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Messages - thomasbarnes

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General Homebrew Discussion / Re: BJCP and carbonation volumes
« on: April 05, 2012, 11:09:24 PM »
Remember, the guidelines are there to assist in *judging* a beer. Helping brewers formulate recipes isn't the BJCP's job.

Listing typical ingredients and techniques can help judges give feedback, which is an important part of judging. Generally, though, you're right. The BJCP guidelines are competition rules, not a recipe book.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: BJCP Entrance Exam is now available
« on: April 05, 2012, 10:56:15 PM »
First (directed at an earlier post T made), I will not allow anyone to even waste my time signing up for the taste exam unless they have passed the entrance exam.

I agree. I was just pointing out that the BJCP is trying to be flexible when dealing with experienced judges who were planning on retaking the legacy exam.

Second, the format for the written exam is spelled out:
five questions with each comprising 20% of the total score. Of the five questions, two are style-related, one is a recipe question, and two are technical questions related to ingredients or brewing process.

Thanks for catching that. I knew I'd seen it somewhere.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: BJCP Entrance Exam is now available
« on: April 05, 2012, 10:53:39 PM »
And, I did the qualifying exam last night out of curiosity and also to make sure I'm not wasting anyone's time  :) I passed.

Congratulations. Let's hope that you get a seat.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: BJCP Entrance Exam is now available
« on: April 05, 2012, 10:51:37 PM »
I will add the BJCP documents do suggest one sign up for the tasting before taking the online exam.

Given the current demand, it's silly to take the qualifier exam until you have a slot reserved for the tasting exam.

Possibly the new exam structure will discourage people from backing out. If you've already got skin in the game, even if it's $10, and a time limit of 1 year before you have to start over from scratch, you might be more motivated to show up for the tasting exam.

I can't take people bailing out the exam that personally. For some folks it's change of interests, attacks of nerves or lack of preparation - if they're not prepared, why waste everyone's time by forcing them to write a crummy exam.

Other people get sick or have Serious Stuff crop up. Given the lead time to get an exam seat, you can't predict what's going to happen to you in the meantime.

What is polite, though, is to RSVP. People who know they're going to have to bail should give at least 2 weeks notice, preferably a month.

Let's just hope that the new exam structure gets more graders back in the system, so the number of scheduled exams can be increased. Right now, everyone's watching and waiting to see how the new exam structure affects things.

All Grain Brewing / Re: NHC brew letdown
« on: April 05, 2012, 10:34:02 PM »
Thanks Thomasbarnes.  There's something not right with the cider. I'm gonna re-do for personal consumption.

Define "not right." Is it just the cider not wanting to clear or off-flavors?

You might have some wild yeast in there that aren't wanting to flocculate and which are throwing off-flavors. In cider, wild yeast tend to come across more as sharp and slightly vinous, perhaps with a bit of smoke.

Events / Re: Regional Conferences?
« on: April 05, 2012, 10:28:01 PM »
Regional conferences could also be combined with NHC first round judging.

They'd also be good training grounds for clubs who are looking to host the NHC Nationals down the line.

Fair or not, big metro areas will always have an advantage when hosting competitions, just because they're better set up for the convention trade, have better transportation infrastructure and more of a critical mass of volunteers to make a big convention happen.

Clubs in smaller cities will need to form regional consortiums to be competitive. Also, having a good, well-established, active HB club really helps. St. Paul/Minneapolis and Cincinnati aren't huge cities, but because they have very good, active clubs, they got the conference in years past.

Events / Re: 1st Round Judging Sign Up for St. Paul Now Open
« on: April 05, 2012, 10:18:38 PM »
First round judging for the Upper Midwest region of the AHA National Hombrew Competition will take place on April 13-14th in St. Paul.

Just about every competition is getting hammered with entries this spring.

In my part of the world, several competitions which have previously only gotten ~300 have gotten >500.

I'm judge director for a competition coming up in the next couple of weeks and I'm scrambling for judges, too.

I just hope you have a venue where you can add additional judging sessions.

Beer Recipes / Re: critique my first all grain
« on: April 05, 2012, 10:14:38 PM »
Interesting recipe.

If I had to be a Style Purist, my guess is that the base beer would be sort of a strong amber mild.

Ingredients / Re: Undermodified pils malt?
« on: April 05, 2012, 10:10:07 PM »
I was hoping to find some of the "traditional lager malts" he's talking about, in the 34-36% range, but I don't think those exist anymore.

