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Topics - tomsawyer

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General Homebrew Discussion / BJCP Exam Question
« on: December 08, 2011, 09:52:41 PM »
I passed the exam last year and got a Recognized overall, but my written was good enough for certified (barely, 70).  I had no experience tasting/judging beers when I took the test.  Now I've judged some contests and have a bette idea of how things go.

My question is, with the changes that have (or are going to?) occur, how would I go about retaking the tasting portion of the test to get to the next level of Certified?

General Homebrew Discussion / First Time Judging Specialty Category
« on: December 07, 2011, 08:50:21 PM »
I haven't judged this category before, and in reading the guidelines it seems like I'll be providing a mostly hedonistic impression with the only potential guiding factor being if they specify a base beer style that is then modified.  Any advice for me going into this?

Yeast and Fermentation / Re-using Yeast for Starters
« on: December 05, 2011, 09:15:06 PM »
I generally use a yeast for several generations, and keep yeast cake in 8oz sterilized jelly jars.  I should also mention I brew 3gal batches for the most part.  Typically I'll pitch these into 1L of starter wort the day before (or sometimes the day of) brewing.  i think it gets the yeast revved up before pitching them into the abyss of a 3gal batch of wort.

My question is, should I be adding less of my yeast cake to a starter in order to get some new growth?  Am I even getting a doubling of cell number with a heavy pitch like this?

Yeast and Fermentation / WLP510 Bastogne Yeast for Witbier?
« on: December 05, 2011, 09:09:20 PM »
I got this platinum strain not too long ago and so far have only used it to brew a nice Belgian pale ale.  My wife likes witbier and I was thinking of brewing one with this yeast.  Would it come out anything like a wit made with the conventional WLP400?  I have a really nice wit recipe.

Yeast and Fermentation / Telling Two British Yeasts Apart?
« on: November 14, 2011, 07:59:09 PM »
I have been using West Yorkshire for the last year for my bitters, its been a very nice yeast to work with.  Recently I obtained and used a Bedford ale yeast.  My problem is that I kept poor notes recently and don't recall which yeast cake is which.  How might one tell the two apart?  I know the West Yorkshire didn't throw a lot of esters, whereas the Bedford is supposed to have a distinctive ester profile which I take to mean is fairly fruity?

General Homebrew Discussion / Big Beer With WLP300?
« on: November 12, 2011, 05:15:10 AM »
For fun this evening and in honor of it being 11/11/11, I brewed a 1.111 OG weizenbock style beer.  I added a generous amount of yeast nutrient, and will aerate well prior to pitching.  I have a fresh cake of WLP300 to pitch, but I'm wondering if this yeast is up to the challenge.  I looked on the White Labs site and it only says the yeast has "medium alcohol tolerance".  I couldn't find what this means numerically.  I can always dilute the wort down to a more fermentable OG if its necesary, something like 1.090 which is the upper limit of the weizenbock style anyway.  Anyone have any idea if this is going to work as brewed?  I used some sugar in the recipe so it'd have a chance to finish in the 1.025 range.

It was fun to brew, I don't brew many big beers and the recipe came out about like I expected.  I counted on 70% efficiency from the grist and hit that on the head.

General Homebrew Discussion / Judging and Offering Fixes for Flaws
« on: October 14, 2011, 01:37:23 PM »
This issue/point of discussion came up in another forum.  The poster said that they did not like getting adivce on how to fix the flaws that were detected in an entry.  At first I thought it was an odd comment but I've already run across several situations where you are limited as far as advice since you really know nothing of the brewer's basic process, namely extract vs AG.  How do judges approach this?  I know you can add body using specialty grains or adjuncts, or you can increase mash temp if doing AG or partial mash.  Do you need to be adding this to a critique?  Aren't we supposed to be offering such advice as part of a routine critique or am I mistaken?  I told the person it was as much to prove that the judge had some knowledge of brewing and that would instill confidence in the reviewee, rather than giving real direction in ways to improve.

I already try to avoid things like adding "add more bittering hops" to a comment on low perceived bitterness, as that is stating the obvious.

