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General Category => Ask the Experts => Topic started by: duncan on October 01, 2013, 03:02:05 PM

Title: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: duncan on October 01, 2013, 03:02:05 PM
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The next guest in the AHA’s Ask the Experts series will be Gordon Strong, author of Brewing Better Beer: Master Lessons for Advanced Homebrewers (http://members.brewersassociation.org/store/detail.aspx?id=420). For those of you who don’t know Gordon, here’s a peek at his biography:

“Gordon Strong is the only three-time winner of the coveted National Homebrew Competition Ninkasi Award. He is president and highest ranking judge in the Beer Judge Certification Program, and principal author of the BJCP Style Guidelines and the BJCP Mead Exam Study Guide. Gordon is the technical editor and a commercial calibration panelist for Zymurgy magazine and is a frequent contributor to other brewing and beer publications.”

Gordon is ready and eager to answer your homebrewing and BJCP questions, especially ones regarding topics from his book Brewing Better Beer. So start thinking of that one question you always wanted to ask Gordon!

Registered AHA Forum users can submit questions beginning October 21 until October 28. Register for free today (http://members.brewersassociation.org/apps/profile/login.aspx?redirect=http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php). Please do not submit questions prior to this time. After the question submission window closes, Gordon will begin addressing questions and share answers by November 11, 2013.

Please note: We anticipate a lot of participation in this public Ask the Experts, so be aware that Gordon may have to selectively answer questions, based on the volume of queries. 
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: duncan on October 21, 2013, 02:39:22 PM
The window is now open to ask Gordon Strong questions!
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: morticaixavier on October 21, 2013, 05:40:53 PM
Gordon,

Are there any plans within the BJCP to institute a way for a judges ranking to be keyed to the on going quality of their judging?

I have seen in contests where I was stewarding or participating judges with quite high ranking sometimes make glaring mistakes throughout a flight, not simple disagreeing on a particular entry but misapplying guidelines or making comments to others at the table that they have no sense of smell etc.

I am sure this is a complex proposition and the big focus is increasing the pool of available judges but it seems like maintaining a pool of Quality judges would be even more important to the goals of the organization.

Thanks,
Jonathan Fuller
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: AmandaK on October 21, 2013, 05:42:03 PM
My question is this: what is the fastest/youngest to the National judge level and/or the Master judge level?

I ask because I am usually the youngest person around at any competition in the area at 26 years old. I also have realized that within a little less than a year and a half from my first exam, I had made National. At my current rate, I could be at Master by the beginning of next June. I'm sure someone has done it faster than me or younger than me, but I'm curious.

Cheers!
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: itsme_timd on October 21, 2013, 05:46:50 PM
Hi Gordon, thanks for the Q&A.

I don't mean to be too generic with my question but as a new homebrewer I ask this when touring breweries and have received some great info.

What is one tip that you would share with a newer homebrewer to improve the quality of their beer?
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: macoracle on October 21, 2013, 05:49:42 PM
I know there is a lot of debate on Hot Side Aeration.

Would like to know your take and experience on this.

Thanks,

-- mark
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: narcout on October 21, 2013, 05:51:14 PM
Mr. Strong,

There are several things I changed about my brewing process after reading Brewing Better Beer: I started brewing with reverse osmosis water, I reduced mineral additions, and I began adding dark grains during the sparge rather than mashing them.

I’ve found that, even using 100% RO water, I can hit my target mash pH without the need to add any alkalinity if I don’t mash the darker grains.  However, a lot of the water adjustment spreadsheets available to homebrewers suggest that bicarbonates are necessary.
 
In your opinion, if the target mash pH can be achieved with a water profile that contains little or no bicarbonates, is there any reason to add them?  Do they have any discernable or beneficial effect on flavor, mouthfeel, etc.?

Thanks for your time,
FH
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: thebottlefarm on October 21, 2013, 05:54:29 PM
Hi Gordon,
I was listening to a recient podcast in which you spoke about first wort hopping adding hop flavor, I was wondering if you'd done any specific experiments that backed those findings, or if it was just your experience brewing recipes with FWH that provided the evidence.

Thanks,
Aaron
 
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: funblock on October 21, 2013, 06:15:43 PM
Gordon,

Has there been any discussion regarding increasing the catagories for sour and wild fermentation beers.    It seems like Belgian Specialty and Catagory 23 are too broad for all of the great beers that can be made with wild yeast and 100% Brett fermentation.

Cheers,

Michael Crane
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: klickitat jim on October 21, 2013, 11:53:58 PM
Gordon
Would the BJCP consider a method of getting good experienced feedback on submitted beers in a non competition format? It seems like it would be a great way for rural brewers to grow their skills and knowledge without having to take up space at a competition. I'm planning to send a couple to a friend who is a judge, but I think this would be great for all of us. Seems like BJCP could make a few bucks in the process.
Jim
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: mankeb on October 22, 2013, 04:30:45 AM
Hi Gordon,

Three questions.

What is your take on the value of decoction mashing especially dark german lagers? Recently I tried a hybrid decoction starting with dough in protein rest at 130F for 20, another infusion to 142F for 40 min then a thick decocotion, rest at 160F, boil 15 and adding to get mash to 158F for 20 min then a thin decoction to mash out, drain then batch sparge. (I'm limited to mashing in a 10 gal cooler.)

Secondly, how long is too long for fermentation? Many suggest going a full month rather than after reaching FG. Does this negatively affect the beer? Would lager yeast differ than ale yeast in this regard?

Lastly, for my hoppy beers, what is the most effective dry hop duration? I read a study that says 1-2 days is all you need.  What dry hop method gives you the best aroma?

Thanks in Advance
Bob Manke -Kansasville WI
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: udubdawg on October 22, 2013, 02:44:25 PM
Gordon,

Has there been any discussion regarding increasing the catagories for sour and wild fermentation beers.    It seems like Belgian Specialty and Catagory 23 are too broad for all of the great beers that can be made with wild yeast and 100% Brett fermentation.

Cheers,

Michael Crane

piggybacking on Mr Crane's excellent questions...
what if any significant changes would you like to see made to the style guidelines?  Any styles in particular that need updating?  Any styles in particular that need to be added?  We know the cider guidelines are getting a much-needed update; anything else?

I keep seeing contests loaded with 16E entries that seem to have more in common with Cat 17, 18, 20, 23 than witbier or BPA.  Any ideas on what you'd like to see done with this category?

cheers--
--Michael
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: coastsidemike on October 23, 2013, 04:10:30 AM
Gordon
Would the BJCP consider a method of getting good experienced feedback on submitted beers in a non competition format? It seems like it would be a great way for rural brewers to grow their skills and knowledge without having to take up space at a competition. I'm planning to send a couple to a friend who is a judge, but I think this would be great for all of us. Seems like BJCP could make a few bucks in the process.
Jim

This one is important for me as well.  The insight I get from people who really know both beer and styles is highly valuable.  I'm not opposed to competitions; I'm looking for ways to get critical feedback. 

Half my recipes are for fun (the house IPAs), but I am trying to land styles with my own recipes to see how well I understand and execute (say a kolsch or pilsner).  It keeps me in check with the learning curve.

Thanks Gordon!
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: wickdawg on October 23, 2013, 02:36:28 PM
Gordon,

What goes into consideration when adding and/or modifying categories to the BJCP guidelines? What is the best kind of feedback from BJCP judges and competition organizers to help with the process of expanding and/or modifying the BJCP guidelines?

Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: denny on October 23, 2013, 03:46:29 PM
So far this looks like a book advertisement disguised as a forum thread.

You'd be wrong there, Carl.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: udubdawg on October 23, 2013, 04:56:59 PM
Gordon, how many judge experience points have ya got?

would "When 900 XP you have, look as good, you will not!" be a close approximation?   ;D
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: jwhancher on October 23, 2013, 06:55:38 PM
Hi Gordon,

As a 3-time Ninkasi winner and the highest ranking BJCP judge, what advice do you have for all those homebrewers looking to go pro?  There's a lot of good homebrew out there these days, but I feel as if a lot of homebrewers are trying to jump in the game before mastering the art and science of the craft.  (Note: business experience is a whole other issue, I'm more curious of your take on the brewing/judging side of things.)

Also, why didn't you ever decide to "take the leap"?

