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Messages - thomasbarnes

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All Grain Brewing / Re: NHC brew letdown
« on: April 03, 2012, 01:53:37 AM »
I used the Kolsch yeast to make cider (last time I used American Lager).  It's taking forever to clear.  Yes, I know that's a major change.

Could also be higher levels of pectin in your apple juice. Hitting your juice with pectin enzyme when you pitch the yeast will help. I'm assuming you know the other tricks, like crash cooling and fining/filtering.

I tried an Irish Red (first time) and it's really, really cloudy.  Fined it today but I guess I can't say too much about it because it's the first time I've done this one.  I used 2 oz of roast barley and there is no perceptible roast character.  I made an ESB that I've done lots of times and really like and added 2 oz of roast barley at sparge just for colour (which I've done before) and got very strong roast flavour that clearly doesn't belong in an ESB.

Ow. I'm skeptical of putting roast barley into just about anything other than a Stout or Irish Red. For color adjustment, go with Carafa or even caramel coloring.

I don't think my smoked porter is smokey enough this time but it'll be ok.

If the underlying recipe is great, just specify the lower level of smoke in your ingredients and hope that you get judges who appreciate subtlety. Not every smoke beer has to smell like a forest fire.

My French Saison has too much coriander despite being exactly the same amount as I used last time when it was great.

Might have used fresher or higher grade coriander this time out. Again, if the base beer is good, consider entering it. Maybe it's not a saison, but it might be a legitimate Belgian Specialty or SHV beer.

I made a CAP that is reading 1.002 FG right now (WLP800).  Seems a bit lower than it should be.

In that case, there's a chance you might be able to pass it off as a German Pils, SAL or PAL, depending on how body and hop character turn out.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Should I sour a 1.102 gravity beer?
« on: April 03, 2012, 01:39:43 AM »
It might be hard to sour a 10%+ ABV beer. Lacto bugs tend to croak at about 7% ABV. I'm not sure how Russian River makes their big sours. My guess is split batches and/or sour mashing.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: BJCP Entrance Exam is now available
« on: April 03, 2012, 01:36:29 AM »
Having looked closely at the online practice exam and the formats of the tasting and written proficiency exams, I think that the new exams will be about as hard as they were before.

The online proficiency exam appears to focus on the topics mentioned by Jonathan. There look to be a lot of questions which focus on style details, whereas previously you could gut out a 60% score on the essay exam by just describing the broad outlines of various beer styles with some errors and a lot of omissions.

On the other hand, the fact that it is multiple choice, true/false and multiple answer really helps. That sort of test challenges passive rather than active memory, so it's easier to make good guesses even if you're not sure of the answer.

My ignorant guess is that it's easier than the legacy written exam, but you'll still need to know your stuff in order to pass it.

The tasting exam is longer and perhaps more physically fatiguing than the tasting portion of the legacy exam, but it is basically the same format. Also, 6 beers rather than 4 gives a better chance for you to show your abilities, and the scoring section of the exam has been reworked to be a lot fairer; you now lose points based on how far off your scores are from the proctors' scores for each beer, rather than overall.

Just describe the beer in front of you, address each one of the descriptive elements listed on the scoresheet (i.e., "malt, hops, esters and other aromatics" for aroma), and try to be precise in your descriptions (i.e., "intense initial chocolate malt, backed by moderate toasty, bready and caramel notes" rather than just "malty") and you'll be fine.

The written proficiency exam has been altered to be less of a series of sprints and more of a marathon.

There are 6 questions, one question consists of 20 true or false questions (sort of like Part 3 of Question 1 on the legacy exam, the others are mostly recycled questions from the written portion of the legacy exam, but with a few new ones.

It's too early to say what questions will always be on the exam, but my guess is that the All-Grain Recipe question will be a perennial, as will the "compare 3 styles" question.

For the first question, you don't gain any points; you just lose 0.5% from your score for each wrong answer. That's harsh, but as the introduction to the test says, the questions are the sort of stuff that any National or better judge should know cold. It's a question you can blow through in 5 minutes tops.

The fact that you have more than 15 minutes to answer each of the essay questions indicates that the graders will be looking for a lot of depth in each answer. That probably means that bullet point answers, grids and all the other time-saving tricks used to answer questions on the old exam won't cut it. The graders will probably be looking for well-constructed essays of at least two pages.

Since the written proficiency exam is something of an unknown quantity, however, the graders will have to figure out what constitutes "National" or "Master" or "Thanks for playing" scores as they go along. It will probably be a couple of years before there is enough data to work with. It should be fun.

