a keg. We also started capping on foam when filling bottles from a keg – I believe these 2 process changes will eliminate oxidation issues. When we can fit it in, we will redeem ourselves by entering the Special Bitter again – it’s a matter of honor (“Well of course it’s going to be dangerous if it’s a matter of fucking honor” – if you haven’t seen In Bruges stop reading and go buy it – I know you don’t want to watch it because Collin Farrell is in it, but do it anyway – you won’t regret it).

There were 7 styles we competed with. We picked 4 styles to try to rebrew for some competitions coming up in early 2013 based on feedback received throughout the year.

English Mild

American Pale Ale

American IPA

Imperial IPA

I am not positive we’ll get to the IPA, but the Mild and APA have been brewed and the IIPA will be brewed next week. These will be entered in 3-4 competitions in January and February. I went into detail about the recipe evolution for the English Mild (Chrickhollow Mild) in this post. The IPA (Erebor Pale Ale), if brewed will not change much as it’s done very well in competition already, but the dry hopping will be increased as we only used 1 oz last time (would use around 3 oz in the rebrew). The IIPA (Hamfast the Gaffer) will be mashed slightly higher as it finished around 1.009 last time and was missing a hint of malt backbone that the judges are looking for. I think we could get it to finish around 1.011, but I wouldn’t want it any higher and this may not even be noticeable.

I was a bit torn on what to do with the APA (Bagshot Pale). This got 1st in Hoppy Halloween (judged in late October) in the American Ales category with a 37.5. The scoresheet stated that it was missing some malt flavor, which I agreed with. The middle was lacking some flavor, but otherwise this beer was exactly what I was shooting for. I also submitted it in SCH*ABC V and Land of the Muddy Waters, both competitions were judged on 11/10/12. By Mid November, the beer was about 8 weeks old and the hop flavor had started to fade a bit. The malt character was more noticeable. It took 1st at Land of the Muddy Waters and 3rd at SCH*ABC V. The scoresheets now were saying the malt comes through a little more than the hops, which makes sense as it ages. I decided to add about 3.5% Victory Malt and also increase the hot steep (basically whirlpool addition) by about 25% and the dry hop by 50%. I’m hoping this will provide just a little bit of malt flavor when fresh, and the increase in hops will keep the hop aroma/flavor around a bit longer (which probably won’t happen, but we’ll see). This was brewed last Saturday so we’ll see how this ends up coming out in a few weeks.

I can honestly say that competitions have helped improve the quality of the beer that we brew. They are a great source for feedback for your brewing process as well as your recipes. One important point is that you aren’t going to get much out of entering a beer one time, it really pays to send it to as many competitions as you can.

We entered 21 beers in 7 competitions and ended up with 16 top 3 places and 1 best in show. For all the 2012 results, go to the competitions page here.

We’ll definitely be entering competitions throughout 2013, but are likely only going to enter and brew beers we really like as accurate stylistic interpretations (like a Mild, Special Bitter, IIPA, APA, etc) so as not to limit ourselves in whatever else we become inspired to brew (Pacific hopped IPA, smoked/oaked Hobbit Mild, etc.) and also because we want to use the Beer Engine Caskegerator a bit more and typically beers are better when you brew them with cask conditioning/serving in mind as opposed to brewing them for competition.


Hamfast “the Gaffer” Gamgee

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Hoppy Halloween results

I received scoresheets and prizes last weekend from the Hoppy Halloween competition put on by the Prairie Homebrewing Companions. This club is pretty hardcore about this competition, respect.

The results were posted live on facebook during the awards banquet – it was pretty cool to follow along, especially since 6/7 beers that I entered received a medal. I didn’t end up winning the conical for best in show, but never truly expected to.  I ended up having 2 beers in the best in show round so I did what I could.

Click Image to enlarge:

The feedback was generally very good, but some were off the mark (guessing recipe, telling me to add something that was already there, etc). I’ll be taking the feedback into account as I rebrew the Mild, APA, IPA, IIPA in Nov/Dec for some upcoming competitions in Jan/Feb.

Ended up with a lot of prizes, some t-shirts, hat, New Zealand Hops, grains, bottle opener, 7.5g stainless kettle and a temp controller. Most precious of all though are, of course, the medals:

The lanyards are way superior to the typical red, white and blue. The skulls and mummies were clearly a labor of love. The engraving on the back for the category and place is a nice touch as well, much better than the usual sticker.

Bagshot Pale (APA) and Hamfast the Gaffer (IIPA) are both in competitions (Land of the Muddy Waters & SCH*ABC V) this weekend, will post after those results are up on Saturday or Sunday. I’m a little worried that these are out of their prime, but hopefully I get some useful feedback regardless.

