BJCP Written Exam Experience 1

Alternative Title – How to Score above 80 with limited preparation time ūüôā

Flash back 7-8 months and I had just gotten back my tasting exam results which were greatly improved from my first go at it and got me to where I needed to be National. ¬†I have 15 judging points and I normally earn about 5 judging points a year so I’m within striking distance of the 20 I need for National. ¬†So, the one other hurdle is getting the score I need on the written to get above the 80 tasting + written average needed. ¬†I scored an 87 on the tasting so a 73 (72 really since they seem to round up) is all I needed. ¬†Of course I had visions of 92 so I never have to take another exam ever, ever, ever again ūüôā ¬†Prior to that I had gotten an email about a written exam only 30 mins from my house so I had tentatively signed up for it with the understanding I wasn’t confirmed until I got my score back. ¬†So, when got by my 87 I confirmed my spot and got to work studying for the written. ¬†There was one hitch – I had less then a month to get ready. ¬†So, a bit of a cram session but I gave it a go. ¬†So, I’ll go through how I prepared for the exam and the results.

My preparation started with getting basic details on the exam and what I should be studying.  It became immediately apparent that there is a lot more information out there on the Judging (aka Tasting) exam then there is on the Written Proficiency Exam and a lot of the material I found was old and outdated (pre-2012 when we went from Legacy to the current structure).  So here is what I found helpful:

BJCP Exam Structure:  This document goes through all the various different historic and current exams, the different judging levels and what is required from those exams to get to each level.  Very good to know  so you understand what your goals are.  Also, you can see the requirements.  To take the written you must have 10 judging experience points and >= 80 on the Judging / Tasting Exam.  You also learn that the test is 20 true/false and 5 essay.

BJCP Beer Exam Study Guide: This guide has changed since I took my Written since the 2015 style guide was not the standard at that point.

Under the “BJCP Beer Judge Written Proficiency Examination” section you will first find the pool of questions that the above mentioned 20 true/false question. ¬†I just printed these up and ran through them till I knew them cold and then refreshed on them right before the exam and that seemed to work well.

Under the “The Essay Portion of the Written Proficiency Examination” you will find the pool of questions that the 5 “essays” will be pulled from.

My understanding is the 2 of the 5 will always be S0 (compare three styles). ¬†1 of the 5 will always be T14 (recipe). ¬†The other 2 will come from the remaining “T” questions. ¬†This certainly was true with my exam and is backed up by a statement by Gordon Strong on the BJCP Forums.

At first glance, it doesn’t look too bad since it is only a handful of questions. ¬†The problem is that with a lot of the questions there are a ton of different style combinations or sub-options that leads to a pretty vast array of possible essays.

The biggest offender is S0 ie compare and contrast 3 styles. ¬†As you can see there are now 109 possible three way combinations. ¬†Yow! ¬†Since each essay should be about 2 pages, to complete prepare you would have 218 pages of answers to come up with. ¬†Not really, since styles are repeated, but you get the idea. ¬†So, since I only had a few weeks to prepare, I just spent time refreshing on each of the styles so I felt comfortable going through the 4 sub-questions for each style. ¬†But I have been an avid competition homebrewer for many years and I have brewed most of¬†the styles so I already have a good level of comfort – I just needed to focus more on the technical specifics so I could write an accurate technical description and comparison. ¬†I struggled a bit with this on the actual exam but considering my prep time I feel pretty good about it. ¬†I think with more time flashcards might be a better approach so you can really beat them into your cortex ūüôā

For the recipe I used Thomas Barnes’ (see next document) math rather than try to fully memorize recipes to get my numbers right. ¬†I also lucked out since I had brewed all of the styles that can be asked and the one I got (German Pilsner) is one of the easier ones. ¬†I also have written my own brewing software and just brewed a lot in general so the process of coming up with recipes and brewing are second nature. ¬†But even with all the math worked out, you still would want to be sure you know the technical details for all the styles that can be covered as well as what your grain and hop bill and yeast selection would look like as well as your process. ¬†If you have brewed that style of something similar it is pretty easy. ¬†If not, some more work will be required.

There are a fair number of “T” questions so I just went through all of them and made sure I was comfortable with all the questions and where I wasn’t I dug into my brewing library and got comfortable.

Thomas Barnes Cheat Sheet: ¬†I did go through all the questions on my own and I used a lot of my hard earned knowledge to answer questions but when cramming the last week for this exam I kept going back to Thomas’ document. ¬†Really, really great and highly recommended that you know this backwards and forward. ¬†There is other useful items on his website but this sheet I found to be essential and probably got me at least 10 more points on my exam.

And that is really it! ¬†Like I said, there is a ton of material out there but a lot of it is outdated or I didn’t find that helpful.

Here is my written exam:

hommel_written_1_redacted2

and here is my Report to Participant (RTP) so you can see how I was graded:

hommel_written_1_rtp_redacted2

I scored an 84 (yeah!) so I’m now where I need to be to be National, I just need a few more Judging Points. ¬†To get to Master I need ¬†to up my game on the Written exam but I feel like I’m close and I just need some refinement especially around some of the styles. ¬†It’ll be years before I have the number of points for Master so no rush there. ¬†I hope you found this helpful!

 

BJCP Judging ( Tasting ) Exam Experience 2

Since my first Judging / Tasting Exam score wasn’t what I wanted (71), I immediately signed up for another go at it. ¬†That was about a year ago so I have gotten my second scores back (87 – yeah!) (I took the exam in January and got my Scores in June -> 5 month turn around) and I have had some time to reflect on things so I thought I would share my experiences with those preparing for this exam.

