I’ve had a bit of activity on the brewing front that I thought I would update you about. First off, I am no longer the reigning champion of the Nordeast Brewers Alliance Homebrew Competition. I knew that was coming. I entered some beers, but I knew that none of them were as good as my winning brew from last year.
From my last brewing post, I had entered two of the beers that I had talked about. The Toasted Oat Cream Ale had a score of 26. And my fruit beer that I had done as an experiment with some left-over beer scored 30. By comparison, my Serendipitous Stout last year scored 45.
The fun part about this year’s competition was that I volunteered and worked as a steward. That meant I was bringing the two judges the bottles they were judging and clearing them away when they were done. But, as a part of that I spent a bit of time standing next to them as they tasted and discussed the beer they were drinking. They each score the beer separately and fill out score sheets that go back to the brewer. They compare their final scores and if they are more than 5 points different, they discuss some more and adjust so that they are within 5 points. So, it’s kind of like coming to a consensus, but they don’t have to agree exactly.
In my brewing post in November, I had mentioned an experiment that I had done without telling you what I did. I had brewed an IPA that was supposed to be a clone of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. I haven’t done a side by side comparison, but I don’t think I did it as good as the brewery. The experiment was to try two different hops as dry hops. They were both Centennial hops, but they were grown in different areas. The first one was purchased from Bell’s General Store, so it’s the same hops that Bell’s buys. They were grown the Pacific Northwest. The other ones were from Minnesota’s Mighty Axe Hops and were grown here in the state. Mighty Axe talks about the fact that there will be differences in their hops based the terroir. Fancy French word that basically means that if you grow the same thing in different areas, it will turn out different because of soil, climate etc. If you’ve ever tried to duplicate someone’s recipe in the kitchen and been unable to get it the same because your stove is different, you’ll understand the concept.
I then did some side by side taste testing with some friends. I didn’t do it to the point where it would be a valid experiment of the type that Brulosophy.com for example would do. But it had some value for me. Before I did the taste tests, I assumed that Bell’s hops would be the winners. They pick their hops to go with that recipe. Call it the home field advantage. The results were a tie with the same amount of people preferring each brand of hops. Personally, I did two blind tests and, while I could tell there was a difference from one to the other, I ended up preferring each one once. Since Bell’s had the home field advantage, I’d count this as a win for Mighty Axe. I’ll continue to use their hops in my beer.
I bought myself a Black Friday Christmas gift. I saw a Brewer’s Edge Mash and Boil unit on sale and bought it. This is an electric unit that you can use to brew with. It will allow me to brew larger batches than I could do on my stovetop and give me more control and repeatability in my processes. So, when I brew that next award-winning beer, I’ll be able to do it again. I’ve done one small test batch so far. It was a blonde ale I did with ingredients that I had left over from other batches. Should be ready to drink later this month. But I’m thinking it will be a good summer beer.
Tim Kane's memories, musings and updates.