Summary: Possibly easier to get Recognized or Certified rank. About the same difficulty to get National or better rank, plus the extra hassle factor of having to take two different exams on two different occasions.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: BJCP Entrance Exam is now available
« on: April 03, 2012, 12:56:43 AM »
Since I'm Certified, it looks like I can't take the online exam.  I'll have to take the Judging exam (6 beers in 90 minutes) and score above 80 to be able to take the written exam (at a later date).  I have >10 judging points.

It appears that there might be some accommodation for otherwise well-qualified judges who wish to take the written proficiency exam, but fell a bit short of getting an 80% tasting score. I don't know how this will be handled, or how long it will last.

My wife is set to retake the exam in May and was offered the option of taking both the new written proficiency exam and the new tasting exam. She has 20+ experience points (mostly judging) and a 78% tasting score under the legacy exam.

If you're in a similar situation and are on track to retake the exam in the next few months, it couldn't hurt to email your Exam Administrator and ask if you can't be "grandfathered" in.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: BJCP Entrance Exam is now available
« on: April 03, 2012, 12:50:30 AM »
So you have to take the tasting exam within a year of passing the online test to have it count.  When will these be offered?  I see the same list of exam dates on the bjcp site... are these all for the tasting exam now?  Will more be offered soon, since it seems like most of them had already filled up.

The current exam schedule won't be changed for at least a year, so that the effects of the new exam on demand and grading time can be assessed.

Right now, don't take the exam unless you've got a spot for a tasting exam lined up. Otherwise, you might be wasting your time and money.

If more graders come out of the woodwork, and if grading time for the tasting exam is significantly shorter, then I'm sure that the BJCP Exam Directors would love to be able to arrange more exams.

Not really one of your choices, but flash pasteurizing a beer should greatly increase it's shelf life.

Possible, but be careful. You're heating the beer, which means that you're leaving yourself open to all manner of off flavors from oxidation and/or yeast autolysis. There's a reason that pasteurized commercial brews are heavily filtered and why commercial brewers work hard to keep O2 out of their beer.

Not on your list but for storage stability:

1) Bust your butt to exclude as much oxygen from the brewing process as possible. Not just on the cold side, but the hot side as well. The only place you want O2 in your beer is immediately after you've pitched your wort, and that's only because the yeast scavenges it up quickly.

2) Make sure you get good separation of the hot and cold break from the wort (although you want a bit of cold break for yeast health). There are a lot of haze formers and rancidity precursors in the break.

3) Store your beer as cold as possible. At refrigerator temperatures, it might be good for months or years. Room temperature, a couple of months at most.

4) Higher ABV, darker color. If you've got a well-made beer of at least 6% ABV and amber or darker color, when it inevitably oxidizes, the interaction between the alcohol, melanoidins and O2 will eventually produce sherry and dark fruit notes. If you've got a fair bit of residual sweetness and lots of malt complexity, the beer will hold up for years, perhaps even decades. Low ABV and light-colored beers just fall apart with age, with dull, inky, paper staleness, sometimes going towards soapy and rancid.

Ingredients / Re: New Hop Varieties
« on: February 27, 2012, 07:39:34 PM »
I've seen a lot of new varieties (or at least new to me) show up at the places I buy from this year.  I'm always interested in trying new stuff.  So far I've brewed with Whitbread Goldings, Pacific Jade, and UK Pilgrim.  I have several more in the freezer waiting their turn.  Herkules is one I'm anxious to use.  Last year I tried the Falconers Flight blend and liked it, I just used it again as well.

Whitbread Goldings (AKA WGV) and Pilgrim hops have been around for a long time. You can find a number of recipes which use them.

I'm not familiar with Pacific Jade or Herkules. My guess is that you'd use Pacific Jade as a late hop in ales, while Herkules could be a substitute for Perle, assuming that it's aroma and flavor aren't all that.

One of my absolute favorites, although I haven't had it for a while, is Sorachi Ace. One of the best beers I've ever tasted was a single hop Sorachi Ace beer modeled on a German pils. Sadly, it wasn't one of mine.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: American Brown Style Guidelines
« on: February 27, 2012, 07:25:12 PM »
I think Americans are taking hops to a whole new level.  To me, beer is and should be a malt-based beverage.

I think that this is because American malts tend to be drier and "breadier" than continental malts. Also, most American beer drinkers are coming to craft beer having first experienced thin-bodied, effervescent, rather dry light lagers. Lots of hops on top of relatively low malt flavor is less of a transition than chewy, sweet, multi-layered malt character. Also, to be honest, a sweetish, malt-forward style beer isn't something you want to drink as a "lawnmower beer" on a hot day, and for most of the U.S. it gets damned hot for much of the year.

Even so, I don't get the American love affair with citrusy and piney hops. I go for the English and Noble types myself.