I’ll start by reiterating that, even though it is not and really can’t be perfect, the Judging / Tasting exam is very well designed and run. ¬†There are two goals >> train judges to score similarly and to properly fill out a scoresheet with the obvious outcome of proper, fair results in a competition and entrants getting back excellent scoresheets so they can get the independent, blind feedback they need to improve their beers. ¬†Of course, in order to do these two things you have to have a very solid knowledge of the various different styles but also you have to be able to competently assess and describe your sensory perceptions of a beer using a common, clear lexicon. ¬†This is exactly what this exam tests. ¬†In essence, it is a mock-up of you judging at a competition and then comparing how you scored and wrote-up your beers compared to two national or higher ranked proctors. ¬†Could anyone come up with some viable tweeks to the grading system. ¬†Sure. But someone else could come up with a perfectly good argument for why to keep it the same. ¬†Is it possible that the proctors incorrectly scored or misperceived aspects of a beer. ¬†Of course. ¬†But if we need to get judges scoring in the same zone as each other, I can’t really think of a better way to do it. ¬†So, now having been ear deep in the exam for a couple of years I still feel very good about the process as a whole and I would recommend to anyone who is serious about improving their beer, improving their friends beers, improving their own beer drinking experience and giving back to the homebrewing community that putting in the time and effort on this exam is well worth it.

You can read my first experience here and I’m not going to completely rehash what I’ve already said but I will pass along advice that I hope will be helpful and at the bottom I’ll post my (redacted ūüôā ) exams so hopefully you can learn from my efforts and results.

Advice for Studying for BJCP Judging Exam (aka Tasting Exam):

1> Know the Styles Cold

For the Judging Exam there isn’t a lot of value in knowing the technical details around a beer style (OG, FG, IBUs etc…) since you couldn’t perceive if a beer was 1 Plato high or low anyway and ¬†you wouldn’t say – 35 IBUs – on your scoresheet. ¬†But what you should know cold for every style is what are at least two (see the template in 5> to see why two)¬†¬†primary descriptors for each section (Aroma, Appearance, Flavor, Mouthfeel and Overall Impression) as well as what flaws are acceptable and what are absolutely not acceptable. ¬†So if you are served a Saison you should know:

Aroma – fruity esters, peppery phenolics, noble/english hops
Appearance Рpale to dark.  big fluffy head.  visible bubbles
Flavor –¬†fruity esters, peppery phenolics, noble/english hops, very dry, moderate to high bitterness
Mouthfeel –¬†very high carbonation
OI – fruity, peppery, moderately bitter, very dry, very effervescent

Of course it’s better to know every detail cold since you need that for the written exam anyway but you should know the above level of detail¬†at a minimum and you really want to know the levels for those primary descriptors. ¬†For example, if you get served a beer with no fruity esters as a Saison that has to be mentioned and it has to be accounted for in your score.

Along with this, sit down and do a scoresheet for as many commercial examples of these styles as you can. ¬†Its hard to get a lot of them based on where you live but it will help immensely. ¬†It is critical to be able to tie what the words in the BJCP guide say to what it actually smells, tastes, looks and feels like. ¬†I picked 1-2 categories each week and went to my local bottle shops and got examples and over the course of a few months I knocked them all out. ¬† I also met with a local group of judges and did the same. ¬† Keep in mind a lot of these beers may be very old so don’t assume that all Milk Stouts taste like cardboard because the one Mackeson’s you had did but once you’ve had a few you should be able to pick up the signal through the noise.

2> Become One with the Flavor Wheel

It is really interesting to me how you can drink the same thing for years but not pick up on certain characteristics but then you map in your mind a flavor or an aroma and then you perceive¬†things you never¬†did before. ¬†I’m a big fan of the flavor wheel since it gives structure to the various different elements of beer, both good and bad, so when you are getting a certain quality it can help you narrow down to what that actually is.

3> Learn the Lexicon

And to take 2> one step further, working with the common lexicon allows you to be able to describe a quality using language that other beer judges and brewers will understand.  On top of the descriptors as covered in the flavor wheel, it is key to have a solid set of level descriptors.  It will not go well if you just label everything low, medium, high.  I built a list of synonyms and practiced using them in scoresheets so that they just became a natural part of my descriptive language.  for example, for low you might use soft, faint, gentle, muted or subdued instead.  it allows you to more accurately describe what you are perceiving.  To me, soft describes a gentle desirable quality whereas low may come across more negative.

4> Become the Grader

Read and become one with the grading guide. ¬†How often have you taken a test in your life and known exactly how you were going to be graded? ¬†If you don’t fully understand this guide you really are doing yourself a huge disservice.

5> Use a Repeatable Format

First off a huge Thank You to the proctor for my 2nd exam – Richard¬†Lane. ¬†I can’t say enough good things about¬†Richard and all the help he provided to myself and the other exam takers. ¬†He has a lot of good information on his website¬†but I think the most helpful to me was his scoresheet template and example. ¬†His template gives you a way to systematically and repeatably fill out your scoresheets in the way that will be most positively scored by graders since it matches up with their scoring guidelines. ¬†This template IS PURE GOLD! ¬†I cannot recommend strongly enough that you fill out every scoresheet in this manner. ¬†For my first exam, I didn’t have this template and you can see that a lot of the points I lost were not because my perceptions were wrong but because I didn’t lay them out in the way they wanted. ¬†Of course, you still have to assess and describe the beer properly but this template will help eliminate losing points due to not meeting the graders “completeness” expectations. ¬†So your score will directly reflect how you did at scoring the beer and how accurate your perceptions were and not be negatively impacted due to incomplete or improperly formatted responses.

6> ¬†Don’t just say something, do something

If you mention any flaws in a beer, make sure you give at least one or two good ways to address that flaw. ¬†Also, when you give a flaw, don’t act as if you know something about the beer that you have no way of knowing. ¬†It is silly to say – “use more Mosaic hops” when you have no idea what type of hops were used. ¬†Stick with what you know for certain which is what you perceive and assume you know zilch about their process and ingredients.