What are you trying to achieve with the lower diastatic power? You might be able to lower the overall conversion potential of the mash by adding some Munich, Vienna or light toasted malt.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Sour finish in beers using S-05
« on: April 05, 2012, 10:03:53 PM »
I would say it has a more "dusty" character for lack of a better word. Not quite as clean, definitely not as noticeable in hoppy ales, as you say. "Mild yeast bite" is how I guess I would characterize it.

I always think of "yeast bite" as being due to autolysis. Perhaps the yeasties are dying before they flocc out, or perhaps you just need to be really aggressive about racking off the trub once you get the clarity you want.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Aerate Starter?
« on: April 05, 2012, 10:00:41 PM »
Recent scoresheets have made me wonder whether I'm aerating my wort properly.

What sort of feedback are you getting and what styles were you brewing?

While aerating your wort is a good thing, there might be other issues. Yeast stress doesn't just come from lack of aeration and insufficient starter - look at yeast nutrition (especially if doing beers with more than about 20% adjunct sugars), fermentation temperature (both pitching temperature and overall temp.), temperature swings and original gravity.

Wood/Casks / Re: beer style for red wine barrels
« on: April 05, 2012, 09:56:22 PM »
I completely agree, we were planning a flanders red or lambic for the second use.

Flanders Red for the first batch, unless the previous beer was something that doesn't leave too much character in the barrel. Lambic or American Sour for subsequent batches, since the bugs from the Flanders Red will get into the wood.

If you decide not to do a Flanders Red for the first batch, I think you'd need a relatively strong amber or brown beer - without too much hop or dark roast - to stand up to the barrel character. You can always do test batches and doctor them with whatever wine the barrel originally contained to get a sense of what the combined effects will be like.

Whatever you do, however, get moving quickly. There's a lot of air and a lot of alcohol in that cask, and the air is full of acetobacteria looking to move in and set up shop.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: BJCP and carbonation volumes
« on: April 03, 2012, 02:56:17 AM »
Oh really?  I lost out on a BOS due to my brew being "slightly under carbonated".  It was the only "ding" against it.

How do you know, did you witness the BOS? Generally no notes are kept from the BOS table, at least not in our neck of the woods.

He could have watched it. Lots of BoS panels are held in front of an audience.

Also, BoS panels can turn into endurance contests. It's possible that the beer had the right level of CO2 to start with, but had gone flat 45 minutes later.

Lower than expected carbonation can cause a whole host of dings - appearance, aroma, flavor and mouthfeel can all be affected. In fact I often serve a nearly flat beer during the BJCP exam and the major flaw, carbonation, is always noted, but many other things can be underwhelming and notable when the carbonation level is too low.


Poor carbonation will mess up aroma perception because less stuff is outgassed, it will make flavor seem sweeter because of lack of CO2 "bite" and will make body seem heavier for the same reason. The surest way to turn a good beer from a contender to an also-ran is to undercarbonate it.

My guess for CO2 volumes is that any beer that the BJCP describes as having "low" carbonation should have less than 2 volumes of pressure. Anything with "medium" carbonation gets 2-2.5 and anything with high carbonation gets 2.5-3.0+ volumes.

As others have said, there are tables which list CO2 volumes for specific styles. Books and websites on commercial beer draft systems should have the info you need.

Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Sour finish in beers using S-05
« on: April 03, 2012, 02:40:36 AM »
I recently tasted a homebrewed Pils which had a similar problem. It's a sort of light lactic tang, but without the usual lactic thin body/gushing head. The brewer said that the beer had been stable with that flavor for months.

Not likely to be a wild yeast. They don't usually throw that sort of sour aroma.

I'm baffled as to what caused it. If you could get that sour taste consistently, it would be very nice for fruit beers or light summer beers.

Extract/Partial Mash Brewing / Re: Imperial Stout brewing questions
« on: April 03, 2012, 02:34:54 AM »
Weyermann Rye Malt 1 lbs, 4 oz

This type of malt needs to be mashed, and might even need a protein rest. If you're steeping, you might have problems with haze and/or storage stability. It will definitely do great things for head formation and retention, however!

Centennial Pellets 3 oz @ 60 mins
Centennial Pellets 2 oz @ 30 mins
Cascade Pellets    2 oz @ 15 mins

That's a whole lotta hops. Definitely going for the American interpretation of the style. More to the point, all that hop bitter and citrusy hop flavor might very well clash with your dark malts. It's tricky to make a good hoppy dark beer, especially if it's big.

Oak Chips, Untoasted 1 ea

Don't need these, at least not yet. Let the beer ferment and condition, then decide if you want to oak it.

