Homebrewers Association | AHA Forum

General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: Kaiser on March 21, 2010, 09:33:30 pm

Title: When is it cheating?
Post by: Kaiser on March 21, 2010, 09:33:30 pm
The "souring fermentation" thread (http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=1718.msg20739;topicseen#msg20739) got me thinking: When is it an acceptable shortcut when when is it cheating?

I assume that everybody will agree that adding lactic acid to sour a beer to taste might be cheating. But what about starting a lactic only fermentation and add the result to the beer to taste? Isn't that also a shortcut that allows you to control the sourness w/o having to control the actual fermentation? Or adding acid malt to the mash which allows you to make a sour beer w/o having to deal with the bugs otherwise needed for that.

How different is this from using specialty malts instead of going through a decoction mash to get the same flavor. And to take it even further, how about adding pure alcohol to a moderately yet high FG beer to create a high alcohol beer w/o having to deal with the fermentation complications of such a beer?

Are there any rules to brewing that would disqualify a Berliner Weisse which was simply a low gravity neutral wheat beer that had lactic acid added?

I think these are interesting questions worth pondering. Beyond the Reinheitsgebot: Where is the line and who decides what's ok and what not.

Kai
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: abraxas on March 21, 2010, 10:28:33 pm
Are there any rules to brewing ....

No.


Maybe for a specific competition, but I have no idea about that.

From my perspective there is no real reason why anything should be right or wrong.  Whatever you do to achieve the flavor you are looking for is ok in my book.  Many of the things we do, like bourbon soaked wood chips in place of a bourbon barrel allow us to get a similar flavor on a practical hobby level.

For many people doing things naturally (or historically accurately) is part of the fun of the hobby.  While making a sake many people add lactic acid instead of using lactobacilli, but for myself part of the fun is understand how to balance the lacto with the yeast.  I also believe that there is probably some other byproducts that will result in a more authentic final product (but I would have to brew one each way to compare).  I would never look down on somebody that just chose to add the lactic acid nor would it affect how I would judge the quality of their product, the only factor that is really important in my eyes.

I think there are a lot of examples of this sort of thing in the hobby of homebrewing.  Water adjustments, hops extract/ pelletization, pure O2 addition...

Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: MrNate on March 21, 2010, 11:11:08 pm
I make it a rule not to tell anyone else how to brew. Well, I try not to anyway. Your beer, your call. Cheating is when you know or have good reasons to believe there are negative consequences to the shortcut you're taking; otherwise, it's just streamlining.

Me, I'm a big fan of old-fashioned things. But I don't drive a horse and buggy. Everyone draws the line somewhere.
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: babalu87 on March 22, 2010, 05:22:56 am
Kai

The Berliner Weisse with Lactic Acid added is going to be sort of one dimensional. Cheating, no but it wont have the flavor profile of the beer that is brewed in a more traditional manner. Its not really about just the sour, there is more to it.

I would think the same holds true for adding alcohol.
For instance, say a Bock was brewed with specialty grains, no decoction and had grain alcohol added to get it to the proper ABV. for a Dopplebock.
I doubt that beer will be anything close to a well brewed Dopplebock that employed a decoction mash, 2 hour boil and a long lagering/maturation schedule.
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: Kaiser on March 22, 2010, 08:25:19 am
Looks like you guys are more relaxed that I am about this. I would even consider adding flavor extracts as taking a shortcut that should be avoided. But then again I don’t make fruit beers, so that issue is moot for me. Arguably, unless you are growing your own grain you are always taking a shortcut.

One of my fellow club members made a good point: It’s only cheating when you lie about it. Meaning that you have to declare your ingredients and the consumer has to make the decision for him or herself. But here in America even Breweries are not required to list ingredients and we don’t disclose them for competitions either.

About  the lactic acid to sour a beer. The result may have less dimensions but I expect it to do better than a poorly brewed beer which used an actual sour fermentation. 

Kai
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: narvin on March 22, 2010, 08:39:32 am
Blending is a part of the world of sour beers, at least in Belgium.  I think people don't just add lactic acid because it's not going to taste very good.  I believe Jeff Sparrow talks about this in "Wild Brews".
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: MrNate on March 22, 2010, 09:00:58 am
It does kind of come down to the implicit contract between the brewer and the consumer. When they're one in the same, there is no cheating. In competition, process should not matter, only results. Without objectively measuring the results of a new process, how are we to know what constitutes a legitimately better technique?