My exam:

First off, let me tell you about the beers that we received.  Here is a visual breakdown:

proctor_scores

1> Helles – It was an undoctored homebrew and a pretty good one!
2> Witbier – undoctored homebrew
3> Brown Porter Рa blend of a bunch of different homebrews.  this is the one beer i was really off on.  I scored it a 30.  there was a strong licorice character that i attributed to brown malt but was actually a weird phenolic.  oops!
4> American IPA – blend of homebrew and lagunitas
5> Dunkel – commercial version from OMB (where we took the exam so I think it was pretty fresh ūüôā
6> Weizenbock – undoctored hombebrew

I was within 7 for 5 of 6 and within 3 for 4 of 6. ¬†the one that got me was the Brown Porter and I picked up on the phenol, I just misjudged where it was coming from and that it was too much for style. ¬†So, all in all I’m very happy with my scoring and perception.

Here is my exam as submitted for grading:

hommel_tasting_2_redacted2

And here is my Report to Participant (RTP):

hommel_tasting_2_rtp_redacted2

So what are my takeaways? ¬†I feel really, really good about how I did on the exam the 2nd time and I think I scored well enough that I don’t need to take it ever again. ¬†I have not heard of anyone scoring higher than 90 (I’m sure it has happened) so I think if I need to make 90 for Master (not National yet so getting a bit ahead of myself) I’ll make up the difference on the Written.

I don’t think I would change anything with how I prepared. ¬†I think the above advice is exactly where I would spend my time getting prepared if I were to do it again. ¬†Understand how you will be graded and focus your attention there. ¬†Fill out lots of scoresheets but do it using the template until it becomes second nature and you don’t even need to reference it. ¬†Make sure you are intimately familiar¬†with at least one commercial example for every style and preferably as many as you can get your hands on. ¬†Use the flavor wheel descriptors and a variety of level terms as you fill out score sheets so you are totally comfortable with all 360 degrees of the flavor wheel and a broad swath of level terms. ¬†If someone gives you a style, you should be able to rattle off the primary descriptors for aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel and overall impression without hesitation. ¬†And as I mentioned in my first write-up, don’t think about the beer being doctored or not, homebrew or commercial or anything else. ¬†Judge what is in front of you. ¬†Don’t go flaw hunting. ¬†And after your first smell and sip I would write down the score that first comes to mind. ¬†I’m sure others do what I do. ¬†I come up with a score, I second guess and I start coming up with reasons to move it one way or another. ¬†And 90% of the time I should have stuck with my gut instinct.

I hope this write-up was helpful and Best of Luck!!!

Hefeweizen eBIAB 2

NHC run beer number 6 – last one. ¬†And….well…..sometimes things don’t go the way you want ūüôā ¬†The ironic thing is this is the beer I had done the most test batches of. ¬†I had done many experiments. ¬†And with the last time I did this beer I only had one issue – it cleared too quickly. ¬†So, I decided to not use whirlfloc and use a trick i’ve used before – add a tablespoon of flour to the boil to add a long lasting starch haze. ¬†Seemed like a good idea, but after finishing the day out and feeling good I pulled one last sample to take my final pH and gravity reading. ¬†Everything looked good and then i tasted it and it was like licking an ashtray. ¬†My stomach dropped. ¬†I empty my kettle and I could see the element was covered in balls of flour that were completely and totally charred like little briquettes. ¬†It was my first time using the flour trick in an electric kettle and clearly that was a really bad idea. ¬†Well, i guess live and learn. ¬†It is still fermenting as I write this but my heart tells me it is 99% chance of going down the drain.

BrewDesign

Recipe Info

Beer Name: hefeweizen_ebiab_2
Style: Weissbier

 

Style

Original Gravity: 1.052
Final Gravity: 1.012
Color: 3.8
Alcohol: 5.3 %
Bitterness: 13.1 IBUs

Brewery

Efficiency: 70
Attenuation: 77

Mash

Mash Fermentable Weight: 12 Pounds
Mash Thickness: 2.0 Quarts per Pound
Grain Temp: 72 F
Strike Water Qty: 8 Gallons
Mash Volume: 8.96 Gallons
Strike Water Temp: 119 F
Mash Temp: 113 F

Boil

Kettle Gravity (start of boil): 1.043
Predicted Mash Run-off Volume: 6.92
Target Starting Boil Volume: 7.25
Boil Duration: 60 Minutes
Evaporation Rate: 1.25 Gallons per Hour
Final Boil Volume: 6

Fermentables

Weight (Lbs) % by Weight Name Yield SRM
5.5 45.8 Best Malz Pilsner 80.0 1.8
6.5 54.2 Canada Malting White Wheat 82.0 2.0

Hops

Weight (ozs) Name AAU Time (mins) Use IBUs / Addition
1 Tettnang Pellets 3.9 60 Boil 13.1

Yeast and Friends

Amount (Milliters) Name
1 pouch Wyeast Labs 3068 Weihenstephan Weizen

Misc

Amount Name Time
1/2 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Wyeast) 10
1 tablespoon flour 10

Notes

113F ferulic acid rest for 15 mins
126 protein rest 10 mins
146F 20 mins
158F 20 mins
168F 10 mins

Pitch @ 64F and hold for 1 week then raise to 68F for 1 week

Bottle Carbonation target 3.25 volumes

Salt and Acid adjustments:

Mash Salts:
Calcium Chloride: 7.0 gram

Mash Acid:
Lactic Acid: 4.0 ml @ 88 %

Predicted Mash pH of: 5.48

Mash Ions (ppm):
Ca: 70.0 Mg: 3.0 Na: 21.0 Cl: 122.5 So: 24.0

Boil Ions (ppm):
Ca: 70.0 Mg: 3.0 Na: 21.0 Cl: 122.5 So: 24.0

Liquid Yeast Pitch – Stirplate Starter

First Starter
Quantity of Yeast: 1 vials / pouches (100B cells per)
Quantity of DME: 49 grams
Starter Size: 0.5 liters
ONLY PITCH 60% or 300 mL

1-30-16 made 0.6L starter w/ 50g of wheat DME
2-1-16 normal brew day but it appears that the flour i added scorched on the element and the wort has a burnt / ashtray flavor.  not promising at all and likely going down the drain.
2-2-16 1″ kreusen and fermetning strongly
that night i realized i had set the fermenter at 68F instead of the 64F I intended.  wow!  this beer is destined for failure on many, many levels!  duh!!!!!!!
2-6-16 no more bubbling
2-17-16 pulled sample. ¬†FG 1.016 pH 4.29. ¬†very smokey, ashy and super gross ūüôĀ ¬†it’s been a while since i’ve dumped a beer. ¬†tears. ¬†many tears.

