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Messages - thomasbarnes

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Old news now, but as long as your brewing environment is reasonably clean and your fermentation is nice and vigorous, you might even be able to get away without an airlock when using a plastic bucket.

Ale fermentation produces a lot of CO2 during the first couple days of fermentation. As long as all that gas is going out through that little hole in lid, it's going to keep air (and airborne bugs) from going in.

Just rack or bottle your beer once the foam on top of your fermenting wort drops.

In the future, twist the airlock in rather than shoving straight down. Also, you can slightly lubricate the lock using a bit of water or rubbing alcohol so you don't have to push so hard. You can also put the airlock onto the lid before you put your lid on your beer. As long as the lid/airlock combo is on a sanitized surface, you're fine.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: clarifiers for secondary?
« on: July 19, 2010, 08:31:51 AM »
Are there any clarifiers i can add to the secondary fermenter? I forgot to add my irish moss during the boil.

Depending on the style of beer you're brewing you might not need to add fining agents.

Kettle finings like Irish moss are used to help the "hot break" - proteins and fatty acids - formed during wort boil drop out of solution. If left in the beer, those proteins can cause flavor instability down the line and might cause the yeast to produce certain minor off-flavors during fermentation.

If you're producing an ale which is designed to be consumed young and you don't mind a bit of protein "chewiness" or haze in your beer, then don't bother adding finings in secondary. Chances are, most of the hot break will drop out at the end of primary fermentation anyway. The chances of screwing things up with finings probably are greater than the problems with hot break in your beer.

If it really matters, the simplest way is to use finings such as Polyclar, isinglass or brewers gelatin. Buy the appropriate stuff at your friendly local HB store and follow the directions on the package. Let the finings work for a couple of weeks, then carefully rack the beer again so that you pick up as little trub as possible.

If it really matters, and money is no object, you can do what the pros do: chill your beer to 32-35 degrees for a while, then run your beer through a filter.

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.

A sign of a good judge, regardless of rank, is a well-filled out score sheet, with at least 2 practical suggestions for improvement for any beer which doesn't score at least 35+. Most judges concentrate their feedback in the "overall impression" section, so look there first.

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.

This isn't my experience. Judges are in a hurry, so they're not going to stand their ground unless they absolutely think that the other judge is wrong and they've "fallen in love" with a particular beer.

Judge A (who can detect VKDs at 0.2 ppm): "I'm getting too much diacetyl in this beer for it to really hit the style."

Judge B (who couldn't detect butter on movie popcorn): "I think this is the best beer we've tasted so far in the flight. I can't detect any diacetyl and I think it nails the style."

More typically, judges will quickly adjust their scores up or down a few points to get within 7. Often, the point spread is even closer than that. Lots of judges, myself included, like to get within 3-4 points.

Judge A: "Alright, I know I detect butter in just about anything I taste, and I will grant that the malt complexity is there. I'll come up by 2 points."

Judge B: I'll admit that I have trouble figuring out what people mean by "artificial butter flavor," and I think I'm getting a tiny bit of green apple sourness. I'll come down by 3 points. That will put us within 7 of each other."
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.

Better yet, show up at your local homebrew club meeting, or BJCP training session, with a couple of bottles of your beer. Ask for feedback from BJCP judges whose feedback you've found to be useful and let them sample your beer. Same feedback, no entry fee, delivered to you in real time.

When more than one person emphasizes the same idea, well, it makes it hard not to believe.

In general, that's true. For the exam, that's more than you need to know.

In practice, there are times when, due to time or space limitations, I'll concentrate on just one aspect of a flawed beer and let other judges discuss different aspects, as long as we all have identified the faults. For example, for feedback of a poorly attenuated beer with incomplete fermentation, I might discuss the diacetyl and acetaldehyde problems and yeast health, while the other judge discusses mashing and grist problems.

The alternative is either writing a pamphlet on brewing technique on the back of the score sheet, or resorting to not so useful shorthand which might fly over the head of a novice brewer, like: "Review yeast management and fermentation techniques" or "Study malt varieties and mashing techniques."

I am not in complete agreement. As a person who samples a vast amount of beer (home and craft), I think Thomas has a really high valuation of craft beer. While much of it is really good, there is a vast majority which could stand improvement. I also don't give out 37's to beers just because they have "no noticeable flaws".

I don't have a uniformly high an opinion of craft beer, I've paid money for some real crap. I've even sent some back.