Cheers,
-Jeremy
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: hoodie on October 23, 2013, 07:23:16 PM
Gordon, Your book has been very helpful to my brewing and is one of my go to reference books. With that being said, is there anything in the book that you would change or clarify based on new information or experience? Thanks again.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: punatic on October 24, 2013, 05:32:11 AM
So far this looks like a book advertisement disguised as a forum thread.

You'd be wrong there, Carl.

Right you are Denny.  My bad.  I did not read the entire OP.  Responses will be posted in November.  Lo siento amigo.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: denny on October 24, 2013, 03:37:21 PM
So far this looks like a book advertisement disguised as a forum thread.

You'd be wrong there, Carl.

Right you are Denny.  My bad.  I did not read the entire OP.  Responses will be posted in November.  Lo siento amigo.

Not a problem.  If it appeared like that to you, we need to do a better job of making it clear in the future.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: dsmitch19 on October 24, 2013, 08:34:51 PM
I"ll throw in a few:

For an overall BOS round for a moderately sized competition, say 200-400 entries, do you think all gold medal winners from all 23 beer categories should be included in the final BOS round? I've seen many comps just pick the top 10 highest scoring beers or so, and I think that fails to take into account scoring variation.

How important was becoming a highly ranked judge to improving your brewing?

What has been one of your favorite judging experiences/memories (I'm sure you have many to pick from)?

Thank you,
Dennis

Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: dannyjed on October 24, 2013, 09:32:51 PM
My question is how does a brewer develop great malt aroma in beer? Is it the type of malts used? Is it the brewing process? Is it a water profile? I'm sure the answer is all of the above, but I'm wondering if there is a major factor in overall malt aroma? My lagers tend to have a much better malty flavor than a malty aroma. I use fresh, quality ingredients and have even built my water up from RO, so I'm at a loss.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: superx on October 25, 2013, 02:00:27 PM
It seems that when I brew my favorite recipe, I can have great hop aroma in about 2 weeks of bottle conditioning, but the malt flavors are missing, or I can have a nice roasty malty tasting beer in 4 weeks but the hop aroma is almost non-existent.  How can I get that balanced malty and the nice hop aroma at the same time?  I should note that I bottle condition... would kegging help?
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: dmartich on October 26, 2013, 03:52:42 AM
Hey Gordon,

Pleasure meeting you at the NHC in Philly during the BJCP Tasting Exam, and again at your book signing.  I must say that you were super friendly and approachable, which was a pleasant surprise given your notoriety.

In your book, and you when you talk about your home brewery I cannot help but think that you have a Sabco Brew-Magic setup, is that what you brew on?

BTW, loved your recent "Hop Techniques" podcast on BeerSmith!

Cheers!
Dan
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: irwinben on October 27, 2013, 03:11:46 AM
Are there plans to update the guidelines for IPAs, category 14?  It seems that the style has rapidly evolved, both with alcohol content (triple IPA) and with balance between hops and malt.  The current description includes "the malt backbone will generally support the strong hop character," which is not necessarily the case in the current best and most popular commercial examples.

I recently entered a well-brewed variant of a highly hopped IPA (PTY) that scored 42 in one competition and 28 in another.  The results varied only based on the judge's interpretation of the style, not on flaws in the beer.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: dkfick on October 27, 2013, 11:38:25 PM
Gordon,

What is your general process on the cold side of making a lager?  I have only made 3-4 lagers but none of them have really been up to my standards yet and I am looking for ways to improve.  I have temp control, make large yeast starters, oxygenate my wort alot, etc... I tend to have alot of issues with acetaldehyde the most...  I have tried leaving the beer in primary for many weeks to allow the yeast to clean it up they just don't seem to...

Thanks.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: philm63 on October 28, 2013, 10:36:08 AM
Hi Gordon,

For a spiced ale; is it best to add the spices (tea or tincture or...) to the secondary or are some OK for the boil? I worry about astringency when tossing cinnamon sticks in the kettle. Boiling wood doesn't sound like a good idea to me. What is your take?

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience!

Phil
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: dkfick on October 28, 2013, 01:00:56 PM
Gordon,

When building your water profiles do you fine adding magnesium to be a desirable flavor ion for any styles?
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: mchrispen on October 28, 2013, 08:54:56 PM
Hi Gordon,


Do you feel that competitive brewers and the BJCP have become too exclusive? Do you think more casual brewers have an equal playing field, particularly at the national level? Is there any thinking about restructuring competitions to address the "submit as many beers to as many competitions as possible" game?


Any recommendations on the testing process for BJCP judging? What's do you think is the best place to start?


Thanks, Matt

Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: tsusko on October 28, 2013, 11:45:45 PM
Hi Gordon,

Listened to an interview with you on Beersmith.  Enjoyed it very much!  I had a couple of questions:

* You mentioned that you have a false bottom in your kettle.  Do you prefer whole hops or does your false bottom filter pellet hops as well?

* As a big fan of FWH do you have a preferred variety?

* I had read some tips that you gave in Zymurgy.  You said that one of the ways you can brighten up a finished beer is to add some phosphoric acid to it.  Do you have a target pH range for hoppy beers?  Do you think lower pH helps with flavor and aroma?  How low is too low?

Sorry for all the questions!

Best,
Thom
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: duncan on October 29, 2013, 02:19:50 PM
Thanks to everyone who posted a question for Gordon Strong to consider! The question submission window is now closed, and Gordon will post his answers by 11/11/13. Stay tuned!

Cheers,
Duncan
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 08:06:09 PM
Gordon,

Are there any plans within the BJCP to institute a way for a judges ranking to be keyed to the on going quality of their judging?

I have seen in contests where I was stewarding or participating judges with quite high ranking sometimes make glaring mistakes throughout a flight, not simple disagreeing on a particular entry but misapplying guidelines or making comments to others at the table that they have no sense of smell etc.

I am sure this is a complex proposition and the big focus is increasing the pool of available judges but it seems like maintaining a pool of Quality judges would be even more important to the goals of the organization.

Thanks,
Jonathan Fuller

It's been kicked around a few times before, but nothing was ever workable.  There is currently a proposal under review for an outside party to develop something like this for judges and competitions.  We'll see how it proceeds.

There are several real problems involved with any kind of crowdsourcing app, mostly with making sure the data is actually valid.  If it's used for people to flag people they just don't like regardless of their judging skills, I'm not sure that gains us anything.  It's also not clear what the BJCP would do with such data, if anything, or if it would just be feedback to the judge.

We've looked at scoresheet review systems before, as well as disciplinary systems.  Again, none were really workable, but maybe we should take a new look since technology has changed since that last review about 6 or 7 years ago.

In the meantime, there are certainly other things people could do, such as emailing the judge directly about complaints, or providing them to the competition organizer or BJCP competition director.  Most judges include their email address on scoresheets, but I've heard very few actually say they've ever received feedback.  That would be a good start, IMHO.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 08:11:34 PM
My question is this: what is the fastest/youngest to the National judge level and/or the Master judge level?

I ask because I am usually the youngest person around at any competition in the area at 26 years old. I also have realized that within a little less than a year and a half from my first exam, I had made National. At my current rate, I could be at Master by the beginning of next June. I'm sure someone has done it faster than me or younger than me, but I'm curious.

Cheers!

That's hard to say since the BJCP doesn't track a judge by age, gender, race, or other similar tags.

Anecdotally, I know Kris England made Master when he was 28, so there's a goal for you.  As far as soonest to Master, I took a look at some stats and it looks like the fastest was 431 days.  Points are more available now through more competitions, and they are also processed faster than in the old days.  There are also more study materials available, so that could help some people.  It took me 871 days, and that was the fastest I saw until around 2007 or so.

Master rank in the BJCP is a huge accomplishment since it is earned by less than 2% of judges.  It's a great recognition to receive regardless of age or time.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 08:16:41 PM
Hi Gordon, thanks for the Q&A.

I don't mean to be too generic with my question but as a new homebrewer I ask this when touring breweries and have received some great info.

What is one tip that you would share with a newer homebrewer to improve the quality of their beer?

That is a hard one, since not all new homebrewers will have the same gaps in knowledge or experience.  First one I would say is learn how to manage a fermentation properly; more problems come out of that than any other issue, and the problems are usually more serious.  But it's also a problem I don't see as often as 10 or 15 years ago.

My personal favorite tip is to learn how to evaluate your own beer.  If you can identify problems with your beer, you can correct them more quickly.  If you know what you are trying to produce, you can more readily tell if you hit your goal.  This speeds up the feedback loop incredibly, and lets you learn more from each batch.  So I try to get people to learn how to assess their beer, how to identify specific flaws, and how to recognize beer styles -- all things you need to be a credible beer judge.  Better judges make better brewers, and vice versa.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 08:28:37 PM
I know there is a lot of debate on Hot Side Aeration.