White Labs Super High Gravity Ale

This might be OK to finish off, but at lower OG you might want an ale yeast which throws more esters to help accentuate the sweet, chocolate notes. In any case, you'll need a big starter and lots of oxygen/aeration to keep your yeasties happy. You might also need to start off with a lower OG and "feed" the fermentation over a period of weeks by adding fresh wort or DME.

OG 1.134 FG 1.027 IBU 67.9 SRM 60.51 ABV 14.02

Not to discourage your experiments in rocket fuel production, but making a beer much above 10% is tricky and such beers can take years to come into peak condition. When young, they can be really hot, harsh and solventy tasting. Reduce your grist bill by 25% and you'll get a nice, authoritative RIS that's ready to drink in just a few weeks.

I know dark extract isn't popular on this forum, but hopefully someone can 'splain me better why.  Which extracts should I use, how should I modify the specialty grains, should I use different grains, etc?

Garc_mall basically got it right. You don't know what the dark stuff in the dark extract is. It could be relatively flavorless Sinamar or caramel color or it could be roast barley. Better to just use LME to substitute for base malt and steep your own dark grains for color and specialty malt character. It gives you better control over flavor, aroma and color.

Also, I am assuming I would need at least a 6.5 gallon bucket with a blowoff tube, but would you recommend something different?  How do you handle beers like this that will have a lot of krausen?  Having an exploding bucket is definitely NOT an option!

Big bucket with blow-off. Or split the batch into two different carboys/buckets. In either case, for primary fermentation you want a lot of head space. This is a style which produces a lot of krausen fast and there's lots of crud which can clog airlocks and blowoff tubes. My first attempt at a RIS got the name "Chernobyl #3" for exactly this reason!

Primary and secondary fermentations - how would you approach these?

Start off with a big starter (at least 1 quart, or perhaps 2 smack packs or dry yeast sachets) of American Ale or English Ale yeast. Aerate the hell out of it - probably 30 seconds worth of oxygen through a sintered airstone. Start fermentation on the cool side of the yeast's preferred temperature range, letting temperature rise by a couple of degrees once O.G. drops by at least 50% and krausen drops. Finish up on the warm side of the temperature range as gravity drops to desired F.G. The idea is that you're trying to limit production of esters, aldehydes, fusel alcohols and other fermentation byproducts.

For a really big beer, you might need to rack the beer, add a different strain of yeast and/or feed the fermentation to get desired ABV. This can take weeks.

Condition at least two weeks at cellar temperatures (~65 *F), perhaps cold condition for another 2-3 weeks at 32-55 *F to clarify and smooth out the flavor a bit. If necessary, rack and let it condition even longer, either at cellar or refrigerator temperatures.

Bottling and conditioning - what's the recommendation as to how to approach this?  Besides the obvious effects of aging, what considerations should I think about when it comes to aging a beer like this in bottles?

Make sure that you've really hit terminal gravity. There's a lot for yeasts to eat in a Russian Imperial Stout, so you don't want to bottle too soon - unless you like homebrew hand grenades.

If you had to cold condition or condition for an extended period of time, you might need to add a bit of new yeast at bottling along with the priming sugar. Due to the high ABV, it will take the yeast a long time to produce the proper levels of CO2.

If you have the technology, it might just be simpler to keg, force carbonate and bottle using a beer gun.

For long term storage, keep your beer as cold as possible without freezing it. Also, work to exclude oxygen from your beer at every stage of the production and packaging process. Blanket conditioning buckets with CO2, don't splash wort or raw beer. Get a good seal on your bottle caps and use oxygen-barrier caps. Dip the caps in wax to further exclude oxygen.

Can I just use less extract?

That's the easiest way to do it. Basically, use extract like you would use base malts if you're an all-grain brewer - for the bulk of the fermentables, but not so much for flavor and aroma.

I also want to assure maximum body and color.  I'd hate to brew an imperial stout with an ABV > 10 that wasn't thick and chewy, or didn't come out of the bottle looking like used diesel oil.  ::)  However, the target of 60.51 SRM on the sample recipe... how does that compare with your RIS recipes?

60 SRM is a bit on the light side. Adjust color using Carafa malt (basically, dehusked patent malt) or if you like your coffee and burnt grain character, add a bit (like no more than 1 oz.) of patent malt and/or roast barley. A little bit of the dark stuff goes a long, long way.

BTW there is no chance of my attempting to brew this one anytime soon, I have five or six others in the queue before this one could be attempted.

Get this one done soon, especially if you don't have great control over fermentation temperature. Big ales fermented during the summer can get way too warm and produce solventy, phenolic and excessively estery notes. If you're in a part of the world where it's already warm, you'll have to put it off until it gets cold again or use some method of cooling.

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