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Messages - dmtaylor

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General Homebrew Discussion / Re: specific gravity questions
« on: July 27, 2010, 12:10:14 PM »
You are very lucky.  Exploding bottles aren't just messy -- they are dangerous.  I thought for sure you had bombs on your hands.  If you are already experiencing full carbonation, you need to get every single bottle into the refrigerator RIGHT NOW, TODAY to prevent them from becoming bombs in the next week or two.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Beer Recipes / Re: 1776 Porter from Radical Brewing
« on: July 26, 2010, 03:08:00 PM »
I'm betting that it would convert just fine.  Just mash for 75 to 90 minutes, or even longer, if you are concerned.  And even if it doesn't convert as well as you might hope... do you think the people in 1776 knew what the word "conversion" even meant?  Nah... they just threw it in there and hoped for the best.  Right??

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: WLP 820 rate of Fermentation?
« on: July 26, 2010, 12:23:31 PM »
"Yeast energizer" should do the trick.  It has saved many batches for me.  This is not exactly the same thing as "yeast nutrient".  Look for the energizer.  It takes a long time to ferment out, but it is very likely to help.

Beer Recipes / Re: American Rye?
« on: July 26, 2010, 12:20:33 PM »
Looks really good -- go for it, you'll love it.

In my American rye, I used 40% rye malt.  I also added just a hint of honey malt and honey.  The result was very thick, almost syrupy, and had an enormous head on it, both of which came as a pleasant surprise to me.  It was one of the best beers I have ever made.  I need to make it again soon.

Beer Recipes / Re: Balancing a recipe
« on: July 22, 2010, 11:26:10 PM »

Extract/Partial Mash Brewing / Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« on: July 22, 2010, 11:22:56 PM »
Good God... I think about 99.9% of homebrewers would like the same answers to the same questions.  Myself included.  I think it's just an iterative process.  Keep on researching what you can do to improve, and then do it.  Over the years, your beers WILL get better and better if you learn from all the feedback from contests and from reading a lot.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Splitting a yeast starter
« on: July 22, 2010, 11:20:11 PM »
Hell yeah!  Do it.

Ingredients / Re: Home grown Cascade
« on: July 21, 2010, 10:07:43 PM »
Last month I made 3 gallons of IPA with 4.1 ounces of homegrown Cascades (from 2009), all hopbursted at 16 minutes left to boil.  This was my first hopbursted beer and it turned out fantastic -- I couldn't have asked for any better.  The bitterness is just about exactly what I expected, maybe just barely on the lower end but that sure doesn't bother a malt-head like me.  I still get plenty of hop aroma and flavor, as well as a smooth but firm bitterness.  As you'd expect, I get a lot of grapefruit from mine.  Not anything I would really consider tropical.  Who knows -- perhaps if I had used these back in 2009 when they were still fresh, the result might be a lot different.  But even after a year of aging, I am still very pleased with the result.  Vacuum packing and refrigeration obviously works very well in preserving hop character, including alpha acids.

Regarding differences in flavors from standard expectations, besides aging, I bet it also makes a considerable difference where the hops are grown.  I'm in Wisconsin, a good 150 miles or so northeast of Gorst Valley, for whatever that is worth (probably nothing).  But what I can tell you is that based on my own hop plants, it seems that we in Wisconsin are lucky in that our hops are always very much duplicative to what is commercially available, i.e., my Cascades taste very much like they could have come from Cascadia, and my Hallertauers are as spicy and herbal or better as what you'd expect from old world Germany.  But the same rhizomes grown in other locations or continents might not end up anywhere close to the same expectations.  I haven't tried them yet, but for example, it has been said that the Argentinian Cascades are quite different from the Pacific Northwest.  Same definitely holds true for English vs. American Goldings, American vs. German Northern Brewer, etc.

I think you guys might be picking up the ever infamous "extract twang".  Even if you brew everything perfectly, it's very hard to get rid of completely.  There are a number of factors that I believe contribute to the twang.  First is the freshness of the extract.  Regardless of whether it's your own fault or the suppliers, if the extract is not very very fresh, it can oxidize, which gives off an unpleasant sort of caramelly aroma and flavor.  This also can darken the extract.  If your beer turns out a lot darker than anticipated, this is an obvious indicator of old extract.  Also, if you do not pitch sufficient yeast, or you ferment too warm, there can be a lot of esters similar to banana and apple, which are also not quite right and can contribute as part of this "extract twang".  For whatever reason, extract beers are much more prone to these off-flavors and aromas as compared to partial mash or all-grain brewing.

At least, that has been my experience.  I've brewed with all grain for the past 5 or 6 years, and have only looked back once.  About 18 months ago, I brewed an extract beer just for giggles.  It actually turned out pretty good, but yes it did exhibit a bit of the extract twang.  It seems there is just no getting away from it.  Or at least, it is difficult to master, and I haven't bothered to try.