Would like to know your take and experience on this.

Thanks,

-- mark

Personally, I don't know that I've ever seen it in my beer.  I don't know what measurements you'd take to confirm it (dissolved oxygen, perhaps, but few homebrewers are equipped to do that).

But just because I don't know that I've ever seen it, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.  I think you can avoid it through following a few fairly easy practices, obviously trying not to excessively aerate your beer during the brewing process (splashing and such).  Any air you get in your beer has to get driven off when the boil starts, and that tends to increase the chance of boilovers, so why encourage it?  However, I also know that the solubility of oxygen in a liquid decreases as the temperature increases, so I wonder how much of a problem it could be.

So I guess I would say don't worry too much about it, but don't do things that would encourage it.  If you do splash here and there, don't dump the batch... 
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 08:38:49 PM
Mr. Strong,

There are several things I changed about my brewing process after reading Brewing Better Beer: I started brewing with reverse osmosis water, I reduced mineral additions, and I began adding dark grains during the sparge rather than mashing them.

I’ve found that, even using 100% RO water, I can hit my target mash pH without the need to add any alkalinity if I don’t mash the darker grains.  However, a lot of the water adjustment spreadsheets available to homebrewers suggest that bicarbonates are necessary.
 
In your opinion, if the target mash pH can be achieved with a water profile that contains little or no bicarbonates, is there any reason to add them?  Do they have any discernable or beneficial effect on flavor, mouthfeel, etc.?

Thanks for your time,
FH

Glad I was able to help.  If my book helped you rethink and optimize your brewing, then mission accomplished.

Honestly, it sounds like you answered your own question.  If you can hit your target mash pH without adding excessive minerals or chemicals, why would you want to add them?  Spreadsheets are just models, and models can be wrong.  They can also be based on assumptions that are not valid for how you brew.  If you can directly measure your mash pH, then why would you need to have a spreadsheet tell you what to do?  I think water spreadsheets are more valuable when you *can't* hit your mash pH.

Mineral additions will have a flavor impact (as will using low mineral water).  What you prefer is pretty much up to you.  Personally, I detest the flavor of (bi)carbonates in my water and my beer, so I try to avoid them.  Some like the flavor of chlorides or sulfates in some circumstances, but I like to taste the beer.

Think of it like cooking.  If you add some salt to your food, it makes your food taste more like the ingredients.  Unless you add too much, and then it tastes like salt.  In brewing, if you start tasting the minerals more than you taste the beer, I think you've gone too far.  The brewers in Pilsen seem to get away with making decent beer without a bunch of mineral additions, so I don't understand the need to fiddle with your beer so much.

My water is awful for brewing since it has a high level of chalk in it.  I tried to get rid of it several ways, but the easiest for me is to just buy RO water.  I adopted my brewing techniques around that, and they seem to work pretty well for all styles.

If you're trying to make an arbitrary style using an arbitrary water profile, then you're likely to have to use a bunch of mineral or acid additions; a spreadsheet can be handy for that, if it models your brewing process correctly.  But why play that game if you don't have to?
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 08:48:25 PM
Hi Gordon,
I was listening to a recient podcast in which you spoke about first wort hopping adding hop flavor, I was wondering if you'd done any specific experiments that backed those findings, or if it was just your experience brewing recipes with FWH that provided the evidence.

Thanks,
Aaron
 

I haven't done experiments per se, but I have brewed hundreds of batches using different techniques and have my direct observations from those experiences.  When I first read about FWH (late '90s, maybe?), I tried using the technique to confirm what was written.  I kept getting much more flavor than the papers suggested, but no aroma.  I've made batches with nothing but FWH, and I've seen the effects directly.  But no, nothing measured in a lab.

It would be an interesting experiment, provided suitable equipment was available.  I'd love to know how to balance the quantity of FWH vs. flavor hops to get the same output.  My observation is that FWH gives you more flavor than an equal weight of flavor hops added at 10-15 minutes, but I don't know how much more.  That's something I'd love to know.  I think you'd be able to do that with just your own senses, not lab equipment.

I'm looking into whirlpool/steeping additions of hops in the same way now, trying to develop a better characterization for them.  I'm most interested in knowing how my choices of ingredients and techniques influence the final beer so I have a better predictive understanding of the impact of changes before implementing them.

Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 08:50:08 PM
Gordon,

Has there been any discussion regarding increasing the catagories for sour and wild fermentation beers.    It seems like Belgian Specialty and Catagory 23 are too broad for all of the great beers that can be made with wild yeast and 100% Brett fermentation.

Cheers,

Michael Crane

Yes, I expect the next edition of the style guidelines will address this directly.  I share your concern with the structure of the specialty categories at present due to their popularity.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 08:54:15 PM
Gordon
Would the BJCP consider a method of getting good experienced feedback on submitted beers in a non competition format? It seems like it would be a great way for rural brewers to grow their skills and knowledge without having to take up space at a competition. I'm planning to send a couple to a friend who is a judge, but I think this would be great for all of us. Seems like BJCP could make a few bucks in the process.
Jim

As a formal program of the BJCP?  This isn't something we've considered.

We are looking at ways to implement regional training events and other more local functions.  Maybe that could be accomplished at that level.

The problem with the concept as stated is that there is no central BJCP location to send these to.  It's more of a professional association in that regard.  So if you want to set up something with a BJCP judge directly, you might have more luck.  Maybe post something to the BJCP Forum looking for a judging partner.  Kind of like a pen pal, I guess.

I think the BJCP is probably best suited to trying to grow the judge population so that you are more able to find judges in your area to help you directly than to try to set up a centralized system.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 09:11:55 PM
Hi Gordon,

Three questions.

What is your take on the value of decoction mashing especially dark german lagers? Recently I tried a hybrid decoction starting with dough in protein rest at 130F for 20, another infusion to 142F for 40 min then a thick decocotion, rest at 160F, boil 15 and adding to get mash to 158F for 20 min then a thin decoction to mash out, drain then batch sparge. (I'm limited to mashing in a 10 gal cooler.)

Secondly, how long is too long for fermentation? Many suggest going a full month rather than after reaching FG. Does this negatively affect the beer? Would lager yeast differ than ale yeast in this regard?

Lastly, for my hoppy beers, what is the most effective dry hop duration? I read a study that says 1-2 days is all you need.  What dry hop method gives you the best aroma?

Thanks in Advance
Bob Manke -Kansasville WI

(1) I *love* decoction mashing my German lagers, especially the dark ones.  Yes, you can get similar flavors by playing around with your grist, but I generally like the mouthfeel of decocted beers better.  However, I haven't done any blind tastings or other experiments to see if that's something that I believe to be the case, or that is actually true.  I really like decocting my German wheat beers too; there's a definite mouthfeel advantage that I perceive from those beers.

Your decoction technique sounds fairly similar to what I do, except that I can direct fire my mash tun so I don't have to infuse to go from 131 to 145 (my choices for rests), or decoct to mash out.  The main decoction I do is the same as you; while you are resting in the mid 140s, pulling a thick decoction to get to the high 150s.  I think that gives you the most impact for the least time.  It's the basic hochkurz technique I describe in the book.  I try to do a decoction for most German beers whenever I have the time.

(2) How long is too long for fermentation?  When autolysis starts.  That is more a function of temperature and time than just time alone.  Higher temperatures force the yeast to try to be active, and they cannibalize themselves if given the chance.  You can tell this happens when you start getting more of a glutamate flavor in your beer (like adding MSG).  Generally, I don't worry too much about leaving my beers on the yeast unless it's hot.  When the beer drops bright in the primary, fermentation is done and the yeast have flocculated.  Time to rack.  Some yeast take longer than others (some Belgian strains need the extra time to clean up after themselves), and other yeast will drop like a rock (I'm looking at you, 1968).  I don't transfer based on gravity unless I'm trying to do a secondary fermentation or lagering.  I generally wait for it to finish, and then drop bright.  That's for ale yeast.  I don't expect lager yeast to drop bright until lagering is done, and even then they often need help.  I'm more likely to transfer to a secondary when the yeast are still working since it reduces the chance of oxidation.  However, most of my batches just go from primary to keg, so getting them bright is important to me.