Events / Soulard Oktoberfest 2011
« on: October 10, 2011, 12:26:15 PM »
Went to my first Ofest in Soulard (St Louis) yesterday, had a great time.  Took the family and some friends, we ate good German food (Schnitzel, spaetzle, brats) and listened/danced to Oompah in a couple of tents and another more Cajun style band that was excellent.  Weather was warm, beer was cold, and the St Louis Brews club was handing out free samples of homebrew.  I had a couple of different weizens and a kolsch, all tasty.  I think they said they went through over 80 cornies in two days.  The security people said it was much busier on Saturday, I was happy with the lighter more laid back crowd.

General Homebrew Discussion / Timing of Diacetyl Rest
« on: October 04, 2011, 01:49:54 PM »
I have been letting my lagers sit in primary for 3-4 weeks at 50F before pulling the fermentor out for a few days at 60+ for a diacetyl rest.  There is generally no activity from the airlock at this point and things are settled out pretty well.

I've become concerned that my letting things sit around in a Better Bottle or bucket for that long is contributing a certain amount of oxidation.  I'm also leery of making a beer with a lot of diacetyl, so I'm conflicted about how to proceed.  My own sense tells me that it might be better to start the diacetyl rest towards the end of active fermentation rather than one to two weeks later.  This will presumably let more active yeast clean up the diacetyl and speed up the process so I don't have beer sitting around with little CO2 to protect it (in primary).

Any advice?

General Homebrew Discussion / Off-Beat Homebrew Contest
« on: October 01, 2011, 01:53:24 AM »
I've volunteered to judge a small homebrew contest tomorrow.  As it turns out the format is kind of unusual.  The entrants are supposed to supply 3gal, and after the judging takes place they are going to open up to the public for tasting.  I didn't know this until today.  As it so happens I'm the only BJCP judge at the event.  I told the guy not to worry, to get me a few volunteer judges and together we'd knock out the 25 or so entries in the morning.

The coordinator was stressing because he was under the impression that a BJCP contest had to follow some specific protocol, and he was relieved when I told him we'd just wing it.  I'm not going to worry too much about it.  I'm not entering the contest, but am bringing a couple bottles of ten different beers for the tasting, including my latest helles that turned out quite well.

Are there a lot of contests that march to their own drummer when it comes to format?

General Homebrew Discussion / Bottle Condition Before Lagering?
« on: September 20, 2011, 12:29:55 PM »
Lets say I'm brewing a lager and want to bottle condition.  It seems to me that bottling after primary and letting it condition and do a diacetyl rest at say 65F for a week or so prior to lagering would be more efficient than lagering, then bottling and waiting for it to carb and the yeast to drop again.  Is there a preference here, or a problem with doing it this way?  Other than bottles being a little less space-efficient in the lagering fridge?

Homebrewer Bios / Lennie Rosenkrans for Mayor
« on: September 16, 2011, 07:49:13 PM »
My name is Lennie Rosenkrans, aka tom sawyer on the AHA brewing forum.  I am a native son of, and currently reside in Hannibal MO.  I’m a biochemist by training, work at a cement plant for funds, but I live to ferment.  I’ve been brewing for something like a dozen years, cranking out many mediocre batches of extract brew at high fermentation temperatures in my early career, followed by a brief hiatus and then the more recent run of good AG brews done the right way.  Mark Twain himself would be proud of my beer, even as he sued me for copyright infringement on the sawyer monicker.

I am the founder and self-appointed Supreme Commander of the Hannibal Area Homebrewers Association, or HAHA.  Our motto is, “What the helles are you laughing at?”  OK not really.  We started as a dedicated group of four brewers, several Irish folk musicians and a few innocent bystanders, with some overlap between subsets such that there were around eight of us at most.  Since then our ranks have swelled to six brewers, a rotation of talent within the Irish folk band and the innocent bystanders are no longer innocent.  We might add up to a dozen at this point.  Meetings include music, good food and usually a demonstration of some sort.  Last meeting the demo was nude belly dancing.  OK not really.

I brew small batches so that I have a chance to brew often and still keep up on consumption.  I try, in fact I NEED to brew on a weekly basis.  It’s a sickness, as many of you can attest.  I brew all-grain using a Dennybrew cooler MLT and the patent-pending batch sparge method.  I’m currently delving into no-sparge and step mashes, and this year I’ve pledged to use mostly domestic base malts to see for myself what this country has to offer.  My friends and I procure bulk supplies from St Louis.  Shout out to Kent at MO Malting.  We turn every pickup into an impromptu tasting, last time we tasted fourteen different beers (we brought twelve).  So far our record is 420lb of malt in the Prius with plenty of room to spare.  Still got 48mpg for the entire 200-mile round trip.  But I digress.