You will, however, notice my useful weasel word "most" when describing craft beer in the 34-38 range. Every craft brewery has at least one beer which hits this level, even if it isn't "to style" in any BJCP category. If they don't, they won't be in business for long.

Beer which has suffered at the hands of distributors and retailers, came from a bad batch, or was made from a crummy - soon to be defunct - brewery, might fall considerably below what I consider to be an acceptable standard for commercial beer: in BJCP terms, 13-29. Commercial brew which isn't that great I score at 28-33.

The "glass ceiling" or upper limit of 43-45 with BJCP scoring needs to be re-evaluated by the BJCP Board and consideration given towards issuing a position statement to all BJCP judges regarding the upper limit for scores in the BJCP guidelines.

I believe that a perfect score of 50 is difficult to achieve for the following reasons: 1) The score sheet is broken into six sections, so there are six places where you can lose points, rather than just one. 2) The judges have no way of knowing roughly how good the next beer in the flight will be, so they naturally hold back a bit to give the next beer in the flight a chance to be slightly better. 3) The need for consensus judging makes it pretty gutsy for one judge to max out his/her score and stick to it.

Practically, most homebrew (and most commercial beer) isn't "world class" and even "world class" beer might be conceivably be improved. The example you gave suggests that a "perfect 50" for homebrew is comparable to a "perfect 10" in figure skating or gymnastic. Consider, however, that a 10.0 is extremely unusual, even in Olympic-level competition. It's not going to happen in, say, collegiate or high school level competitions. Practically, most homebrewers are at the equivalent of high-school or college athletes in terms of skill.

I HAVE judged world-class beer (several beers made by a homebrew club members which went on to medal in the NHC 2nd round, a professionally made beer which went on to win 1st place in the Brewing News National IPA Challenge). I've also run training sessions where we judge commercial examples of great beers as if they were entries in competition. I'm not ashamed to say that I gave them well-deserved scores in the high 30s to low 40s. They were great beers, but there's always some way that they could be better.

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."

Add judges, throw out the top and bottom scores, average the rest - that's your score. Olympic style.

The problem with this idea is that there usually aren't enough judges available. Competition and judge directors have to scramble to find enough people willing to judge. This means that you're lucky if you get two judges per flight. Throw out the top and bottom scores and there are no scores left.

Does anyone else think one of the Judge caricatures looks a lot like Robin Williams?

The drawings are just really bad. They look like pointillist mug shots.

I don't understand why a judge would change the original score to make it fit within the other judges’ scores, within 7 points?

Call it "group-think" or consensus, as you like, but the idea is for the judges to all be within the same or adjacent scoring "bands."  If you look at a score sheet, you'll see a Scoring Guide in the lower left-hand corner. Each band is roughly a 7 point spread.

If you're consistently giving beers scores in the low teens or high 40s and the other judges are giving the same beer scores in the 20s to 30s, then there's something wrong with your calibration. You need to discuss the beer with the other judges to determine if there's something that you missed - or that they missed.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: How does too much wood taste?
« on: July 16, 2010, 04:54:25 AM »
How does too much wood taste?

You've tasted it: intense tannin astringency and bitterness, like sucking on a cheap tea bag.   

I aged a beer in a French oak barrel for 3 months, today I popped open a bottle and my teeth feel like the enamel wants to come off.  So not cool.  I don’t get it, I tasted this same beer 2 weeks after bottling and I thought wow one of the best beers I’ve ever tasted (it was so smooth and velvet like almost like cream), and today 4 weeks after bottling and the enamel wants to come off my teeth. There is a bitterness that is like no other bitterness I have ever tasted, and it is so subdued almost like the oak is contributing its own IBU's.

Let the beer age in a cool, dark place for at least 6 more months. If you're lucky, the intense tannins (responsible for the astringent, resinous, tooth-coating sensation) will settle down, giving you vanilla, coconut and mildly oaky/woody notes. You did brew a beer which could stand up to extended aging, right?

If this isn't an option, your only choice is to rebrew the beer, age it in a glass/stainless container and then blend it with your current batch of beer to control the degree of oak character.

I'm not sure why you experienced the sudden flavor change, though.  As a guess, there might be something in your beer that ate up some of the residual sugars and starches, making previously hidden tannins really stand out. Be on the lookout for possible wild yeast/bacterial infection. Sample a bottle of your beer every couple of weeks, if you're getting gushing bottles, thin body and off flavors, your beer is headed towards Lambic-ville.

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