Tag Archives: NHC

Overdue 2013 updates – State of the Brewery 2014

It’s been an age since my last post. Due to a new job and a pregnant wife (due any day now) I had to take a hiatus from brewing last fall and haven’t quite gotten back into it yet (hopefully this Spring). I ended pretty strong by brewing a Russian Imperial Stout and an American Barleywine, among a few other batches.

Competition-wise I did not have as strong of a performance in 2013 as I did in 2012, however I am still pretty happy with the results overall (getting two beers to 2nd round of NHC was pretty cool even though neither placed in the 2nd round):

Summary:

2013 summary

2013 stats

The scoresheets I got back from the 2nd round of the NHC were a bit confusing and it doesn’t seem like the judges ever agreed on the APA (3 very different opinions with similar scores). There were 3 scoresheets for each – here’s a summary:

APA – Sheet 1 (36): Too much fruitiness – needs more hops, Sheet 2 (35): Large malt presence – needs more hops (no mention of fruit), Sheet 3 (38): A little sweet – otherwise excellent

Specialty – Scottish Ale – Between 80/- and Wee Heavy – Sheet 1 (37): A little thin – wee light, Sheet 2 (38): More of a Wee Heavy than Specialty, Sheet 3 (38): Should have entered as Strong Scotch Ale

I sent some subpar beers to the State Fair this year and my results reflect that (no placement). I’ll add that I was pretty let down in the judging/feedback from this competition (lots of non-ranked judges, vague comments, contradictory scoresheets, etc.), but I know I didn’t send my best group of beers in either.

In the year ahead I will for sure do some brewing, but probably not to the extent that I did in 2013. I’ll probably get back into it with some 2.5 gallon batches and work up to some 5 gallon batches when the weather improves. I’m sure it will take a few batches to get back into the swing of things, but I’ll make sure to do some blog posts as I go.

I entered my English Barleywine, Russian Imperial Stout and American Barleywine in Upper Mississippi Mashout – have no idea how any of them will do. The English Barleywine got a 30 back in August – should have improved some since then. I’ll have to do some posts on the RIS and American Barleywine pretty soon here – I’m really happy with how those turned out. The RIS was an attempt at a Surly Darkness clone (like the hoppier 2011 version) and the American Barleywine is similar to Jamil’s BCS recipe.

Cheers to you all in the New Year

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NHC Round 1 Results

NHC.2013

I received my scoresheets today from NHC Round 1 this morning. I had entered 4 beers and 2 advanced. I was hoping at least 1 would advance so pretty cool that 2 made it. I had actually tried the winning APA after the Mini BOS concluded and was about 75% sure it was mine, but I literally got one sip since so many people wanted to try it and had just been drinking Dark Lagers and eating chips so I couldn’t tell for sure and didn’t want to let myself believe it was for sure mine. As you can see above the APA advanced with a whopping score of 30 – that’s right the lowest possible score to be eligible for the 2nd round – I’ll wear that like a badge of honor. The judges for the APA were not even National in rank and one of the Mini BOS judges was a Grandmaster III so I’m pretty much disregarding the scoresheets. It was clearly a low scoring flight if a 30 advanced to Mini BOS.

I’ll be rebrewing the APA with no recipe changes in the next couple of weeks to be ready for Round 2 judging.

My Robert the Bruce clone was entered in the Specialty Category and scored a much more respectable 43.5. I won’t need to rebrew that beer. The Mild that got 1st at UMMO and 3rd at March Mashness scored a 39.5 and advanced to the Mini BOS, but did not place. My special Bitter did not score well with a 27 as I expected, it had the off flavor I posted about here, but by the time I realized it wasn’t going away it was too late to edit my entries.

 

Beer Entered Date Brewed BJCP Category Score Place
Crickhollow Mild 3.0 11/17/2012 11A 39.5 N/A
Bagshot Pale 3.0 2/23/2013 10A 30 1st
Bucklebury Bitter 2/7/2013 8B 27.5 N/A
Northfarthing Ale 12/27/2012 23A 43.5 2nd

 

On second thought I might even brew 2 versions of the APA and see which I prefer and in case I screw something up so I have a contingency plan – I have 3 bottles from the last batch, but they’d be 4 months old when judged so that isn’t much of a back up plan. I’m pretty confident in my brewing, but this is NHC after all..