Bitter eBIAB 2

NHC run beer number 5. ¬†For this recipe I took the Ordinary Bitters recipe and upped it to a Best Bitter. ¬†I used the Malsters I prefer (Crisp, Simpsons) and messed around with the hop bill by changing to something a little different with Challenger and Willamette rather than EKG and Fuggles. ¬†The Ordinary Bitters was good but I’m just not a huge fan of EKG so I decided to try something new.

BrewDesign

Recipe Info

Beer Name: bitter eBIAB 2
Style: Best Bitter

 

Style

Original Gravity: 1.049
Final Gravity: 1.012
Color: 9.1
Alcohol: 4.8 %
Bitterness: 41.1 IBUs

Brewery

Efficiency: 75
Attenuation: 75

Mash

Mash Fermentable Weight: 10.5 Pounds
Mash Thickness: 2.3 Quarts per Pound
Grain Temp: 72 F
Strike Water Qty: 8.04 Gallons
Mash Volume: 8.88 Gallons
Strike Water Temp: 162.1 F
Mash Temp: 154 F

Boil

Kettle Gravity (start of boil): 1.041
Predicted Mash Run-off Volume: 7.0925
Target Starting Boil Volume: 7.25
Boil Duration: 60 Minutes
Evaporation Rate: 1.25 Gallons per Hour
Final Boil Volume: 6

Fermentables

Weight (Lbs) % by Weight Name Yield SRM
9 85.7 crisp maris otter 82.0 3.0
1 9.5 simpsons medium crystal 75.0 55.0
.5 4.8 Torrified Wheat 79.0 1.7

Hops

Weight (ozs) Name AAU Time (mins) Use IBUs / Addition
.75 Northern Brewer Pellets (US) 7.0 60 Boil 18.1
.5 Challenger Pellets 6.1 15 Boil 5.2
1 Willamette Pellets 6.0 15 Boil 10.3
1 Challenger Pellets 6.1 10 Whirlpool 3.8
1 Willamette Pellets 6.0 10 Whirlpool 3.7

Yeast and Friends

Amount (Milliters) Name
1 vial White Labs WLP002 English Ale

Misc

Amount Name Time
1 Whirlfloc Tablet 15
tsp Yeast Nutrient (Wyeast) 10

Notes

Liquid Yeast Pitch – Stirplate StarterFirst Starter
Quantity of Yeast: 1 vials / pouches (100B cells per)
Quantity of DME: 43 grams
Starter Size: 0.4 liters

Salt and Acid adjustments:

Mash Salts:
Gypsum: 8.0 gram

Mash Acid:

Sparge/Boil Salts:

Predicted Mash pH of: 5.35

Mash Ions (ppm):
Ca: 68.5 Mg: 3.0 Na: 21.0 Cl: 11.0 So: 171.3

Boil Ions (ppm):
Ca: 68.5 Mg: 3.0 Na: 21.0 Cl: 11.0 So: 171.3

mash 60 min 154
10 min 168

ferment 2 weeks @ 68F

1-22-16 made 0.5L starter of WLP002
1-24-16 normal brewday.  pitched @ 4pm
@10pm no activity
1-25-16 big kreusen with strong bubbling
1-27-16 kreusen dropped and slowed bubbling ~5 sec
1-28-16 no activity
2-9-16 racked to lagering keg FG 1.018 pH 4.54  very clean.  tastes fantastic!  very promising
2-18-16 gelatin (1/2 tsp + 1/4 cup filtered water  heated in microwave to 180F)
2-20-16 racked to clean keg set to 30 psi for 24 hours @ 38F then set to 12 psi
3-5-16 bottled off 6

this beer turned out really well.  i prefer the british summer ale but mostly because I lean towards clean pale hoppy beers.  not sure i would change anything.

NHC 1st round 2016:
Ding ding ding ding! ¬†Took 1st place in English Pale Ale category. ¬†Both judges said esters were a bit low which I would agree with especially if you compare it to fuller’s etc… ¬†then again, that is the quality i like least about fullers so not sure I would change that or not. ¬†Maybe pitch a little lower or up the ferment temp a degree or 2. ¬†or not ūüôā
bitter_nhc1bitter_nhc2

British Golden Ale eBIAB 1

The NHC run of beers continues. ¬†I lean towards hoppy beers so when deciding on what to brew this looked like a British take on American Pale Ale / Blond Ale hybrid which sounds pretty great to me! ¬†Since this is a new style for 2015 this recipe is me totally winging it based on the style descriptor. ¬†The key things I picked up on were “floral, herbal, or earthy English hops and citrusy American hops are most common” for the hops and “Medium-low to low malt character, generally bready with perhaps a little biscuity flavor. Caramel flavors are typically absent.” for the malt. ¬†So I decided on a half and half MO and american 2-row blend and a blend of willamette and cascade hops. ¬†I’m not a huge EKG / Fuggles fan but I wanted some British hop characteristics and my favorite for that is Willamette. ¬†Otherwise it was just put together to meet the style specs and what, based on my experience, would taste good and work well together.