Even though the ABA guidelines say as much, many judges just see "American" in the name and assume that means that the beer should taste like a West Coast double IPA. That's wrong and it's lazy judging. Instead, it's more about the yeast and malt character and the balance of malt to hops.

But, as Anthony said, if you're brewing for competition, you want to make a beer which the average judge will recognize as being distinctly American. Also, typically ABA tend to get judged last in the American Ale category. That means that many judges will be mentally comparing ABA to American Pale Ales whether they realized it or not.

In a world with more perfect BJCP style guidelines, APA would be its own category given its popularity. ABA and American Amber would be off in their own little niche, perhaps combined with the English Brown Ales.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Better Beer Scores-Craft Beer U
« on: February 27, 2012, 07:13:22 PM »
Nope, no Ed Director for me. I'm not sure if they are still looking or not... ???

As far as I know, Kris England has taken it back.

As for doctored beer kits, the BJCP will sell a Siebel off-flavor kits at subsidized prices to HB clubs and to people who are running registered "BICEP" exam prep classes. Details here:

For DYI off-flavor kits, this is what I've used in the past:

No insult meant to the Craft Beer U guys, but you can get a lot of very good test prep resources for free at the BJCP web site (including the members forums) and by searching the web. In particular, the Washington Area Homebrewers Association has some amazing resources, including links to streaming audio and video presentations of BICEP training classes.

OTOH, if you don't have access to a good high speed internet connection or a whole lot of good brewing resources, and you don't test well, you might benefit from their product.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Shipping Homebrew
« on: February 27, 2012, 06:57:41 PM »
Here's an even more radical idea, although it works better for growlers and bomber bottles.

1. Wrap your beer (bottle/six pack/whatever) in a sealed plastic bag.

2. Line your shipping box with trash bag, so that the trash bag completely lines the inside of the box and is open at the top.

3. Spray in a layer of expanding spray foam insulation into the bottom of the box and let it dry.

4. Put the sealed beer container on top of the dried spray foam.

5. Spray the rest of the foam over and around the sealed beer container.

6. Close up the trash bag and then close the box. Let the foam dry.

7. Take the trash bag/foam/beer out of the box.

8. Use a knife to cut through the foam, slicing it in half so that you can get at the beer.

9. Replace the plastic bag around the beer container and the trash bag inside the container (just in case, to prevent leaks should UPS or FedEx drop an anvil on your box. . . ). Put everything back together in your own custom-made spray foam packaging.

10. Seal the package and ship.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: need to filter out orange peel
« on: February 27, 2012, 06:47:17 PM »
a stainless steel scouring pad attached with stainless steel wire makes a decent particle filter.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Golden Bock?
« on: February 27, 2012, 06:46:12 PM »
The crystal malt could be carapils or something similar.

Given the low SRM and the high body I remember from the beer, I'd think it would have to be.

Otherwise, from my recollections and from looking at the SN website, I think that it's a spot on Helles Bock.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Sour Beer Sanitation
« on: February 27, 2012, 06:43:08 PM »
Cost isn't my main concern.  My main concern is just keeping track of dedicated kegs and equipment.  I don't want to accidentally use the wrong keg or something and ruin a perfectly good beer.

For hard plastic, you can always score or stamp the exterior with a hot knife. For soft plastic or metal, just stick a piece of duct tape or electrical tape to the outside.

Yeast produce acetic acid, it is just that it is usually not detectable in the flavor as such.  The presence of acetic acid is the primary cause of chronological aging and cell death in long term yeast storage.

To clarify, even unhealthy yeast don't produce acetic acid at noticeable levels, in the same way that an acetobacter infection would produce.

Unless you've got a lot of air contact with your beer and you're leaving your beer for long periods of time, I'm not sure that you've actually got an acetobacter infection.

"Cidery" notes can be produced by yeast. Ethyl acetate is one of the most common esters in beer and it smells like ripe apples, while acetaldehyde smells like unripe/green apples. Both are byproducts of fermentation. At low levels, "cidery" notes can be confused with apple cider "vinegary" notes.

The way to determine if you're got acetobacter infection (true "vinegary" notes) vs. just "cidery" notes is to bottle some of your beer and let it age. If the "vinegar" notes get stronger with aging, the beer's body goes down and the carbonation level goes up, you've actually got an infection. If the "vinegar" notes dissipate with age, it's probably just normal fermentation byproducts.

If you actually have an acetobacter infection, other folks have given you good advice on sanitation and excluding O2.

If you have acetaldehyde and/or estery notes, that's more likely to be a problem with "yeast management." Quick fixes are to pitch more yeast and to aerate your wort just after pitching your yeast (vigorously stirring or rocking your wort for about 10 minutes is the low-tech version of how to solve this problem).

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