Original post on Hoppy Halloween

Overall Competition Results page

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Brewday prep, other stuff

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Got a small starter of washed WLP001 from a Scottish Ale (MacAulish) that was brewed in August. I typically don’t use yeast that is this old, but figured I’d make a small starter and give it a shot. It’s looking fine this morning so I’ll probably step it up to maybe 2 liters tomorrow so it’ll be ready for brewing Tasty McDole’s Janet’s Brown Ale this weekend. I’ve heard nothing but good things about that beer – been meaning to brew it for some time now.
Got a couple entries (Hamfast the Gaffer and Bagshot Pale) shipped off to both the Land of the Muddy Waters and SCH*ABC V competitions for judging on 11/10/12. These are 2 beers that I’m planning to rebrew for some competitions early next year so I want some feedback on them since it was the first time I brewed both of those.
I’ll get a new post up this weekend after brewing – hopefully with good news from Hoppy Halloween for which judging starts tonight!

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Hamfast the Gaffer > Pliny the Elder?

Brewed up a Pliny clone (which I have dubbed “Hamfast the Gaffer“) on 9/1/12 using the recipe Vinnie provided in his “Brew a Double IPA” writeup for Zymurgy. My friend Brandon brought over some Pliny several weeks before we brewed this so expectations were high (that was my first taste after hearing about Pliny for years).

The brew sesh was pretty solid, everything went real smooth and we hit target OG of 1.072. We pitched some washed WLP001 from a Scottish Ale (Jamil’s 70/-) that had been brewed about two weeks earlier. Fermentation was kept at 67F until things were slowing down and I let it rise to 70F as I usually do with WLP001 to encourage the yeast to finish out and clean up. FG was slightly low at 1.009.


Racked to secondary on 9/8 with first dose of dry hops (loose pellets)


Added second dose of dry hops on 9/16 (loose pellets)

Moved to chest freezer to cold crash on 9/18 and racked to keg on 9/21 leaving most of the hop matter behind

Poured a sample on 9/21 and the beer tasted good, but it was still settling and mellowing and there were hop flakes in the glass.

Waited until 9/28 to try again and the beer was crystal clear and had really smoothed out. The bitterness is very pronounced, but I wouldn’t quite call it harsh. The aroma is like nothing I’ve ever smelled, seriously. I imagine Pliny at the brewery would smell this good, but I don’t think anything that gets bottled and transported to a liquor store, purchased and shipped across the country could ever smell like this. Upon comparison, I think we all agreed that the commercial version tastes a little smoother and has a little more sweetness, but the aroma is just not that great (due to circumstances mentioned above). Brandon even brought a bottle back from GABF that was bottled on 10/4 and we compared this a second time on 10/14, but again the aroma just wasn’t that good.

Hamfast on the left, Pliny on the right
The shape of the glasses and bottle reminds me of something, what could that be?

I am really happy with how this one turned out, probably my favorite beer to date that I’ve brewed. I entered it in the Hoppy Halloween competition and may send it off to a few others in November – we’ll see how it does..


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Competition time

I’ve been bottling beers on and off all week for the Hoppy Halloween competition, as you can see below:

I’ll be entering 7 ales:
MacAulish – 09B Scottish Heavy 70/- brewed 8/18/12

Crichollow Mild – 11A Mild – brewed 8/23/12

Hamfast the Gaffer (Pliny clone) – 14C Imperial IPA – brewed 9/1/12

Butterbur’s Bitter – 08A Standard/Ordinary Bitter – brewed 9/8/12

Bagshot Pale- 10A American Pale Ale – brewed 9/13/12

Erebor Pale Ale – 14B American IPA – brewed 9/18/12

Bucklebury Bitter – 08B Special/Best/Premium Bitter – brewed 9/22/12

I think that the best beer of them all (and quite possibly the best beer I’ve brewed to date) is Hamfast the Gaffer, it should be right around it’s peak when judged (hopefully), it’s been tasting real good since about the 5 week mark. The Bagshot Pale and Erebor Pale Ale are also real good. The MacAulish turned out a little more bitter than I planned (subbed EKG for Northdown since I had some leftover), but I still think it will score well. The Mild just hasn’t cleared up much, I must have moved the keg around too much and the isinglass lost its effectiveness, but it tastes pretty good regardless – very bready/toasty with hints of chocolate and coffee. The ordinary bitter is ok, nothing too special especially since I brewed this with my beer engine in mind, but decided to bottle some for competition. Bucklebury Bitter is quite good as usual, it’s a bit young now, but should be at it’s peak during judging. I think all the beers are good, but Hamfast the Gaffer and Bucklebury Bitter are where I’d put my money to place followed by Bagshot Pale and MacAulish.
I’ll post updates after the results are posted (hopefully I’ll be reporting about the Brewhemoth conical I just won).

Bagshot Pale enjoyed while writing this

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