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Messages - gordonstrong

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Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 08, 2013, 11:55:07 AM »
My question is how does a brewer develop great malt aroma in beer? Is it the type of malts used? Is it the brewing process? Is it a water profile? I'm sure the answer is all of the above, but I'm wondering if there is a major factor in overall malt aroma? My lagers tend to have a much better malty flavor than a malty aroma. I use fresh, quality ingredients and have even built my water up from RO, so I'm at a loss.

I think you've got the basics.  Fresh malt is important.  Experiment with different maltsters and grain varieties.  I think you tend to get a higher quality malt aroma from some of the English, Belgian, and German maltsters than North American ones, but some are better than others.  You might find you like the Pils malt from one maltster but the Munich malt from another.

If you want to increase the malt aroma and flavor in a beer, you can try swapping out some of the base grain for malt with more aromatics.  Use Munich and Aromatic malt.  Possibly try a no sparge technique.  Don't feel constrained to a "classic" grist from a specific country.  I have no problem throwing German Munich malt into an American pale ale or German Vienna malt into an English barleywine.  You could also blend different grains from the same class to increase the malt complexity (if not the intensity) -- that could be perceived as having a higher malt aroma.  For instance, using Golden Promise along with Maris Otter, or adding some continental Pils malt in with your 2-row.  I like using German Vienna malt in a blend with English Maris Otter in some styles.  It takes some trial and error to find the malts that appeal to you, but when you have them identified, then try some different grists to see how you like the combination.

You could also try decoction, even in styles that don't traditionally use it.  Any time you encourage the Maillard reaction, you're going to get increased malt complexity and richness.  Caramelization is a different process but can also give you those characteristics.  The Scotch ale technique of boiling down first runnings to increase maltiness is something you may want to explore.  Just keep in mind that whatever increases aroma is likely to have a greater impact on flavor.  It's certainly possible to create a beer that's too malty in the balance for a specific style. I've tasted some doppelbocks that have so many Maillard products in them that they kind of taste like beef broth.

I think the water profile has less of an impact than the other factors you listed.  Also keep in mind that oxidation can both help and hurt the malt aroma.  I say it can help because low levels of oxidation can give honey, caramel and fruity notes before you start getting stale and papery qualities.  However, I think you are trading intensity for quality if you go that route.  In general, oxidation can mute and muddy aromatics, so it's best avoided.

The perception of aroma is somewhat temperature dependent as well.  So if you want your beer to have a more malty aroma, you could also serve the beer at a warmer temperature.  Different glassware can also emphasize the aroma, so you could also look into serving your beer in a different glass.

I wish there was something more formulaic for you to follow, but it's really not that easy.  Aroma depends on a large number of factors, so you may need to fiddle around with several aspects of ingredient selection, ingredient handling, brewing, packaging, and serving to get where you want to be.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 10:08:06 PM »
I"ll throw in a few:

For an overall BOS round for a moderately sized competition, say 200-400 entries, do you think all gold medal winners from all 23 beer categories should be included in the final BOS round? I've seen many comps just pick the top 10 highest scoring beers or so, and I think that fails to take into account scoring variation.

How important was becoming a highly ranked judge to improving your brewing?

What has been one of your favorite judging experiences/memories (I'm sure you have many to pick from)?

Thank you,

(1) I think every beer that wins a gold medal in a competition entry category should be on the BOS table.  I also want to make it clear that competitions can create their own categories (groupings) for their competition -- you don't have to award medals by the major BJCP style guideline categories.  You can group the subcategories (individual styles) together any way you want, or have them stand alone if they get enough entries.

I would totally reject an approach that went on score alone.  There is just too much variation between flights.  Unless you have the same panel of judges scoring beers in the same seating, scores can't tell you much.

(2) I think judging skill is more important to brewing than a specific rank.  You don't have to be a BJCP judge to have those skills, but doing BJCP work helps hone them.  I definitely think that being able to evaluate your beer makes you a better brewer.

(3) Yeah, that's a toughie.  Having Michael Jackson tell me he liked my beer while he gave me a medal at a Spirit of Belgium competition was a good one.  But I guess my favorite was at the 2008 NHC where Drew Beechum came up to me after he was done judging and said "you have to try our gold medal beer; it's great".  I took a sip, recognized it as mine, and said "I'm familiar with that".  Drew: "$#!+, $&@&, is it too late to change the results?" -- yeah, that was priceless...