BrewDesign

Recipe Info

Beer Name: british golden ale ebiab 1
Style: British Golden Ale

 

Style

Original Gravity: 1.049
Final Gravity: 1.011
Color: 4
Alcohol: 5 %
Bitterness: 39 IBUs

Brewery

Efficiency: 75
Attenuation: 77

Mash

Mash Fermentable Weight: 10.5 Pounds
Mash Thickness: 2.3 Quarts per Pound
Grain Temp: 72 F
Strike Water Qty: 8.04 Gallons
Mash Volume: 8.88 Gallons
Strike Water Temp: 160 F
Mash Temp: 152 F

Boil

Kettle Gravity (start of boil): 1.041
Predicted Mash Run-off Volume: 7.0925
Target Starting Boil Volume: 7.25
Boil Duration: 60 Minutes
Evaporation Rate: 1.25 Gallons per Hour
Final Boil Volume: 6

Fermentables

Weight (Lbs) % by Weight Name Yield SRM
5 47.6 Crisp Maris Otter 82.0 3.0
5 47.6 Rahr Pale Malt; American (Rahr) 81.3 1.8
.5 4.8 Briess Carapils 74.0 1.3

Hops

Weight (ozs) Name AAU Time (mins) Use IBUs / Addition
.25 Magnum Pellets 15.2 60 Boil 13.1
1 Cascade Pellets 6.2 10 Boil 7.7
1 Willamette Pellets 5.1 10 Boil 6.4
1 Cascade Pellets 6.2 20 Whirlpool 6.5
1 Willamette Pellets 5.1 20 Whirlpool 5.3

Yeast and Friends

Amount (Milliters) Name
1 pouch White Labs WLP002 London Ale

Misc

Amount Name Time
1 Whirlfloc Tablet 15
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Wyeast) 10

Notes

Liquid Yeast Pitch – Stirplate StarterFirst Starter
131 billion cells
Quantity of Yeast: 1 vials / pouches (100B cells per)
Quantity of DME: 29 grams
Starter Size: 0.3 litersSalt and Acid adjustments:

Mash Salts:
Gypsum: 8.0 gram

Mash Acid:
Lactic Acid: 3.0 ml @ 88 %

Sparge/Boil Salts:

Predicted Mash pH of: 5.44

Mash Ions (ppm):
Ca: 68.5 Mg: 3.0 Na: 21.0 Cl: 11.0 So: 171.3

Boil Ions (ppm):
Ca: 68.5 Mg: 3.0 Na: 21.0 Cl: 11.0 So: 171.3

Mash 150F for 60 min
168F for 10 min

Ferment 68F for 2 weeks

1-22-16 made 0.5L starter of WLP002
1-24-16 normal brewday pitched@11am
@10pm full kreusen and steady bubbling
1-25-16 big kreusen and strong bubbling
1-27-16 kreusen has fallen and very slow bubbling ~20 sec
1-28-16 no activity
2-9-16 racked beer to lagering keg FG 1.014 pH 4.43.  very clean and spot on.  very promising!
2-18-16 added gelatin (1/2 tsp + 1/4 cup of filtered water microwaved to 180F)
2-20-16 racked to clean serving keg and set to 30psi for 24 hours at 38F set to 12psi
3-5-16 bottled off 6

My favorite of my NHC beers. ¬†I could drink a keg of this. ¬†very easy to drink but has enough malt character to peak your interest and the hops really shine. ¬†not big in your face but just right for a lazy summer day. ¬†the willamette and cascade seem to play really nicely together. ¬†also my wife’s favorite ūüôā

NHC 2016 results:
Ding ding ding ding! ¬†2nd place in the English Pale Ale category and scored a 37. ¬†no real negatives in the judges comments other than two bitter and not enough hop arouma. ¬†of course the other judge thought the bitterness was fine. ¬†i think i’ll dry hop my re-brew since i also thought the hop aroma needs a bit of a boost. ¬† Score sheets:

bg_nhc1 bg_nhc2

Czech Pale Lager eBIAB 2

My third NHC beer.  Very similar to my first attempt at this beer but I went with all Weyermann malts this time and upped the Saaz by 50% in the 10 min and whirlpool additions.  I also switched to the pilsner urquell strain.

BrewDesign

Recipe Info

Beer Name: czech pale lager ebiab 2
Style: Czech Pale Lager

 

Style

Original Gravity: 1.043
Final Gravity: 1.014
Color: 4.2
Alcohol: 3.8 %
Bitterness: 37.3 IBUs

Brewery

Efficiency: 70
Attenuation: 68

Mash

Mash Fermentable Weight: 10 Pounds
Mash Thickness: 2.4 Quarts per Pound
Grain Temp: 72 F
Strike Water Qty: 8 Gallons
Mash Volume: 8.8 Gallons
Strike Water Temp: 164 F
Mash Temp: 156 F

Boil

Kettle Gravity (start of boil): 1.036
Predicted Mash Run-off Volume: 7.1
Target Starting Boil Volume: 7.25
Boil Duration: 60 Minutes
Evaporation Rate: 1.25 Gallons per Hour
Final Boil Volume: 6

Fermentables

Weight (Lbs) % by Weight Name Yield SRM
9 90.0 Weyermann Pilsner; German 80.0 1.8
.5 5.0 Weyermann Carared 74.0 19.5
.5 5.0 Weyermann Wheat Malt; Pale 82.0 2.0

Hops

Weight (ozs) Name AAU Time (mins) Use IBUs / Addition
.4 Magnum Pellets 13.2 60 First Wort 19.1
1 Saaz Pellets 3.0 30 Boil 8.3
1.5 Saaz Pellets 3.0 10 Boil 5.9
1.5 Saaz Pellets 3.0 15 Whirlpool 4.0

Yeast and Friends

Amount (Milliters) Name
1 vial wlp 800 pilsner lager yeast or wyeast 2001 urquell

Misc

Amount Name Time
1 tablet Whirlfloc Tablet 15
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Wyeast) 10

Notes

Liquid Yeast Pitch – Stirplate StarterFirst Starter
Quantity of Yeast: 1 vials / pouches (100B cells per)
Quantity of DME: 125 grams
Starter Size: 1.25 litersSalt and Acid adjustments:

Mash Salts:
Calcium Chloride: 7.0 gram

Mash Acid:
Lactic Acid: 3.0 ml @ 88 %

Sparge/Boil Salts:

Predicted Mash pH of: 5.45

Mash Ions (ppm):
Ca: 70.0 Mg: 3.0 Na: 21.0 Cl: 122.5 So: 24.0

Boil Ions (ppm):
Ca: 70.0 Mg: 3.0 Na: 21.0 Cl: 122.5 So: 24.0

mash @ 156F 60 min
168F 10 min

cool to 45, oxygenate for 1.5 mins and pitch and raise to 50 over 24 hours, hold for total of 2 weeks. over 2 days raise to 60F and hold through total of 3 weeks. rack to clean keg and lager for 2 weeks at 35. add gelatin and lager for 1 more week. rack to clean keg, force carb and serve.

gelatin is 1/2 tsp in 1/4 of water heated in microwave to 180 by heating 10 secs at a time.