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Off flavor issue, other updates

I had several posts planned for some batches that are now in kegs, but due to an off flavor that kept rearing it’s ugly head I decided to condense some batches into this post.

If you’ve read this blog for a while you’ll know that I’m a big believer that BIAB (mash in a bag) is as good a method as other methods of all grain brewing – after all it’s basically batch sparging without the sparge and a simpler/quicker lauter. That being said I had several batches in the last few months that had a fairly strong grainy flavor to them that was not there by design. It started with Crickhollow Mild 3.0 and I thought it was caused by the Amber malt I added to it, but I have since realized that the bag I was using (purchased from an online vendor) from that batch on was allowing too much husk material to remain behind after removing the bag. Boiling a little bit of husk material isn’t the end of the world, but when you find a bunch in the trub after you rack to a fermenter you probably have too much. I have since replaced that bag with another homemade bag for my 2.5 gallon batch setup, and am using my original bag until I can get another bag made up for my 5 gallon setup. At first I thought I might be having PH issues as I’ve never really had to pay attention to mash PH it didn’t seem likely. I figured if a new bag didn’t fix the issue I’d dig deeper, but as usual the simplest answer was the right answer.

The reason it took me so long to figure this out is that the grainy flavor was only coming through on batches that utilized Marris Otter as the base malt. Those happened to be batches that were a bit more subtle (Mild, English Bitters, etc) as opposed to batches that I used Domestic 2 Row in (APAs, IPAs, IIPAs, Robert the Bruce clone, Barleywine) – all of which used the same bag. I’m not sure if this is due to the size of the base malt (MO might be slightly smaller than 2 Row) or if the bigger flavors have masked the grainy flavor in the batches that used 2 Row.

Crickhollow Mild

Crickhollow Mild 3.0

The grainy flavor didn’t prevent Crickhollow Mild 3.0 from doing well in competitions so far (38 and 39.5 so far 1st and 3rd) so I ended up entering it at NHC since I didn’t really want to drink it. Luckily some grainy flavor/astringency is allowed within that style, but one judge did say it made the beer finish a little dry and 3/4 scoresheets said additional sweetness would improve.

The batch I’m most concerned about this flavor in is my Special Bitter that I sent to NHC. I don’t think this off flavor would help that beer at all so I decided to add some Polyclar to the keg to try to strip the tannins/proteins that I believe were causing that flavor. It definitely helped, but it didn’t get rid of all of it so I don’t have much hope for this one advancing to the 2nd round.

I brewed another Mild as my first batch with the small batch setup and had just gotten to the point of realizing that there might be too much grain in the kettle when I saw some swirling around during the boil as you can see in the picture below:

grain_in_boil

I strained a lot of it out during the boil, but obviously I couldn’t get it all out at this point in the process. The batch did turn out to be a lot more drinkable than the Mild 3.0 version and the grainy flavor does seem to be fading the longer it cold conditions. If my Mild happens to make it to the 2nd round I might send Mild 4.0 vs Mild 3.0 to Philly if for no other reason than I like 4.0 better and it has a little more malt complexity.

As a true test I decided to brew a really light flavored Ordinary Bitter (90% MO, 10% Carastan) which I’ll post up in a week or two when it’s ready, but initial samples out of the keg had no trace of grainy/husky/tannic flavors.

NHC 2013

In other news I stewarded at the St. Paul judging center for NHC last weekend. It was the first time I had volunteered at a competition and I had a great time. Thanks to the 2 bottle format for Round 1 us stewards got to try whatever beers we wanted when the judges were done with them. It was pretty cool to try some beers and sit in with the judges as they discussed them or to have a beer and read the scoresheets that they handed you for it. If any of you have the opportunity to help out with a competition I’d highly recommend it, even something as boring sounding as ‘stewarding’ turned out to be quite fun.