(3) Regarding dry hopping, there is a big difference of opinion.  I don't use the technique too often since it tends to make a mess of clarity.  However, when I do it, I try to limit the dry hop contact to 7 days.  Some say that you can go 2 or 3 days; that's probably fine too.  You can also dry hop multiple times, if you want.  I just worry about oxidizing my beer with all that cold side work.  So I tend to go 7 days with all my dry hops.  I think the best aroma comes from a combination of whirlpool hops (steeping at knockout) with dry hops later.  They aren't direct substitutes, but they each give a nice complementary character.  If you want the best aroma, I'd use both techniques.  I think the duration of dry hopping is of secondary importance, as long as you're talking about keeping it under 2 weeks.  Keeping oxygen out of your cold side is critical, so keep that in mind as you execute these techniques.  You can ruin that great fresh hop aroma so quickly with oxygen.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 09:17:36 PM
Gordon,

Has there been any discussion regarding increasing the catagories for sour and wild fermentation beers.    It seems like Belgian Specialty and Catagory 23 are too broad for all of the great beers that can be made with wild yeast and 100% Brett fermentation.

Cheers,

Michael Crane

piggybacking on Mr Crane's excellent questions...
what if any significant changes would you like to see made to the style guidelines?  Any styles in particular that need updating?  Any styles in particular that need to be added?  We know the cider guidelines are getting a much-needed update; anything else?

I keep seeing contests loaded with 16E entries that seem to have more in common with Cat 17, 18, 20, 23 than witbier or BPA.  Any ideas on what you'd like to see done with this category?

cheers--
--Michael

I expect a lot of changes to the style guidelines; this will be a major update with many new styles.  We typically revise the guidelines every 4-5 years, so it's time.  We planned to update them 2 years ago, but held off so we could roll out the new exam program.  There is interest in new styles, several new reference materials are now available, and the BJCP has expanded into other countries. We'd like to make the guidelines more accurate, and better reflect the world's beer styles, not necessarily that which is available in the US market.

Nothing is finalized, but many have been prepared.  Right now, we're looking at things like Australian Sparkling Ale, English Golden Ale, Grodziskie, American Strong Ale, English Strong Ale, Wild Ale, Wheatwine, various Specialty IPAs, Czech Amber and Dark Lagers, etc.  Adding a historical category.  Complete revision of European styles, particularly English, Scottish, and German styles.  We're looking at splitting and combining some styles, and general reorganization.  We're also looking at ways of helping manage the entries in the various specialty categories, so we're looking at what amounts to competition entry categories in addition to proper styles. The cider guidelines are completely done.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 09:21:16 PM
Gordon
Would the BJCP consider a method of getting good experienced feedback on submitted beers in a non competition format? It seems like it would be a great way for rural brewers to grow their skills and knowledge without having to take up space at a competition. I'm planning to send a couple to a friend who is a judge, but I think this would be great for all of us. Seems like BJCP could make a few bucks in the process.
Jim

This one is important for me as well.  The insight I get from people who really know both beer and styles is highly valuable.  I'm not opposed to competitions; I'm looking for ways to get critical feedback. 

Half my recipes are for fun (the house IPAs), but I am trying to land styles with my own recipes to see how well I understand and execute (say a kolsch or pilsner).  It keeps me in check with the learning curve.

Thanks Gordon!

I really do think this type of evaluation is best done at homebrew club meetings or between friends at the enthusiast level.  A competition isn't going to give you this type of feedback.  I'd love to see more of a grassroots solution, like people doing beer trades on the social media beer sites rather than trying to implement a top-down solution.

That said, we're open to ideas.  I'm sure there are good ideas out there that we haven't considered.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 09:29:28 PM
Gordon,

What goes into consideration when adding and/or modifying categories to the BJCP guidelines? What is the best kind of feedback from BJCP judges and competition organizers to help with the process of expanding and/or modifying the BJCP guidelines?

We listen to our members, and we have our direct observations from watching the guidelines in use over the years.  We collect input from the BJCP Forum and other online locations, as well as directly submitted information to the BJCP web site to the style suggestions email.  And we have our own research and understanding from continuing to be involved in the beer world.  So we read new books and have our own data gathered through field research.

I think one of the changes is that we've had many more requests to use the guidelines in other countries, and we need to do a better job of describing the beers styles as they exist in their local markets not necessarily how the beers are when (and if) they reach the US.  We also would like to better address some minor and/or historical styles that have some interest level.  Beers don't need to be currently made to be described in the style guidelines if we have some historical context that can be applied.

I think at this point we've probably heard as much as we need for this round of updates.  Continued posts on the BJCP Forum in the style sections or email to the styles address on the BJCP web site are the best way of passing along information.  We continue to be involved in many competitions a year, so we do get a number of requests directly through conversations.  Believe me, we do listen to all the various things people are saying.  Reconciling the various requests and putting the thoughts together in a coherent format is the tricky bit, though.  We're unlikely to be able to satisfy every possible interested person with any given update, so we can't have that as a goal.  We can only strive to make the guidelines more accurate and complete as time goes on.

Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 09:31:56 PM
Gordon, how many judge experience points have ya got?

would "When 900 XP you have, look as good, you will not!" be a close approximation?   ;D

417 judging points, 1068 total experience points as of today, but I'm going to be judging on Saturday...
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 09:45:06 PM
Hi Gordon,

As a 3-time Ninkasi winner and the highest ranking BJCP judge, what advice do you have for all those homebrewers looking to go pro?  There's a lot of good homebrew out there these days, but I feel as if a lot of homebrewers are trying to jump in the game before mastering the art and science of the craft.  (Note: business experience is a whole other issue, I'm more curious of your take on the brewing/judging side of things.)

Also, why didn't you ever decide to "take the leap"?

Cheers,
-Jeremy

What would I know about going pro?  I just do this for the fun of it  ;)

Understand that brewing on a commercial level is quite different than homebrewing.  Things work a bit differently, and you can kill yourself much easier.  I'd recommend formal study and definitely apprenticing at a quality outfit with someone who knows what they're doing.  I was fortunate to be invited to do a collaboration brew with Andy Tveekrem when he was opening Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland.  Andy had previously been brewmaster at Great Lakes and Dogfish Head, so I was understandably thrilled.  He told me when he was training someone, he spent the first week on safety.  Basically learning how not to die.  Then start understanding how things work.  I knew he was serious when he told me not to wear shorts to brew ("This isn't California").

I see the trend of more craft breweries opening, many of them on a fairly small scale.  I doubt the economic viability of these small outfits, but many of them seem to be having fun.  I obviously would like to see someone be able to make good beer and know what they're doing before trying to do it on a pro scale.  However, the market has a way of weeding out those who are unprepared.

I might have considered doing something professionally if I was 20 years younger.  But brewing is definitely blue collar work.  It's hot and dirty, has odd hours, and doesn't pay well.  If you own the brewery or have multiple locations, then sure, you can make money.  Just be sure you understand what these jobs pay before you take the leap.

So I'm quite happy to keep this as my hobby.  I get to write books, travel the world, consult, brew collaboration beers, and generally have a great time.  I brew beer when I want to brew beer, not because I have to.  I make what I want to drink, not what I have to sell.  I guess at heart, I'm a homebrewer.  And I'm OK with that.  No regrets.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 09:55:24 PM
Gordon, Your book has been very helpful to my brewing and is one of my go to reference books. With that being said, is there anything in the book that you would change or clarify based on new information or experience? Thanks again.

That's a very good question.  There are a few minor errors in the book, mostly in a few recipes (12L crystal malt instead of 120L crystal malt -- those types).

If I could do a second edition, there are two things I would change, clarify or expand.

First is the way I discussed the impact of temperature on pH.  The relationship between temperature and pH is presented correctly, but I got some bad information from pro brewers (and another brewing book) about how they measure pH.  So talking about pH at room temperature vs. mash temperature is not something that should be discussed.  The standard way pH is reported in brewing applications is always at room temperature.  Yes, the pH will be different at a higher temperature (that part is right), but when people give a pH value it's always at room temperature.  Some people seemed to interpret that comment that I was advocating measuring pH at mash temperature -- that's not true.  That can damage some pH meters.  I was merely talking about how the value of pH varies with temperature.  The aspect I wanted to clarify is how that value is discussed, not what it is.