Forced Carbonation
Keg Temperature: 41 F
Volumes of CO2: 2.5
Set Keg Pressure to: 12.8 psi

1-8-16 make 1.5L starter of wlp800
1-11-16 regular brewday.  pitched @ noon
1-12-16 kreusen starting but no bubbling.  must be a leak but had a hard time finding.  adjusted some clamps and and bubbling finally started.
1-13-16 nice 1″ kreusen and slow steady bubbling
1-14-16 ”
1-15-16 ”
1-16-16 starting to slow a bit
1-18-16 ~2 sec
1-19-16 ~4 sec
1-20-16 ~6 sec starting to drop clear
1-21-16 no bubbling
1-31-16 racked to lagering keg.  FG 1.016 pH 4.34  tastes and smells great.  very promising!
2-18-16 gelatin (1/2 tsp + 1/4 cup filtered water microwaved to 180F)
2-20-16 racked to clean serving keg.  set to 30 psi for 24 hours @ 38F then set to 12 psi
3-5-16 bottled off 6

not sure how i feel about this beer. ¬†it is really good and hits all the style markers but there is a whisper of diacetyl which i’m not a fan of. ¬†i think it can do well in competition but not sure it is my thing.

NHC 2016 results:
It scored a 32 and its marked as 2nd in it’s flight but did not go to mini-BOS. ¬†the judge complaints are harshness from oversparging and overly bitter. ¬†i didn’t get either of these from this beer and they didn’t mention what i was noticing (diacetyl) so not sure what to make of it. ¬†kinda hard to oversparge BIAB ūüôā ¬†I guess I could tune down the bitterness but i really think it is spot on if not a hair low. ¬†I think these comments are going to be ignored. ¬†Scoresheets:

cz_nhc1 cz_nhc2

Colonial Cup results:
We have a winner! ¬†Not only a winner in category but BOS! ¬†Kinda surprised since I wasn’t sure what to make of this beer but when I drink it next to a pilsner urquell it hits all the czech pils notes – a little sweetness, a hint of diacetyl and a nice solid but pleasant saaz character. ¬†This recipe came from a BOS recipe that gordon strong gave out so I’m thinking it’s a pretty good recipe ūüôā ¬†Scoresheets:

cp_1 cp_2

Vienna eBIAB 1

I have brewed this beer a few times before but this is my first go at it on the new eBIAB system.  I pretty much stuck with my old recipe but I used all Weyermann malts this time.

BrewDesign

Recipe Info

Beer Name: vienna_EBIAB_1
Style: Vienna Lager

 

Style

Original Gravity: 1.054
Final Gravity: 1.011
Color: 11.9
Alcohol: 5.7 %
Bitterness: 29.6 IBUs

Brewery

Efficiency: 70
Attenuation: 80

Mash

Mash Fermentable Weight: 12.85 Pounds
Mash Thickness: 1.8 Quarts per Pound
Grain Temp: 72 F
Strike Water Qty: 7.78 Gallons
Mash Volume: 8.81 Gallons
Strike Water Temp: 153.8 F
Mash Temp: 145 F

Boil

Kettle Gravity (start of boil): 1.045
Predicted Mash Run-off Volume: 6.626
Target Starting Boil Volume: 7.25
Boil Duration: 60 Minutes
Evaporation Rate: 1.25 Gallons per Hour
Final Boil Volume: 6

Fermentables

Weight (Lbs) % by Weight Name Yield SRM
5.5 42.8 Weyermann Pilsner; German 80.0 1.8
5.5 42.8 Weyermann Vienna Malt 79.0 3.4
1 7.8 Weyermann Munich Type II 78.0 8.9
.75 5.8 Weyermann Caramunich I 73.0 39.0
.1 0.8 Briess Midnight Wheat Malt 0.0 550.0

Hops

Weight (ozs) Name AAU Time (mins) Use IBUs / Addition
.7 Northern Brewer Pellets (US) 10.6 60 Boil 24.6
1 Saaz Pellets 3.0 15 Boil 4.9

Yeast and Friends

Amount (Milliters) Name
1 vial White Labs WLP830 German Lager

Misc

Amount Name Time
1 tablet Whirlfloc Tablet 15
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Wyeast) 10

Notes

Liquid Yeast Pitch – Stirplate Starter

First Starter
307 billion cells
Quantity of Yeast: 1 vials / pouches (100B cells per)
Quantity of DME: 155 grams
Starter Size: 1.5 liters

mash temps:
145F 30 mins
158F 45 mins
168F 10 mins

Mash Salts:
Gypsum: 4.0 gram
Calcium Chloride: 4.0 gram
Pickling Lime: 1.0 gram

Mash Acid:

Sparge/Boil Salts:

Predicted Mash pH of: 5.20

Mash Ions (ppm):
Ca: 94.0 Mg: 3.0 Na: 21.0 Cl: 76.5 So: 99.7

Boil Ions (ppm):
Ca: 94.0 Mg: 3.0 Na: 21.0 Cl: 76.5 So: 99.7

1-2-16 made 1.5L starter of WLP830
1-4-16 normal brew day
1-5-16 AM no bubbling
noon very slow bubbling
1-6-16 1″ kreusen and steady bubbling
1-7-16 ”
1-8-16 ” but maybe slowing a hair
1-9-16 ~2 sec between bubbles
1-10-16 ~4 sec
1-11-16 ~6 sec
1-12-16 ~15 sec
1-13-16 ~20 sec
1-14-16 ” but starting to clear
1-15-16 ”
1-16-16 ~40 sec
1-18-16 bascially done bubbling
1-19-16 up to 55F for diacetyl rest
1-20-16 up to 60F
1-21-16 no bubbling
1-23-16 racked for lagering.  good and clean.  a little sulfur and maybe a whisper of acetyldehyde?  tastes young but very promising.  pH 4.47 FG 1.014.
2-15-16 gelatin added (1/2 tsp + 1/4 cup filtered water and microwaved to 180F)
2-18-16 racked to serving keg and set to 30 psi for 24 hours @ 40F
2-19-16 put on draft.  excellent.  crystal clear.  carb pretty good.  set to 13 psi to get 2.5 volumes @ 40F
2-28-16 same as intl amber carb.  seems a bit high.  if fridge set to 38F I would carb @ 12 psi.  bottled off 7 bottles.

comparison to devil’s backbone vienna

aroma: mine: bready, toasty, a little noble hop.  DB: very similar

appearance: dead on the same.

flavor: pretty damn similar.

mouthfeel: DB is a bit more carbonated. ¬†right now i’m 40F @ 12psi. ¬†will turn up to 13.

overall: they are very, very similar and difficult to tell apart.  mine may be a hair more malty and db a hair more carbonated.

NHC 2016:
I scored a 35 which is good but not good enough to move on at NHC.  Comments were positive except one judge said it was a bit oxidized. Score sheets:

vnhc_1 vnhc_2

Colonial Cup 2016:
Scored a 28.5 and didn’t place. ¬†In reading the comments and tasting my last bottles at home I have to chalk this up to crappy judging and typical group think. ¬†I always find it highly suspect when two judges write the exact same comments. ¬†It annoys me to no end when i hear judges next to me in competitions talking about a beer before they are done judging it. ¬†“are you getting green apple?” ¬†“now that you mention it, i am getting a bit of it!”. ¬†There isn’t even a whisper¬†of acetaldehyde in this beer. ¬†I guess the bottle they had could have gotten some oxygen in it but they were meticulously purged and capped on foam and stored cold so i’m having a hard time believing it especially since the NHC judges specifically called out how clean the ferment was. ¬†then again the one NHC judge mentioned oxidation so maybe I need to hold off on bottling till the last minute. ¬†Score sheets:

v_1 v_2

Not sure I would change anything with this beer except maybe go back to Best Malz. ¬†For some reason this beer has done better with BM over Weyermann but it could just be luck of the draw with judges. ¬† ¬†Also, I’ll bottle it closer to the competition although I think I bottled them 2 weeks ahead of time which really isn’t very long. ¬†Maybe I’ll look at my bottling technique to try and reduce any oxygen pickup.

International Amber Lager eBIAB 1

It’s my third year entering beers at NHC and I took a similar approach to last year. ¬†I should get 4 or 5 entries so I plan on brewing 6 and then picking the best ones to send. ¬†My overall goal is to do as well as possible at NHC, not in a specific category, so my strategy for picking the styles to brew is to use the following criteria:

1> fewest number of entries

duh. ¬†seems kinda lame to go after the small categories but if i want to do well, then entering american ipa is a tough row to hoe. ¬†i have huge respect for someone who want to brew the worlds best american ipa and dedicates all their efforts towards that (kelsey mcnair) but i don’t like any one style that much – i really likely brewing different stuff – and my goal is just general success at NHC so if thats my goal then I should go¬†for categories with fewer entries.

2> technically difficult to brew

i feel like i am an excellent brewer and i have pro brewery level processes so it makes sense to take advantage of that and go for styles that a beginning brewer couldn’t just luck into making well. ¬†not to knock mid-range stouts, scottish ales or american ales but we’ve all been to that homebrew meetings where a first time brewer nails those brews on there first go around. ¬†but how many truly exceptional Czech Lagers do you have from a rookie brewer. ¬†I have had zero.

3> something i feel i brew well

i think if i put my mind to it i can brew any style well (ie hefeweizen experiments) but there are some that due to my process, water etc… that tend to turn out better for me.

4> something i would like to drink a few gallons of

not into dumping beer. ¬†i’ve done it, but only when truly bad or it’s just not getting drunk and i need to free up a keg.

5> all 6 beers work together in a reasonable brewing schedule

i think my biggest issue last year was that a lot of my entries were showing age.  last year i brewed once a month, packaged when ready and stored cold till the competition.  so most of my beers were many months old.  my dortmunder did really well but other beers got comments about being stale.  so, this year i want to time beers so they are at their peak when they are packaged and then shipped right after that so they are in the best condition possible.

putting together a brewing schedule last year was a bit easier since we were using the old style guidelines and there was lots of data around how many entries there were in each category. ¬†since we are using the new 2015 guidelines i have to make an educated guess. ¬†the other tricky part is, historically, the lager categories have had the fewest entries and are technically difficult to brew so that was an easy choice. ¬†the 2015 guidelines intermingle lagers and ales in a lot of the categories making it more difficult so determine where the entries will be. ¬†so, after going through everything i decided on international lager, amber bitter european beer, czech lager, british bitter, pale commonwealth beer and german wheat beer. ¬† i’m thinking that intl lager, czech lager and pale commonwealth beer are new and previously less entered types of beers and amber bitter, bitter and german wheat have had low entries in the past. ¬†also i want to do some lagers early and quick turn around beers late so everything would fit well together and i would have proper lagering and fermentation space through the whole process. ¬†so i started off with brewing intl amber lager and vienna on the same day and fermenting in the same chamber together.