For myself, brewing is a hobby. I brew the way I enjoy brewing. I don't use extract because mashing feels more genuine. I don't do decoction mashes because I'm too lazy. Drawing a hard line as to what constitutes "cheating" is only an exercise in pointless divisiveness. Personally, I can't understand home distillers who risk legal consequences just to produce a sugar-and-water based alcohol when they can buy  a bottle of Diesel for a couple bucks, but hey... do what ye will.

Would my sour mash porter be the same with a simple lactic acid addition? I don't know and I don't care. I like making it they way I make it. That's why I brew.
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: euge on March 22, 2010, 11:54:12 am
There's good practices and bad practices in brewing. Or maybe better described as ill-advised practices. And for the homebrewer the field is wide open as far as I'm concerned. Authenticity vs expediency compounded by method. The homebrewer can make their choices as they see fit.

IMO, adding lactic acid may be expedient and maybe safer but it isn't authentic. Doesn't matter on our scale but the brewer shouldn't represent it as historical or representative of authenticity either to the public. I have my doubts about this on the competitive side as well.

euge
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: denny on March 22, 2010, 12:16:49 pm
AFAIC, since we're homebrewers, we each have our own goals and practices to achieve those goals.  What might be "cheating" to one person is standard practice for another.  An example....we have a lot of great brewers on our club, but there's one guy who consistently blows everybody else away.  When we had a club comp for lagers, he entered a lager that had just come out of primary.  It was incredible and easily won the comp.  People started shouting foul because it hadn't been lagered.  From my point of view, if he achieved the desired results, who cares?
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: euge on March 22, 2010, 12:28:15 pm
I'd love to know what this guy's secret is.

All sorts of ideas going through my head. Doesn't the Widmer Brewery produce lagers in only a few days as well?
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: denny on March 22, 2010, 12:48:35 pm
Does Widmer even make lagers??

We'd all like to know his secret.  No doubt it has something to do with years of experience and the right equipment.
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: euge on March 22, 2010, 01:05:00 pm
And the magic dust he sprinkles on everything... :)
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: babalu87 on March 22, 2010, 01:07:44 pm
Not to thread jack but didnt Jamil say somewhere (BYO........?) that Old Rasputin Imperial Stout is less than a month old when it hits the shelves?

Mine was still in the primary at 3 weeks.........................one thing homebrewers all have though is time.
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: nicneufeld on March 22, 2010, 01:17:10 pm
I'll tell ya when its cheating...when I get lazy and rack a cider straight into a just emptied keg (also that had cider) without cleaning it or sanitizing it.  Used the same yeast, kept at fridge temps, we'll see if my laziness gives me vinegar, I'll deserve it if so!  :D

Seriously, I've done a lot of wild and wacky stuff as a homebrewer that I consider very, very unauthentic, but occasionally interesting.  I like authenticity but I like experimenting too.  The rules change, of course, when you start selling and marketing a beer, or when you enter into contests judged by guidelines.  But if you and the mooches who drink your beer are all you have to please, do whatever you want to do to get your beer tasting good.  Look at the Aussies with their BIAB methods, and Sam Calagione and his...well...creative recipe formulations.  Remember that centuries ago all the wacky things those Flemish blokes did was probably considered VERY inauthentic, right? 

"What, Henrik?  You are putting that sack of sour cherries in our ale?  What new madness is this?"
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: majorvices on March 22, 2010, 01:26:14 pm
FTR in the afore mentioned thread I never said that adding lactic acid to the beer to sour it was cheating. I just said you can't achieve the same affect as adding bugs. There are a lot more things going on in a sour beer fermentation than just lacto.

That said, if you can get the desired effect by just adding acids, sure - do it! I'm highly skeptical it will stand up to a good soured beer, though.
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: Kaiser on March 22, 2010, 01:47:13 pm
An example....we have a lot of great brewers on our club, but there's one guy who consistently blows everybody else away.  When we had a club comp for lagers, he entered a lager that had just come out of primary.  It was incredible and easily won the comp.  People started shouting foul because it hadn't been lagered.  From my point of view, if he achieved the desired results, who cares?