It was interesting to see how beers are handled, judged, etc. I was surprised how subjective the Mini BOS process is – it taught me that you really have to nail a beer to get place, let along get 1st place. Any little flaw, or deviation from style, slight imbalance WILL prevent you from placing – assuming there is some decent competition in your category.

I’ll have some more posts up soon as I have several batches fermenting/conditioning at the moment.

Cheers

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Bagshot Pale 3.0 – APA

APA_3.0

I spoke to the first and second iteration of this recipe in this post so I’ll keep this post brief. Obviously this is the third iteration of this recipe – I brewed this one with NHC in mind. I liked the previous versions a lot, but I think I nailed exactly what I was going for the third time.

I entered both previous versions in 3 competitions each and ended up with some pretty good results. In one competition it was dinged for high diacetyl, which I think was probably from another beer in that flight because the same batch did well in 2 other competitions and I never picked up any diacetyl. I took the feedback from all the scoresheets giving more weight to the 2nd version as well as my notes and decided on a few changes:

  • The hop flavor seemed a bit muddled so I decided to move the Amarillo from the Dry Hop and use it all in the hopstand while moving the Centennial from the hopstand to dry hop. I really liked the aroma of Janet’s Brown Ale which was dry hopped with 2 oz Centennial. I also thought having Cascade and Amarillo in the hopstand without Centennial would focus the flavors a bit more.
  • I thought the bitterness could be a bit higher and some scoresheets more or less concurred, but I didn’t want to add a large bittering addition – in an attempt to preserve the integrity of the original recipe (which focuses on the “whirlpool” hop stand for nearly all bitterness) I decided to use the water profile I use for all my other hoppy beers, which is the one Tasty McDole uses (I had previously used Firestone Walker’s profile for this recipe). I do not know much about water chemistry, but I know this profile works and accentuates bitterness so I figured this was a pretty safe change without modifying the hopping schedule.
  • A couple of scoresheets mentioned malt aroma as being a bit low. The style guideline says low-moderate for both malt aroma and flavor so I opted to increase the Victory from 3.6% to 5.8%. I’m hoping that gets me a hint of malty/toasty aroma as it was pretty much all hop aroma before – hopefully the 2.2% increase was enough to be noticed. I modified the grist percentage for everything to accommodate this change, but only slightly from version 2.0.

Bagshot Pale 3.0:

5 finished gallons (6.5 gallon batch size – 1.25 left in kettle, 5.25 into carboy)

90 minute boil

1.054 OG

1.014 FG

73% Rahr 2 Row

15.4% Weyermann Munich (8L)

5.8% Briess CaraPils

5.8% Briess Victory Malt

5 grams Cascade 5.6% 90 mins

5 grams Cascade 5.6% 30 mins

46.8 grams Cascade 5.6% 0 mins – 30 minute hot steep

56.8 grams Amarillo 9.2% 0 mins – 30 minute hot steep

28.4 grams Cascade 5.6% Dry hop for 6 days

56.8 grams Centennial 8.7% Dry hop for 6 days

WLP002

Pitch at 63, let rise to 66F. As fermentation wraps up increase temp to 68F. When within about .002 gravity points of target final gravity add dry hops. After 3 days cold crash for 3 days before packaging.

I have found that this beer is very drinkable after a week in the keg, but even better if you wait until about 6 weeks from brew day. This particular version has an intensely citrusy and spicy aroma with hints of orange,  grapefruit and some clean malt character. The spiciness is a bit higher than in 2.0 and I’m really liking it – overall the aroma screams American C hops, and more importantly it screams American Pale Ale. The color is golden with a hint of orange – brilliantly clear (it’s lighter than the picture above shows – had trouble with lighting). The bitterness and moderate carbonation hit you first, but the flavor quickly shifts to citrus/grapefruit with some breadiness and orange flavor. I don’t pick up any toastiness still, that is one thing I’d consider trying to increase, but it’s just so drinkable as is I think any more malt character might detract from the beer overall. The finish is dry by design with a hint of lingering bitterness and even hop flavor. The older it gets the more the malt flavor comes through (as the hops fade).

I entered this in NHC, but category 10 is never easy so I’m not holding my breath.

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