Second thing I'd like to expand is on the hop section.  Some of the material I used in the dry hopping article I wrote for Zymurgy could be seen as an addition.  I also would like to better understand how whirlpool hops work on the homebrew scale.  I'd like to know how time and temperature affect utilization for hops added at knockout and steeped (which is what I call whirlpool hops for homebrewers).  I don't think this is well understood, and I think it is misrepresented in most brewing software.  Steeping hops at knockout will add some IBUs; the value isn't zero.  But quantifying the value and understanding the variables that drive the IBU contribution is something that still needs to be done.

But that's pretty much it.  I think I stand by the rest of the work.  Maybe adding a bit more about hop and yeast varieties that I've come to like.  But I'm currently writing a companion book that is more focused on recipes; I can put some of that information in there.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 07, 2013, 10:08:06 PM
I"ll throw in a few:

For an overall BOS round for a moderately sized competition, say 200-400 entries, do you think all gold medal winners from all 23 beer categories should be included in the final BOS round? I've seen many comps just pick the top 10 highest scoring beers or so, and I think that fails to take into account scoring variation.

How important was becoming a highly ranked judge to improving your brewing?

What has been one of your favorite judging experiences/memories (I'm sure you have many to pick from)?

Thank you,
Dennis

(1) I think every beer that wins a gold medal in a competition entry category should be on the BOS table.  I also want to make it clear that competitions can create their own categories (groupings) for their competition -- you don't have to award medals by the major BJCP style guideline categories.  You can group the subcategories (individual styles) together any way you want, or have them stand alone if they get enough entries.

I would totally reject an approach that went on score alone.  There is just too much variation between flights.  Unless you have the same panel of judges scoring beers in the same seating, scores can't tell you much.

(2) I think judging skill is more important to brewing than a specific rank.  You don't have to be a BJCP judge to have those skills, but doing BJCP work helps hone them.  I definitely think that being able to evaluate your beer makes you a better brewer.

(3) Yeah, that's a toughie.  Having Michael Jackson tell me he liked my beer while he gave me a medal at a Spirit of Belgium competition was a good one.  But I guess my favorite was at the 2008 NHC where Drew Beechum came up to me after he was done judging and said "you have to try our gold medal beer; it's great".  I took a sip, recognized it as mine, and said "I'm familiar with that".  Drew: "$#!+, $&@&, is it too late to change the results?" -- yeah, that was priceless...
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 08, 2013, 11:55:07 AM
My question is how does a brewer develop great malt aroma in beer? Is it the type of malts used? Is it the brewing process? Is it a water profile? I'm sure the answer is all of the above, but I'm wondering if there is a major factor in overall malt aroma? My lagers tend to have a much better malty flavor than a malty aroma. I use fresh, quality ingredients and have even built my water up from RO, so I'm at a loss.

I think you've got the basics.  Fresh malt is important.  Experiment with different maltsters and grain varieties.  I think you tend to get a higher quality malt aroma from some of the English, Belgian, and German maltsters than North American ones, but some are better than others.  You might find you like the Pils malt from one maltster but the Munich malt from another.

If you want to increase the malt aroma and flavor in a beer, you can try swapping out some of the base grain for malt with more aromatics.  Use Munich and Aromatic malt.  Possibly try a no sparge technique.  Don't feel constrained to a "classic" grist from a specific country.  I have no problem throwing German Munich malt into an American pale ale or German Vienna malt into an English barleywine.  You could also blend different grains from the same class to increase the malt complexity (if not the intensity) -- that could be perceived as having a higher malt aroma.  For instance, using Golden Promise along with Maris Otter, or adding some continental Pils malt in with your 2-row.  I like using German Vienna malt in a blend with English Maris Otter in some styles.  It takes some trial and error to find the malts that appeal to you, but when you have them identified, then try some different grists to see how you like the combination.

You could also try decoction, even in styles that don't traditionally use it.  Any time you encourage the Maillard reaction, you're going to get increased malt complexity and richness.  Caramelization is a different process but can also give you those characteristics.  The Scotch ale technique of boiling down first runnings to increase maltiness is something you may want to explore.  Just keep in mind that whatever increases aroma is likely to have a greater impact on flavor.  It's certainly possible to create a beer that's too malty in the balance for a specific style. I've tasted some doppelbocks that have so many Maillard products in them that they kind of taste like beef broth.

I think the water profile has less of an impact than the other factors you listed.  Also keep in mind that oxidation can both help and hurt the malt aroma.  I say it can help because low levels of oxidation can give honey, caramel and fruity notes before you start getting stale and papery qualities.  However, I think you are trading intensity for quality if you go that route.  In general, oxidation can mute and muddy aromatics, so it's best avoided.

The perception of aroma is somewhat temperature dependent as well.  So if you want your beer to have a more malty aroma, you could also serve the beer at a warmer temperature.  Different glassware can also emphasize the aroma, so you could also look into serving your beer in a different glass.

I wish there was something more formulaic for you to follow, but it's really not that easy.  Aroma depends on a large number of factors, so you may need to fiddle around with several aspects of ingredient selection, ingredient handling, brewing, packaging, and serving to get where you want to be.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 08, 2013, 03:52:27 PM
It seems that when I brew my favorite recipe, I can have great hop aroma in about 2 weeks of bottle conditioning, but the malt flavors are missing, or I can have a nice roasty malty tasting beer in 4 weeks but the hop aroma is almost non-existent.  How can I get that balanced malty and the nice hop aroma at the same time?  I should note that I bottle condition... would kegging help?

That's a hard problem to diagnose; it's not something obvious.  Are you talking about repeating the same recipe, or recipes in general?  If it's repeating the same recipe, then all I can say is that you should try for repeatable processes and ingredient selection.  If you're using the same things the same way every time, then you might need to tweak your recipe to get the balance you want.  If you're talking about general variability in brewing, then I'm not sure there's much you can do other than trying to get the same result every time from honing your process and watching your ingredient freshness and quality.

Beers can change during conditioning, and that's usually a good thing.  Some beers require some age to mature properly.  If your beers change during the early weeks of conditioning, do they tend to stabilize after a certain point?  If so, adjust your recipe for the balance you want after it stops changing.  Then remember how long you typically need to condition your beers, and wait until that time passes before sampling them.

Beers can change character at a different rate depending on whether you are warm conditioning them or cold conditioning them.  If you get the beer to where you want it, I recommend moving it to cold storage to try to stabilize it at that state for as long as you can.

I wish there was an easy tip to address your problem, but without some more information it's hard to get to the bottom of it.  I tend to think you probably just need to accept that there will be changes in your beer and try to optimize your recipe for the flavor after it finally does condition.  That's likely to give you the best long term results.  But it means that you have to wait longer to try your beer, unfortunately.  So keep brewing other batches so you always have something ready!
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 08, 2013, 03:56:38 PM
Hey Gordon,

Pleasure meeting you at the NHC in Philly during the BJCP Tasting Exam, and again at your book signing.  I must say that you were super friendly and approachable, which was a pleasant surprise given your notoriety.

In your book, and you when you talk about your home brewery I cannot help but think that you have a Sabco Brew-Magic setup, is that what you brew on?

BTW, loved your recent "Hop Techniques" podcast on BeerSmith!

Cheers!
Dan

Thanks for the compliments.  I'm always happy to meet fellow homebrewers at these events.

I don't have a Sabco Brew Magic system, but it kind of looks similar.  I have a Pico brewing system, which I don't think are made any more.  I met a Sabco rep once that said that Pico got their kegs from Sabco, so that could be it.

I've often thought about getting a new system, but I don't really want to go through the down time of relearning how the new system responds.  I know how to make good beer on my current system, so I keep using it.  I make small upgrades occasionally, but I try to keep changes incremental so I can adjust my processes more easily.  I don't really have a recommendation on a system today since I haven't used them, but there are certainly a lot of solid choices.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 08, 2013, 04:01:56 PM
Are there plans to update the guidelines for IPAs, category 14?  It seems that the style has rapidly evolved, both with alcohol content (triple IPA) and with balance between hops and malt.  The current description includes "the malt backbone will generally support the strong hop character," which is not necessarily the case in the current best and most popular commercial examples.

I recently entered a well-brewed variant of a highly hopped IPA (PTY) that scored 42 in one competition and 28 in another.  The results varied only based on the judge's interpretation of the style, not on flaws in the beer.

Yes, the IPA guidelines will be revised in the next release, as I've mentioned in other responses.  I still think that statement about the malt supporting the hops is true, although some people may interpret it incorrectly.  IPAs shouldn't be rocket fueled hop juice; some malt is needed to balance, but that doesn't mean they should be malt-forward.