I have a Maibock that has been sitting in a corny at 54-58 F for about a month now. First I was hoping the gravity would drop a bit more and now I have just been waiting to grow up a more attenuative yeast to add. The beer has not been “lagered” yet but aside from being a bit sweeter than I’d like it to be it tastes good. There is not secret to brewing a good lager w/o lagering it: the better you brew it the less time it needs for aging out flaws or smoothen out the flavors. Many big lager breweries can brew a lager in as little as 21 days. For some the cold conditioning, which we tend to call lagering, might be as short as 2 days.

Keith, I added the cheating part since I was not all that serious about adding lactic acid instead of souring the beer with a more natural approach.

Kai
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: glitterbug on March 22, 2010, 02:17:12 pm
Beyond the Reinheitsgebot: Where is the line and who decides what's ok and what not.

Kai

The "judge" decides what is cheating or not
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: BrewArk on March 22, 2010, 11:34:36 pm
If I brew my own beer.  Drink my own beer.  Don't enter competitions.  Am I still cheating?   ;)  Heck, this is 'merica,  we don't even have a Reinheitsgibberish.  If you take a short cut & use lactic acid is that different than using malt syrup instead of grain?

If someone is misrepresenting what they've done, they're cheating.  If they want to buy a commercial beer and put their own cap & label on it, and win a competition - enjoy the ribbon.  Hey, it's their eternal soul that'll pay the price not mine.
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: sienabrewer on March 23, 2010, 01:20:49 pm
I think that the idea of cheating should only come into issue in brewing when there is something to be gained from it, i.e a competition medal, cash or gift prize, etc.  He is an example to demonstrate my point.  Two people enter an identical style beer into a competition.  Part of the judging process is on the appearance and lasting effect of a good head.  Person A adds nothing and person B adds a heading agent (that actually works).  Naturally he should disclose that added ingredient because he is entering something artificial to intentionally make his product superior.  If he does not disclose it, that would be cheating. 

If someone is brewing for their own consumption and has nothing to gain, in my opinion there can be no such thing as cheating.  For me cheating comes in to play when you try to gain something of value and do not disclose whatever it is you have done so you can be judged on the same playing field as everyone else. 
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: bluesman on March 23, 2010, 02:24:13 pm
Beyond the Reinheitsgebot: Where is the line and who decides what's ok and what not.

Kai

The "judge" decides what is cheating or not

+1

Cheating is an act of lying, deception, fraud, trickery, imposture, or imposition. Cheating characteristically is employed to create an unfair advantage, usually in one's own interest, and often at the expense of others, Cheating implies the breaking of rules.

and as far as adding lactic acid goes...if it's not against the rules... it's not cheating. Adding lactic acid will definitely save time and may not meet one's own standards but again if it doesn't break any comp rules, it's simply not cheating.

Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: denny on March 23, 2010, 02:27:38 pm
I don't think that even adding a heading agent would be cheating.  If that's cheating, where do we stop banning ingredients?  Is carapils cheating?  Is Irish moss cheating?  Who's to say what ingredients are allowable and which aren't?  It's what's in the glass that counts to the judges, as long as it's produced by the brewer who entered it.  Not to open a can of worms, but this kinda is related to the controversy about Gordon Strong blending beers when he won the Ninkasi.  A lot of people saw that as cheating.  AFAIAC, he brewed all the beers and he had the skill to put them together to make winning beers.  No cheating.
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: dbeechum on March 23, 2010, 02:32:46 pm
I blame the Germans for a lot of this attitude. :)

Seriously, it's only cheating if you're trying to sell people on the idea that you did everything the old timey way with no futzing.

Having said that, yes I have an affinity for things done the old timey way. I tend to admire the extra skill needed to pull some of those things off.
 

Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: bluesman on March 23, 2010, 03:10:32 pm

Having said that, yes I have an affinity for things done the old timey way. I tend to admire the extra skill needed to pull some of those things off.
 

+1

A general rule of thumb is .....Work in = Work out 

I would wager to say by and large that the person who takes the time without shortcuts to get the job done will win in the end. Not in every case but more often than not, in my experience an all-grain Pilsner will be better than an extract Pilsner beer (assuming equally skilled brewers).