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 09:55:24 PM »
Gordon, Your book has been very helpful to my brewing and is one of my go to reference books. With that being said, is there anything in the book that you would change or clarify based on new information or experience? Thanks again.

That's a very good question.  There are a few minor errors in the book, mostly in a few recipes (12L crystal malt instead of 120L crystal malt -- those types).

If I could do a second edition, there are two things I would change, clarify or expand.

First is the way I discussed the impact of temperature on pH.  The relationship between temperature and pH is presented correctly, but I got some bad information from pro brewers (and another brewing book) about how they measure pH.  So talking about pH at room temperature vs. mash temperature is not something that should be discussed.  The standard way pH is reported in brewing applications is always at room temperature.  Yes, the pH will be different at a higher temperature (that part is right), but when people give a pH value it's always at room temperature.  Some people seemed to interpret that comment that I was advocating measuring pH at mash temperature -- that's not true.  That can damage some pH meters.  I was merely talking about how the value of pH varies with temperature.  The aspect I wanted to clarify is how that value is discussed, not what it is.

Second thing I'd like to expand is on the hop section.  Some of the material I used in the dry hopping article I wrote for Zymurgy could be seen as an addition.  I also would like to better understand how whirlpool hops work on the homebrew scale.  I'd like to know how time and temperature affect utilization for hops added at knockout and steeped (which is what I call whirlpool hops for homebrewers).  I don't think this is well understood, and I think it is misrepresented in most brewing software.  Steeping hops at knockout will add some IBUs; the value isn't zero.  But quantifying the value and understanding the variables that drive the IBU contribution is something that still needs to be done.

But that's pretty much it.  I think I stand by the rest of the work.  Maybe adding a bit more about hop and yeast varieties that I've come to like.  But I'm currently writing a companion book that is more focused on recipes; I can put some of that information in there.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 09:45:06 PM »
Hi Gordon,

As a 3-time Ninkasi winner and the highest ranking BJCP judge, what advice do you have for all those homebrewers looking to go pro?  There's a lot of good homebrew out there these days, but I feel as if a lot of homebrewers are trying to jump in the game before mastering the art and science of the craft.  (Note: business experience is a whole other issue, I'm more curious of your take on the brewing/judging side of things.)

Also, why didn't you ever decide to "take the leap"?


What would I know about going pro?  I just do this for the fun of it  ;)

Understand that brewing on a commercial level is quite different than homebrewing.  Things work a bit differently, and you can kill yourself much easier.  I'd recommend formal study and definitely apprenticing at a quality outfit with someone who knows what they're doing.  I was fortunate to be invited to do a collaboration brew with Andy Tveekrem when he was opening Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland.  Andy had previously been brewmaster at Great Lakes and Dogfish Head, so I was understandably thrilled.  He told me when he was training someone, he spent the first week on safety.  Basically learning how not to die.  Then start understanding how things work.  I knew he was serious when he told me not to wear shorts to brew ("This isn't California").

I see the trend of more craft breweries opening, many of them on a fairly small scale.  I doubt the economic viability of these small outfits, but many of them seem to be having fun.  I obviously would like to see someone be able to make good beer and know what they're doing before trying to do it on a pro scale.  However, the market has a way of weeding out those who are unprepared.

I might have considered doing something professionally if I was 20 years younger.  But brewing is definitely blue collar work.  It's hot and dirty, has odd hours, and doesn't pay well.  If you own the brewery or have multiple locations, then sure, you can make money.  Just be sure you understand what these jobs pay before you take the leap.

So I'm quite happy to keep this as my hobby.  I get to write books, travel the world, consult, brew collaboration beers, and generally have a great time.  I brew beer when I want to brew beer, not because I have to.  I make what I want to drink, not what I have to sell.  I guess at heart, I'm a homebrewer.  And I'm OK with that.  No regrets.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 09:31:56 PM »
Gordon, how many judge experience points have ya got?

would "When 900 XP you have, look as good, you will not!" be a close approximation?   ;D

417 judging points, 1068 total experience points as of today, but I'm going to be judging on Saturday...