BrewDesign

Recipe Info

Beer Name: intl amber lager ebiab 1
Style: International Amber Lager

 

Style

Original Gravity: 1.049
Final Gravity: 1.010
Color: 9.5
Alcohol: 5.1 %
Bitterness: 18.7 IBUs

Brewery

Efficiency: 70
Attenuation: 80

Mash

Mash Fermentable Weight: 11.25 Pounds
Mash Thickness: 2.0 Quarts per Pound
Grain Temp: 72 F
Strike Water Qty: 7.63 Gallons
Mash Volume: 8.53 Gallons
Strike Water Temp: 160.7 F
Mash Temp: 152 F

Boil

Kettle Gravity (start of boil): 1.040
Predicted Mash Run-off Volume: 6.6125
Target Starting Boil Volume: 7.25
Boil Duration: 60 Minutes
Evaporation Rate: 1.25 Gallons per Hour
Final Boil Volume: 6

Fermentables

Weight (Lbs) % by Weight Name Yield SRM
9 80.0 Rahr Pale Malt; American (Rahr) 81.3 1.8
1.25 11.1 Weyermann Munich Type II 78.0 8.9
1 8.9 Simpsons Medium Crystal 76.0 60.0

Hops

Weight (ozs) Name AAU Time (mins) Use IBUs / Addition
.2 Magnum Pellets 13.3 60 Boil 9.2
.5 Vanguard Pellets 4.9 15 Boil 4.2
.5 Saphir Pellets 2.5 15 Boil 2.1
.5 Vanguard Pellets 4.9 15 Whirlpool 2.1
.5 Saphir Pellets 2.5 15 Whirlpool 1.1

Yeast and Friends

Amount (Milliters) Name
1 pouch Wyeast Labs 2124 Bohemian Lager

Misc

Amount Name Time
1 Whirlfloc Tablet 15
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Wyeast) 10

Notes

Liquid Yeast Pitch – Stirplate StarterFirst Starter
Quantity of Yeast: 1 vials / pouches (100B cells per)
Quantity of DME: 134 grams
Starter Size: 1.3 litersSalt and Acid adjustments:Mash Salts:
Gypsum: 4.0 gram
Calcium Chloride: 4.0 gramMash Acid:Sparge/Boil Salts:

Predicted Mash pH of: 5.43

Mash Ions (ppm):
Ca: 77.0 Mg: 3.0 Na: 21.0 Cl: 77.8 So: 101.2

Boil Ions (ppm):
Ca: 77.0 Mg: 3.0 Na: 21.0 Cl: 77.8 So: 101.2

mash:
152F 60 mins
168F 10 mins

1-2-16 i ended up using wlp830 since it was the freshest i could get.  made a 1.5L starter.
1-4-16 normal brewday.  double with this beer first and vienna second.  cooled to 48F.  pitched at 50F and set brewpi to 50F.
1-5-16 AM ~60 sec bubbling
noon – kreusen starting to form and ~20 sec bubbling
1-6-16 1″ kreusen and steady bubbling
1-7-16 ditto
1-8-16 ditto.  maybe slowing a hair
1-9-16 ~2 sec between bubbling
1-10-16 ~4 sec and kreusen starting to drop
1-11-16 ~6 sec
1-12-16 ~15 sec
1-13-16 ~20 sec
1-14-16 ” starting to drop clear
1-15-16 ”
1-16-16 ~40 sec
1-18-16 basically done bubbling
1-19-16 up to 55F for diacetyl rest
1-20-16 up to 60F for diacetyl rest
1-21-16 no bubbling
1-23-16 racked to keg for lagering.  nice and clean.  low sulfur.  very promising.  FG 1.014.  pH 4.38.
2-15-16 gelatin added (1/2 tsp + 1/4 cup filtered water heated to 180F in microwave)
2-18-16 raced to serving keg and set to 30 psi for 24 hours @ ~40 F
2-19-16 put on draft.  crystal clear.  carb already pretty good.  set to 13psi @ 40F to target 2.5 volumes.
2-28-16 having some carb issues.  looks like fridge set to 38F is around 3-40F so really should set beer to 12psi.  seems a hair higher carb than i would want.  bottled off 7.

tasting mine (IA) vs boston lager:

aroma: BL – a whisper of sulfur, pilsner malt and low bready notes
IA low caramel, toasty notes, lightly sweet

appearance: very similar.  BL more bubbles and IA a bit more copper and BL more amber.  both crystal clear.

flavor: both very clean.  BL more cracker, toast & bready.  IA more caramel.  both very clean and fairly similar.

mouthfeel: BL is more carbonated.  IA is medium.  BL is med-high.  both med body.

wife preferred mine ūüôā ¬†the style is new so not sure how judges will react but it seems pretty spot on to me.

NHC results and other competition results:

I entered this beer in first round of NHC and it scored a 29.5. ¬†both judges said it was a very good beer but that it was minty and woody hops that were too strong for the style. ¬†also one judge said had too much caramel and the other said it didn’t have enough. ¬†not really sure what to make of the feedback. ¬†i think for this style judges are look for an amber colored, very bland beer which doesn’t line up with the bjcp style description. ¬†strangely one judge said this should have been entered as a 19B cal common. ¬†in looking at the notes it almost seems like they had two different beers? ¬†how can one judge say it is low hop aroma and flavor and the other say medium aroma and medium high flavor? ¬† ¬†it wasn’t till i had brewed all my beers that I realized NHC ended up using their own modified BJCP 2015 set of categories which lumped international amber in with dusseldorf alt and cal common. ¬†not ideal. ¬†sheets here:

ia_nhc1 ia_nhc2

 

I also entered it in the colonial cup in south carolina where it scored a 34. ¬†these judges noted low hops as a appropriate but that it was too “flavorful” and needed more corn adjuncts. ¬†sheets here:

ia_1 ia_2

The scores weren’t terrible and mostly seemed to be aimed at the recipe. ¬†Honestly, I’m not really sure what to take from this feedback except maybe make the beer more boring and that judges aren’t up to speed on international amber yet since they comments seem to go directly against the style guide or maybe i’m not paying enough attention to the commercial examples. ¬†Less or no late hops (even though there wasn’t much to begin with) and dumb down the grain bill with more colorful from flavorless malts (ie midnight wheat). ¬† Not sure I will enter this style again since that doesn’t sound like something I would want to drink although i really enjoyed drinking this beer ūüôā