Even with changes in the guidelines, you will often see variability in judging.  Some judges will always insert their own opinions rather than allowing for the full range of the style.  That's unfortunate, but about all we can do is make sure the guidelines are correct and try to increase awareness and training.  You can make a wide range of beers called IPA and have them be delicious; no need to assume all of them taste the same.

It's not a new problem, and it isn't isolated to IPAs.  I could tell you stories of the ranges of scores some of my beers have gotten over the years.  You have to accept some of that as part of the game, but yes, we'll try to do our part by making the guidelines more accommodating to modern trends.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 08, 2013, 04:27:43 PM
Gordon,

What is your general process on the cold side of making a lager?  I have only made 3-4 lagers but none of them have really been up to my standards yet and I am looking for ways to improve.  I have temp control, make large yeast starters, oxygenate my wort alot, etc... I tend to have alot of issues with acetaldehyde the most...  I have tried leaving the beer in primary for many weeks to allow the yeast to clean it up they just don't seem to...

Thanks.

Hmm, seems like you're doing the right things.  In general, acetaldehyde says to me that the fermentation is incomplete.  You may wish to use yeast nutrients (I like the Wyeast brand, using the dosage recommendations on the package) to ensure a healthy start.  You didn't mention if you are using different yeast strains.  It could be that you are using some that produce higher levels of acetaldehyde (Budweiser yeast, anyone?).  Maybe you should beechwood-age your beer  ;)   I don't like high sulfur levels in beer, so I try to avoid strains that produce a lot of that character.

According to Kunze, acetaldehyde is increased by: (1) rapid fermentation, (2) temperature increase during fermentation, (3) increased yeast dosage, (4) pressure application during primary fermentation, (5) too little wort aeration, and (6) infected wort.  It is reduced by (1) all measures to promote vigorous secondary fermentation and maturation, (2) a warmer maturation stage, (3) sufficient wort aeration, and (4) increased yeast concentration in the maturation stage.

Assuming your temperature isn't getting too high, I'm guessing you might be overpitching and/or getting too quick a fermentation, based on these.

For a normal strength lager, I typically use a smackpack of Wyeast or make a 1L starter with a vial of White Labs.  I don't go crazy on yeast, but I will often repitch from a normal batch if I'm making a stronger lager.  I oxygenate and pitch with the yeast and wort at the same temperature.  I ferment at about 50F, waiting until it seems pretty well done, then I rack to a keg and lower the temperature slowly until it gets to about 33-34F.  Then I let it hang out for a long time.  I'm more inclined to use the traditional German method of 1 week for every degree Plato of original extract (even though most German breweries only lager for 2-3 weeks nowadays).  Then I fine with gelatin and rack to a serving keg.  I almost never do a diacetyl rest, but I don't tend to pick strains that are big diacetyl producers.  I do taste my beer before lagering, and only do a d-rest if it needs it.  I'm kind of fond of WLP833, Wyeast 2124, and Wyeast 2206 for my lagers.  Lagering at a very cold temperature for a long time and fining the keg do give me better results.  Most off flavors in lagers I taste usually are from rushed processes, or insufficient yeast separation.  Be sure not to crash your temperature too fast, because you want the yeast to continue to work during lagering.  Temperature control helps because you can knock it down a couple degrees a day until it's where you want it.

Hope that helps.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 08, 2013, 04:34:10 PM
Hi Gordon,

For a spiced ale; is it best to add the spices (tea or tincture or...) to the secondary or are some OK for the boil? I worry about astringency when tossing cinnamon sticks in the kettle. Boiling wood doesn't sound like a good idea to me. What is your take?

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience!

Phil

You can do it either way.  I tend to add the spices at the end of the boil and let them steep for awhile (5 or 10 minutes, usually; I put them in a fine mesh bag to make it easier to remove), then do final adjustments through teas once fermentation is complete and I can taste the final balance of the beer.  I don't boil the spices; I just let them steep, like you're making tea.  I keep track of adjustments made post-fermentation so I can revise what I do in the kettle in the next batch.  However, keep in mind that the intensity of spices can vary based on their age, source, and handling, so you may want to keep it on the lighter side and nudge up to your target when you can actually taste the beer.  I don't like the taste of raw spices, so I do like them to see some heat, whether in the kettle at knockout or through making a tea for later adjustment.  I've made a few spiced beers recently (pumpkin pie spiced beer for autumn, and a Chilean-inspired foreign stout with honey, coffee, and smoked chile pepper) and have used these methods successfully.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 08, 2013, 04:36:37 PM
Gordon,

When building your water profiles do you fine adding magnesium to be a desirable flavor ion for any styles?

I tend not to add magnesium to my brewing liquor.  It can be a bit metallic and sour tasting if used too extensively.  I've added some when making a Flanders red, but I keep it very light.

For most styles, I use RO with calcium chloride only.  For a few styles, I will swap in some gypsum.  But that's basically it.  I don't like excessively minerally beers.  Maybe I have Pilsen genes in my lineage...
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 08, 2013, 04:48:14 PM
Hi Gordon,


Do you feel that competitive brewers and the BJCP have become too exclusive? Do you think more casual brewers have an equal playing field, particularly at the national level? Is there any thinking about restructuring competitions to address the "submit as many beers to as many competitions as possible" game?


Any recommendations on the testing process for BJCP judging? What's do you think is the best place to start?


Thanks, Matt

As a reformed competitive brewer, I don't think so.  I don't think either competitive brewers or the BJCP are exclusive.  When I was competing, I wanted to compete against the best brewers.  Excluding people wouldn't help me meet that goal (and is probably one of the reasons I don't enter the NHC any more -- too many limits).  I don't think the BJCP is exclusive at all.  Anyone can take the test and become a judge; it's all based on demonstrated skills and knowledge.

I think there has always been an even playing field.  You could always enter whatever you wanted.  That's about as even as it gets.  Every beer is judged on its own merits.  Someone who makes better beer and more of it is likely to win more awards.  Equal opportunities don't really imply equal outcomes.  I've never been a fan of 'participant' medals; I want them to mean something.

In the modern NHC, I think casual brewers have an even better chance of winning something since brewers are limited in their number of entries.  However, they still need to make great beer to have a chance.  So as long as 'casual' means 'infrequent' and not 'mediocre'...  Quality still matters; it's just the quantity that's being restricted.

I've seen more and more competitions introduce quotas on entries.  As the hobby expands, more people will want to enter competitions.  That often strains traditional competitions, so they have to respond by making it more manageable.  But that's basically a competition-by-competition decision.  No competition should accept more beers than it feels it is able to adequately judge.  Anything else does a disservice to the entrant.  But I don't see the BJCP introducing any limits; there's no way we could understand 400+ competitions better than the people who are running them.

As to the BJCP exam, I think the BJCP Study Guide is a great place to start.  We cover the topics that will be on the exam, and talk about other reading sources.  Secondary reading is great for learning and becoming a more knowledgeable judge and brewer, so I really do recommend that.  But the material on the test is generally covered in the study guide.  A good understanding of the BJCP Style Guidelines is critical, so I would spend more time there than anywhere.  And since the new exam format emphasizes proven tasting skills for new judges, getting practical experience judging with other BJCP judges is pretty important.  You can't really develop a good sense of scoring calibration if you're only judging beers by yourself.  So get out and attend competitions, volunteering to steward and judge, and let those people know that you are training for the exam and that you'd like to be paired with experienced judges who have an interest in educating and training new judges.

Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 08, 2013, 05:04:22 PM
Hi Gordon,

Listened to an interview with you on Beersmith.  Enjoyed it very much!  I had a couple of questions:

* You mentioned that you have a false bottom in your kettle.  Do you prefer whole hops or does your false bottom filter pellet hops as well?

* As a big fan of FWH do you have a preferred variety?

* I had read some tips that you gave in Zymurgy.  You said that one of the ways you can brighten up a finished beer is to add some phosphoric acid to it.  Do you have a target pH range for hoppy beers?  Do you think lower pH helps with flavor and aroma?  How low is too low?

Sorry for all the questions!

Best,
Thom

Glad you liked the podcasts.  Brad has been very kind to invite me on his show several times, so I always like to know people are listening and getting something out of them.