My house brews are Best Bitter rotated with APA for me, and a variety of wheat beers for the wife.  I also do a lot of wild brews and have an 11gal barrel full of Flanders Red that I pull from every six months, solera-style.  Good stuff, getting better all the time.  I brew lots of different styles and will have at least ten on hand at any given point in time.  I also make wine and have around 1200 bottles of various kit, fruit and fresh grape wines in the basement, along with three small barrels for aging wine.  Makes it difficult to decide what to have at the cocktail hour.  Its beer for me, two days out of three.

  I really don’t have any favorite malts or hops per se, they all have their places.  I also don’t have favorite recipes.  I just work off the style guidelines and create variations on the theme.  I keep records and have a binder full of recipes, but I rarely look back once the beer is consumed.  Nor do I name my beers, other than the general style and date of birth.  This is just a general philosophical deal, even my pets’ names are Dog #1, Dog #2 and TC (short for The Cat).  OK not really.  What I do love is variety.  They say it’s the spice of life you know.  When it comes to variety, my brewing is a veritable habanero.  Although I’ve never brewed a pepper beer, hmm…

I became a Recognized BJCP judge last year.  Sounds fancy until you find out its the lowest rank you can get without flunking out.  My aim was to find out how much I knew about brewing.  I know a lot about brewing, just not so much about judging.  Someday I’ll try again, Grand Master is within reach.  OK not really.  Certified is a distinct possibility though.  To practice up I’ve been judging some contests and have met many excellent brewers and cool people in the process.  No overlap of subsets there (just kidding.)  I even entered some brews and won a couple of medals.  Who knew they had a category for Worst of Show.  My wife comes along and she’s become an awesome stewardess.  Her job as a high school science teacher means she has great organizational skills and the ability to keep a bunch of unruly kids in line, exactly what’s needed at your average homebrew contest.  You know who you are.

In any case, I would like to nominate myself to be homebrewer of the decade, but I’ll settle for HOTW.  Yes I am shameless.  No, really.

All Grain Brewing / Rahr Old World Pils Is Bohemian Pils
« on: September 12, 2011, 02:44:22 PM »
I had asked about this malt some time ago on another site and got no feedback. I searched the web and found no info either, Rahr has almost no data on their individual products. I suppose they are selling mostly to breweries and they deal with these guys directly. In any case, I had purchased a sack of this stuff and gave it a whirl yesterday in a Belgian pale ale. On a hunch I assumed the "Old World" meant it might be less well-modified than a normal malt, so I did a protein rest and then stepped up and did a long, 90min sacch rest at 150F. I got usual efficiency with this program so I was satisfied that I'd at least gotten good conversion.

In any case I was still curious so this morning I called Rahr and they sent me to Brewers Supply Group and I eventually talked with someone who gave me the scoop. This malt is made from Moravian barley and is less well modified as I suspected. Basically its the domestic equivalent of a Bohemian pils. I'm actually glad I made the selection, since I do enjoy a German lager.

Beer Travel / Limestone Brewing? Plainfield IL, Chicago burbs
« on: August 12, 2011, 02:39:13 AM »
Anybody have experience with this place?  I'm heading to Minooka in the morning to visit relatives and wanted to try a new brewpub tomorrow night, this one is fairly close and seems to have a decent beer menu.

General Homebrew Discussion / Non-Belgian Uses for Belgian Candi Syrups
« on: August 02, 2011, 03:52:09 PM »
I have a full range of candi syrups (purchased from, including clear, amber, D1 and D2. The thing is, I'm kind of burnt out on dubbel, I've never been a big fan of tripel, dark strong or golden strong.  In short, the only Belgian beers I'm currently fond of are Flanders red and lambic/kriek. I've used some of the dark syrups in my Flanders reds, but you can only brew so much of that.  I have 16gal going plus at least 5gal bottled. Thats enough.

So my question is, what can I use these syrups for? Don't say pancakes, and I already tried some amber on vanilla ice cream and it was just so-so. I put a little amber in my most recent best bitter, its still fermenting so I don't know how that will come out. My hope was to give it some caramel flavor that would complement the biscuity malt of the Maris Otter. Otherwise, I'm thinking the darker stuff will work in a brown ale or porter, and the clear syrup might work in a CAP.

Suggestions?  Recipes?

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