Beer Recipes / Re: Balancing a recipe
« on: July 20, 2010, 06:37:16 PM »
I like to use something known as the BU:GU ratio.  That is, bittering units (IBUs) to gravity units (the last three digits of original gravity).  So, for examples:

1.060 beer with 60 IBUs, BU:GU = 60/60 = 1.00
1.060 beer with 30 IBUs, BU:GU = 30/60 = 0.50
1.060 beer with 15 IBUs, BU:GU = 15/60 = 0.25

As a general guideline, IPAs are around a BU:GU ratio of 1.00, a balanced beer is around 0.50, and a beer that is very malty and not so hoppy can be anywhere around 0.10 to 0.40.  So, pick what kind of balance you want, then use your original gravity to determine how much hop bitterness to add.  It's not an exact science, but it can get you very close to where you want the balance to be.

Other Fermentables / Re: Cider yeast
« on: July 19, 2010, 06:05:41 PM »
The Red Star Cote des Blancs yeast works really well for my cider -- very clean, and supposedly finishes sweeter than other wine yeasts, although it still does ferment quite tart and dry.  You might wish to backsweeten slightly after fermentation as I would, just to take the edge off the acidity.

I'm feeling blunt -- maltodextrin is a dumb ingredient for most beers, including dunkelweizen.  You're probably much better off without it.  Don't sweat it, not at all.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: WLP 820 rate of Fermentation?
« on: July 16, 2010, 06:14:07 PM »
This is W206, right? Same as Wyeast 2206?

WLP820 and Wyeast 2206 are NOT the same.  IMHO, none of the White Labs or Wyeast strains are exactly the same anymore, regardless of what you might read in various sources.  They might have started from the same ancestor (did they? I didn't look it up), but each side has mutated so many hundreds if not millions of times over the past 30 or 40 years that they are quite different now.  Still similar, MAYBE, but definitely not the same.

I mean, think about it -- Nottingham, WLP001, Wyeast 1056, and US-05 supposedly all originated from the same stuff way back when.  Are they the same now?  No.  They might be very similar, and under most circumstances can be used interchangeably, to a point... but many brewers would agree that they are NOT identical.  US-05 seems to attenuate the most, while Nottingham gives some people a mysterious "tartness".  I don't like WLP001, while another guy loves it but despises Wyeast 1056..... these are all similar, but not identical.  Don't believe me?  Try splitting a batch of a wimpy light beer with low hop character sometime, using two or three or four of the different brands that are supposedly "all the same thing".  I'll bet you a zillion dollars that the resulting beers are similar, yes, similar, BUT, also detectably quite different.

I agree with much of what Mike just said.  However, I will judge your homebrews for free.  AND, I give better feedback than everyone else.  ;D

But really.... I take things even one step further, based on a few assumptions.  Number one, there are often going to be a few dud "judges", whether ranked, non-ranked, or otherwise, where you can basically throw their feedback in the trash because that's how much good it will do you.  On the flip side, there are many judges -- also ranked, non-ranked, and otherwise -- who actually do a phenomenal job.  It is usually very easy for the entrant to determine for himself/herself which feedback is great versus which is garbage.  And of course, the majority of judges fall somewhere in between and are more mediocre, which is just fine -- what more can a realist ask for.  But there is obviously no use trying to get this spectrum of judges to come to any consolidated consensus and only fill out one form!  I would be very much against that -- in fact, I would quit the BJCP on the spot if they ever pushed in that direction.  The fact is, when you force consensus, either one side will quickly give in to the others' insistence, or they'll get into a fistfight.  (Sounds like politics, doesn't it?!)  As I see it, neither result is beneficial to the entrant in any way.  As an entrant, just decide for yourself which feedback you can use, and which you cannot.  No use trying to solve world hunger.  Just accept it as fact that some judges suck, or have bad days, and move on.

One more word of advice -- If you really want to know if your beer is to style, make sure you enter at least 3, if not more, BJCP-sanctioned competitions.  Then, upon receipt of the feedback, don't hang onto the duds and average all the scores together!  To do that, you wouldn't be fair to yourself.  Simply throw out the duds, then take the rest of the mediocre-to-good feedback while the getting is good, and go ahead and average those scores together.  That's what I do.  I actually hang onto the duds but keep them in a separate pile as examples of how NOT to judge.  Might come in handy one day.  Or not.  Good for a laugh at least.

Informally, I've described the upper scoring ranges for beer as follows:

34-36 Tasty, but trivial flaws. Equivalent to most craft-brews.
37-40 Superior. No obvious flaws. Better than most craft-brews.
41-45 Outstanding. World class. Angels sing when you drink this beer.
46-49 World Champion. National Best of Show winner. Angels sing and a beam of heavenly light shines down when you drink this beer.
50      Unique. When you open this beer, the heavenly choir sings, the skies are illuminated in holy light, the finger of God points down at the beer, and a booming celestial voice proclaims, "That one."

This is so very true, I think.  Thanks for the breakdown.  It might be really helpful to folks entering their first couple of competitions.

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