My system has a two-piece (think half moon) slotted copper false bottom that sits on top of a stainless steel stand.  The false bottom has a rim to it, so when put in place, it's kind of like a tray in the bottom of the kettle that is level with the ground.  I think whole hops work best with the system, but I've lately been using all pellet hops to good effect.  As long as I let the wort stand for 20 minutes at the end of the boil and as long as I don't runoff too quickly, I get pretty good clarity.  The false bottom is basically acting like a hopback, so it is able to filter pellet hops fairly well.  But having some whole hops does improve the process.  If I could get all the hop varieties I liked in whole form, and they were always fresh, I'd probably use them.  But I can't, and I don't want to miss out on using some hop varieties that I can only get as pellets.

I will use many different varieties of hops when I FWH.  Basically, anything that I think has a good flavor.  Looking over my last several batches, I've used FWH with Styrian Goldings, Hallertauer, Tettnanger, Willamette, Mosaic, Galaxy, Citra, Centennial, Motueka, Pacific Jade, and Saaz.  And that is just for stuff I've made this fall.  So, I guess I'll use any hop as long as I think it tastes good.

Regarding tweaking a beer with phosphoric acid, I don't normally measure it.  I just do it by taste.  You can overdo it, though.  Adding a little bit can brighten a beer, but too much can make it actually taste acidic or sour, and it gives it a thinner mouthfeel.  I did measure the pH on a few beers when I was first experimenting with it, and there is no specific rule -- it depends on the balance of the beer and the other flavors present.  In general, I think you want to avoid going below around pH 4.1 unless it's a sour beer.  I think it helps with the flavor more than the aroma.  It's something I sometimes try if the beer tastes too dull or heavy, but that's rare.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 08, 2013, 05:05:50 PM
Thanks to everyone who posted a question for Gordon Strong to consider! The question submission window is now closed, and Gordon will post his answers by 11/11/13. Stay tuned!

Cheers,
Duncan

OK, got through them all.  Thanks everyone for the questions.  Hope you got something useful out of the answers.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: duncan on November 08, 2013, 05:38:38 PM
Gordon has completed his answers for this edition of Ask the Experts. I would like to express a huge thank you to Gordon for taking time to answer our questions!

I will keep the thread unlocked for a while to give people the option to discuss any of Gordon's replies, though this is not intended for submitting follow up questions to Gordon.

Thank you to everyone who participated and be sure to share this with your homebrew friends!

Cheers,
Duncan
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: tschmidlin on November 08, 2013, 06:36:54 PM
Thanks Gordon, good read.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: morticaixavier on November 08, 2013, 06:54:52 PM
Thanks Gordon, good read.

+1
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: hoodie on November 08, 2013, 07:15:42 PM
Love this series, look forward to more sessions. Thanks Gordon.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: dkfick on November 08, 2013, 07:46:16 PM
Thanks Gordon.  Maybe I am overpitching in all my lagers.  I usually use a yeast calculator to determine how much to pitch but a 1L starter seems super low.  Though I have ALWAYS made sure to try and pitch a ton of yeast for a lager (since that's what you always hear) so I never have tried it with less... I'll have to give it a go next time.  Thanks again.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: morticaixavier on November 08, 2013, 08:06:07 PM
Thanks Gordon.  Maybe I am overpitching in all my lagers.  I usually use a yeast calculator to determine how much to pitch but a 1L starter seems super low.  Though I have ALWAYS made sure to try and pitch a ton of yeast for a lager (since that's what you always hear) so I never have tried it with less... I'll have to give it a go next time.  Thanks again.

I thought the same thing when I read his answer to that question. Sounds like an experiment is in order.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 08, 2013, 08:46:36 PM
Gordon, I have always heard the acetaldehyde in Bud, and it is even in the BJCP study guides somewhere.

This guy - Mitch Steele - says no, it is very low, but the yeast has apple esters. Go to paragraph that starts with acetaldehyde.

http://hoptripper.com/what-is-quality/


Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: cadillacandy on November 08, 2013, 10:22:34 PM
Gordon
Would the BJCP consider a method of getting good experienced feedback on submitted beers in a non competition format? It seems like it would be a great way for rural brewers to grow their skills and knowledge without having to take up space at a competition. I'm planning to send a couple to a friend who is a judge, but I think this would be great for all of us. Seems like BJCP could make a few bucks in the process.
Jim

This one is important for me as well.  The insight I get from people who really know both beer and styles is highly valuable.  I'm not opposed to competitions; I'm looking for ways to get critical feedback. 

Half my recipes are for fun (the house IPAs), but I am trying to land styles with my own recipes to see how well I understand and execute (say a kolsch or pilsner).  It keeps me in check with the learning curve.

Thanks Gordon!

I really do think this type of evaluation is best done at homebrew club meetings or between friends at the enthusiast level.  A competition isn't going to give you this type of feedback.  I'd love to see more of a grassroots solution, like people doing beer trades on the social media beer sites rather than trying to implement a top-down solution.

That said, we're open to ideas.  I'm sure there are good ideas out there that we haven't considered.

Here's something that I've been working on if anyone is interested - http://onlinebeerscores.com/ - it sounds like it fits Jim's needs.

It was something I built to handle structured feedback for our club using BJCP standards, as well as calibrate palates with commercial examples. It's still a work in progress, but take a look and let me know what you guys think.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: garc_mall on November 09, 2013, 06:02:46 AM
Gordon, I have always heard the acetaldehyde in Bud, and it is even in the BJCP study guides somewhere.

This guy - Mitch Steele - says no, it is very low, but the yeast has apple esters. Go to paragraph that starts with acetaldehyde.

http://hoptripper.com/what-is-quality/

That makes more sense. I have always picked up a slight apply flavor in bud, but wasn't able to place it. doesn't taste like acetaldehyde to me though.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: tschmidlin on November 09, 2013, 08:12:28 AM
Maybe it's ethyl valerate, that smells like green apples too.  It is an ester that can be formed by the reaction of an organic acid with an alcohol, for example valeric acid and ethanol or acetic acid and pentanol.

Or maybe it is not ethyl valerate but something else.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: dbeechum on November 09, 2013, 10:44:13 PM
Drew: "$#!+, $&@&, is it too late to change the results?"

I really should have talked to Janis about that. *sigh*
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: bluesman on November 13, 2013, 05:35:28 PM
Great questions from everyone. Excellent responses from Gordon. Very informative. Thanks!
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: chinaski on November 15, 2013, 04:03:55 PM
One thing I didn't see mentioned regarding getting feedback on beers outside of competitions is to join a brew club and get to know folks who might be able to judge your beer informally.  You can also find a BJCP study group and ask them to score your beer.  Finally, the Brewing Network now has a show called "Dr. Homebrew" that seeks to be an interactive bjcp judging.  As always, be open minded about the feedback if you seek it out.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: ocddot on November 22, 2013, 02:56:40 AM
Hello Gordon,
   Last december (12/5/12)  i made a 17% braggot, its been aging a year in the secondary. Its come time to bottling, and  i really want to bottle condition it. How should i go about it?
   fyi-my friends said to force carb and bottle.

Thanks,

Todd
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 22, 2013, 03:16:57 AM
Hello Gordon,
   Last december (12/5/12)  i made a 17% braggot, its been aging a year in the secondary. Its come time to bottling, and  i really want to bottle condition it. How should i go about it?
   fyi-my friends said to force carb and bottle.

Thanks,

Todd

Sounds like you have smart friends...  Much easier and more predictable than anything else you could do.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: snook32 on November 29, 2013, 02:50:45 AM
The window is now open to ask Gordon Strong questions!
Good evening Gordon,
     Is there a preference with brewers that you know, in regard to adjusting brewing water ph vs monitoring mash ph and directly adjusting the mash. Thanks for your time.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: denny on November 29, 2013, 05:38:10 PM
The window is now open to ask Gordon Strong questions!
Good evening Gordon,
     Is there a preference with brewers that you know, in regard to adjusting brewing water ph vs monitoring mash ph and directly adjusting the mash. Thanks for your time.

Snook, the Q&A period is officially closed now.  But maybe Gordon will pop in and see you question.

Although, I can tell you he'll say mash pH is the key.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 30, 2013, 01:28:33 AM
The window is now open to ask Gordon Strong questions!
Good evening Gordon,
     Is there a preference with brewers that you know, in regard to adjusting brewing water ph vs monitoring mash ph and directly adjusting the mash. Thanks for your time.

Snook, the Q&A period is officially closed now.  But maybe Gordon will pop in and see you question.

Although, I can tell you he'll say mash pH is the key.