Are shortcuts cheating...IMO not necessarily but typically they're a tradeoff for quality.  ;)



Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: drawks on March 23, 2010, 05:54:37 pm
Two people enter an identical style beer into a competition.  Part of the judging process is on the appearance and lasting effect of a good head.  Person A adds nothing and person B adds a heading agent (that actually works).  Naturally he should disclose that added ingredient because he is entering something artificial to intentionally make his product superior.  If he does not disclose it, that would be cheating. 

I don't know if you personally enter comps, but having just entered the NHC I'd like to point out that you are specifically instructed to not include your recipe with your entry. Some BJCP categories specifically state that you should include for instance whether you used rye or wheat as it affects the judging criteria. You do however have to agree to release the recipe if you win and you have to also give permission to potentially have your recipe published. But both of those disclosures happen AFTER judging. It seems like there is no such thing as a lie of omission as far as ingredients when competing in NHC...

Each comp has its own rules, but as long as you play by the word of the rules it isn't cheating. If you do something which violates the "spirit" of the rules then it is on the comp organizers to adjust the rules to reflect that. You see this in professional sorts all the time; the NFL usually implements a dozen or more rule adjustments at the beginning of each season for this exact reason.
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: bonjour on March 23, 2010, 08:19:18 pm
I missed that about Gordon, but awesome that he has the ability to use the traditional art of blending to assist in making beer.  If that is cheating than so are many belgian beers, new castle, and Guiness.

I would be cheating to enter a beer made with modern techniques when the contest specifies that only historical methods are to be used to brew the beer.   

Any method the brewer uses to meet his intended profile for the beer is legit. 

Fred

PS, anyone that hasn't voted for the GC, please do so.
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: 1vertical on March 23, 2010, 11:19:19 pm
OMG, when I was learning what a Belgian beer was, I actually put a half teaspoon of
balsamic vinegar in a glass of Shiner Bock....I  cheated....please don't tell anyone.  ::)
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: redbeerman on March 24, 2010, 08:25:56 am
Not to go on about blending or anything, but in my opinion, if you are willing to put in the time and effort to make all the beers and experiment with blending and the results, you are putting in way more work than someone who brews in a single pass.  I have blended one beer in the past.  It was a special bitter, that seemed to be missing something. I added a little bit of wee heavy to it and it improved it (to my tastes anyway) quite a bit.  The addition of lactic acid is similar in my book, YMMV.
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: Kaiser on March 24, 2010, 09:11:05 am
I remember that I too blended beers for a competition once. I took my Maibock and blended it with a Helles to make an Oktoberfest beer (the more contemporary kind). By doing this I got 3 entries out of 2 batches. The judges didn’t like the Oktoberfest too much. I guess they expected the more traditional Maerzen style.

Kai

Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: nicneufeld on March 24, 2010, 02:38:16 pm
I remember that I too blended beers for a competition once. I took my Maibock and blended it with a Helles to make an Oktoberfest beer (the more contemporary kind).

I have to say the idea of a maibock blended with helles sounds like a wonderful beer for cool spring weather.  If I had enough space in a lagering fridge I'd want to try this! 

The first books I read on brewing were Charlie Papazians main two books, so from the get go I've been of the wild experimentation model of homebrewer myself.  Blending of beers is an interesting thing for me...I'd even be interested in blending cider with beer, cider with mead, mead with beer, etc.
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: bluesman on March 24, 2010, 03:17:28 pm
I remember that I too blended beers for a competition once. I took my Maibock and blended it with a Helles to make an Oktoberfest beer (the more contemporary kind).

I have to say the idea of a maibock blended with helles sounds like a wonderful beer for cool spring weather.  If I had enough space in a lagering fridge I'd want to try this! 

The first books I read on brewing were Charlie Papazians main two books, so from the get go I've been of the wild experimentation model of homebrewer myself.  Blending of beers is an interesting thing for me...I'd even be interested in blending cider with beer, cider with mead, mead with beer, etc.


+1

While we're on the topic of blending. I like to blend my Pilsner and my Bock. What a great combo! I should just blend the recipes to make a great beer. What do you think Kai ?
Title: Re: When is it cheating?
Post by: 1vertical on March 24, 2010, 10:39:24 pm
I think blending is accomplished easily with a graduated cylinder and a couple
source beers and a couple glasses.....that way, you get the basis for a ratio and can reproduce
your results if you hit on something you like.   ;D