Mash pH is the key, but I personally adjust my brewing water to get that.  I use RO water, which makes the whole process really repeatable.  I think it's better to get your brewing process set up so that you never have to adjust your mash pH.  So, just to be clear, I normally hit my RO water with about 1/4 tsp of 10% phosphoric acid per 5 gallons of RO water, which gives me a pH of around 5.5.  I measured that in a lab several times, so I know it's repeatable on my system.  So now I just measure the volume of strike water and the volume of phosphoric and I know I hit my target.  Using that kind of mash water with a pale grain mash settles in the desirable range every time.

But I know this because I measured it several times until I knew that's how it worked on my system with my ingredients.  Verify that it works that way for you and you can do something similar.

So the mash pH is what is ultimately what you want to control, but you tend to do it indirectly by adjusting the strike water pH and using an appropriate grist for that type of water.  You can do it other ways, but it tends to involve spreadsheets and gram scales, and is different for every batch.  My method is repeatable, so I don't worry about those things any more.

I tend to use about 1 tsp of CaCl2 in the mash to give me some available calcium.  That salt doesn't affect the pH like gypsum or chalk does.  If I want to add those flavor ions, I'll tend to do so after the mash is done.  Likewise, I'll add the various dark grains and crystal malts after the mash.  Those grains don't need to be mashed, so you don't need to add them early.  During the vorlauf is fine.  That has other beneficial effects in my experience, but not worrying about mash pH ever is something that I think is a great simplification to my process.

I've brewed about 20 batches this fall, from extremely pale to extremely dark, all basically using the same water, and all tasting great.  Anyone who tells you that you must vary your water chemistry significantly to brew those is making too many assumptions about your brewing process; there are other ways that work just fine.

But don't interpret this advice to mean that "Gordon said that you can ignore water chemistry entirely and brew whatever you want" -- pay attention to the control points that I said were important.  My approach assumes a specific method; if you do something else you might get different results.  Just remember that as long as your mash pH is in a good range and your beer tastes good when you're done, don't worry about it.  I don't.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: Tim Thomssen on November 30, 2013, 01:54:17 AM
Hey Gordon,

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience!

Do you know how many competition medals and BOS awards you have won over the years?

What do you do with all those medals, are they on display or are they tucked away in a rather large box somewhere?

Cheers!

Tim Thomssen
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 30, 2013, 02:29:11 AM
Hey Gordon,

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience!

Do you know how many competition medals and BOS awards you have won over the years?

What do you do with all those medals, are they on display or are they tucked away in a rather large box somewhere?

Cheers!

Tim Thomssen

Medals?  No idea.  BOSs?  18.  Haven't really entered anything since NHC 2010, though.

Medals and ribbons are in a variety of bags in storage.  Nicer awards (plaques) are on a wall.  The Ninkasis are on the wall.  Some of the nicer trophies that are glassware or an actual award are on shelves.  The Utopias bottles are on a shelf too.  My wife let me use our great room for all this stuff.  It has some favorite framed beer posters, like a Belgian Beer poster and a Stille Nacht poster I got at the brewery, also a sweet Anchor Brewing mirror that I won at the 2007 NHC.  That room has a pool table, various bookcases with beer books, a fireplace, a bar, a stereo, etc.  Kind of the home pub without the pub.  All the beer is in the walkin, which is through the adjacent garage door.  Basically, it's the stuff I'd have in my basement if I had a basement.

I'm not allowed to bring home new glassware, t-shirts, or hats.  Special stuff I have to sneak in ;-)
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: HoosierBrew on November 30, 2013, 02:41:34 AM
Gordon,

  Do you have a style or two that you like to brew nowadays more often than others ? 
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: gordonstrong on November 30, 2013, 03:03:39 AM
Gordon,

  Do you have a style or two that you like to brew nowadays more often than others ?

For the last two years, every recipe I've brewed has been a new recipe.  But I think I'm almost done with that project.

But in general, no.  I go through different moods, or I make things based on what ingredients I have around.  I had no interest in making a wheatwine, but I had a big sack of Durst wheat and not much else around, so I thought it would make the biggest dent in it.  Same with hops or yeast.

I like a wide range of styles and have a lot of kegs, so I tend to have a big variety on hand most times.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: someguy on January 24, 2014, 04:58:25 PM
Great discussion !   

Hi Gordon.  I missed the submission window... I'm hoping that you have the time and energy to answer a couple more questions.  I loved your book, btw.

1) When doing a step mash, everyone quotes precise times like "let rest at 135F for 15 minutes".  However, most systems don't step from one temperature to another instantly.    Many take several minutes to go from 135F to 155F, for example. 

What I would like to know is when does one start and stop the timer on a step given that it can take 5 or more minutes to get the mash from one temp to next temp.

2) You state in your book that the enzymes brewers care about are mostly contained in the liquid part of the mash.   You also state that said enzymes will be inhibited if they are heated past sparge out temps, ie 170Fish.   

Given these two statements, how does one then add heat to an LT without damaging the enzymes ?   I am pretty sure that the bottom of a direct fired mash tun is hotter than 170F !  How do you manage heat additions when doing mash steps ?

I'd also like to know what equipment you brew with and how good it is in these regards.  Your book says you bought a 0.5 barrel system from Pico Systems and that you have made changes to it.  I can't find much information on your system on the web.  I'd love to know what you have changed on it and why.

3) You mention several times about heat differences within the mash bed.  You also mention that hot side aeration is not the issue that people think it is.    Given these two statements, have you considered a mash stirrer or continuous circulation of the mash liquids via a pump ?     

I do circulate my mash continuously.  In fact, I circulate even while I am sparging.   Do you think this is a bad practice ?

I cringe every time I pump wort and beer with a pump, thinking that I'm aerating it or somehow damaging it.   Are these fears founded or unfounded ?

I loved your suggestion of chilling the boiled wort in the kettle and letting the trub settle before racking to the primary.   I am going to adopt that practice on my next batch.

If I could make one comment about your book, I wish it had pictures of the equipment you use and more on the journey you went on to get to that point.   A carpenter is only as good as his tools.  I'm not trying to copy your tools, but understanding what you ended up with and why would allow me to focus more attention where I need to.  I know you go into detail on equipment but I found myself wanting to know more specifics, especially since I am in the middle of designing and building a new brew system.

Your book is crammed with great information.  I think you are right on with your all grain versus extract brewing view.  I also agree that Dave Miller's book is great reference for starting brewers.  You've given me a lot to think about.   Thanks for contributing so much to the brewing community. 

Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: someguy on January 25, 2014, 04:43:35 PM
Further to the topic of heat addition to the mash, do you have any views on injecting steam directly into the mash ?
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: jlg4398 on March 06, 2014, 11:10:07 PM
Hello gentleman, I'm a first time brewer in Rushville, IN. I pitched Safale American yeast into my wort then into my 5 gal. fermenting bucket. Twenty-four hours later it began bubbling. After three or four days it has stopped completely. Tomorrow, Mar. 7 is 7th day fermenting. My question is, should I bottle it tomorrow?
I don't have a hydrometer. All advise and suggestions welcomed.
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: morticaixavier on March 06, 2014, 11:53:48 PM
Hello gentleman, I'm a first time brewer in Rushville, IN. I pitched Safale American yeast into my wort then into my 5 gal. fermenting bucket. Twenty-four hours later it began bubbling. After three or four days it has stopped completely. Tomorrow, Mar. 7 is 7th day fermenting. My question is, should I bottle it tomorrow?
I don't have a hydrometer. All advise and suggestions welcomed.

kind of the wrong place for this but the answer is, go get a hydrometer. you just simply can't know if it's ready.

I will say that it's NOT ready to bottle after 7 days. go get a hydrometer and take a reading. then wait another week and take another reading. if they are the same go ahead and bottle if they are not the same wait another week and take another reading. once you get two readings 3-7 days apart that match THEN you will be ready to bottle
Title: Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
Post by: HoosierBrew on March 07, 2014, 01:18:35 AM
+1.  I'm not Gordon, but if you're gonna home brew beer you simply MUST buy a hydrometer. Can't even debate it. A refractometer will read original gravity too, but can be unreliable for final gravity readings because of the alcohol present. A hydrometer is cheaper and more reliable. The only way to know when your beer is really done fermenting is to take 2 or 3 successive hydrometer readings a day or two apart each. If the readings are the same, fermentation is done and you can package the beer. This is pretty much a deal breaker if you're gonna homebrew.