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 09:29:28 PM »

What goes into consideration when adding and/or modifying categories to the BJCP guidelines? What is the best kind of feedback from BJCP judges and competition organizers to help with the process of expanding and/or modifying the BJCP guidelines?

We listen to our members, and we have our direct observations from watching the guidelines in use over the years.  We collect input from the BJCP Forum and other online locations, as well as directly submitted information to the BJCP web site to the style suggestions email.  And we have our own research and understanding from continuing to be involved in the beer world.  So we read new books and have our own data gathered through field research.

I think one of the changes is that we've had many more requests to use the guidelines in other countries, and we need to do a better job of describing the beers styles as they exist in their local markets not necessarily how the beers are when (and if) they reach the US.  We also would like to better address some minor and/or historical styles that have some interest level.  Beers don't need to be currently made to be described in the style guidelines if we have some historical context that can be applied.

I think at this point we've probably heard as much as we need for this round of updates.  Continued posts on the BJCP Forum in the style sections or email to the styles address on the BJCP web site are the best way of passing along information.  We continue to be involved in many competitions a year, so we do get a number of requests directly through conversations.  Believe me, we do listen to all the various things people are saying.  Reconciling the various requests and putting the thoughts together in a coherent format is the tricky bit, though.  We're unlikely to be able to satisfy every possible interested person with any given update, so we can't have that as a goal.  We can only strive to make the guidelines more accurate and complete as time goes on.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 09:21:16 PM »
Would the BJCP consider a method of getting good experienced feedback on submitted beers in a non competition format? It seems like it would be a great way for rural brewers to grow their skills and knowledge without having to take up space at a competition. I'm planning to send a couple to a friend who is a judge, but I think this would be great for all of us. Seems like BJCP could make a few bucks in the process.

This one is important for me as well.  The insight I get from people who really know both beer and styles is highly valuable.  I'm not opposed to competitions; I'm looking for ways to get critical feedback. 

Half my recipes are for fun (the house IPAs), but I am trying to land styles with my own recipes to see how well I understand and execute (say a kolsch or pilsner).  It keeps me in check with the learning curve.

Thanks Gordon!

I really do think this type of evaluation is best done at homebrew club meetings or between friends at the enthusiast level.  A competition isn't going to give you this type of feedback.  I'd love to see more of a grassroots solution, like people doing beer trades on the social media beer sites rather than trying to implement a top-down solution.

That said, we're open to ideas.  I'm sure there are good ideas out there that we haven't considered.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 09:17:36 PM »

Has there been any discussion regarding increasing the catagories for sour and wild fermentation beers.    It seems like Belgian Specialty and Catagory 23 are too broad for all of the great beers that can be made with wild yeast and 100% Brett fermentation.


Michael Crane

piggybacking on Mr Crane's excellent questions...
what if any significant changes would you like to see made to the style guidelines?  Any styles in particular that need updating?  Any styles in particular that need to be added?  We know the cider guidelines are getting a much-needed update; anything else?

I keep seeing contests loaded with 16E entries that seem to have more in common with Cat 17, 18, 20, 23 than witbier or BPA.  Any ideas on what you'd like to see done with this category?


I expect a lot of changes to the style guidelines; this will be a major update with many new styles.  We typically revise the guidelines every 4-5 years, so it's time.  We planned to update them 2 years ago, but held off so we could roll out the new exam program.  There is interest in new styles, several new reference materials are now available, and the BJCP has expanded into other countries. We'd like to make the guidelines more accurate, and better reflect the world's beer styles, not necessarily that which is available in the US market.

Nothing is finalized, but many have been prepared.  Right now, we're looking at things like Australian Sparkling Ale, English Golden Ale, Grodziskie, American Strong Ale, English Strong Ale, Wild Ale, Wheatwine, various Specialty IPAs, Czech Amber and Dark Lagers, etc.  Adding a historical category.  Complete revision of European styles, particularly English, Scottish, and German styles.  We're looking at splitting and combining some styles, and general reorganization.  We're also looking at ways of helping manage the entries in the various specialty categories, so we're looking at what amounts to competition entry categories in addition to proper styles. The cider guidelines are completely done.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 09:11:55 PM »
Hi Gordon,

Three questions.

What is your take on the value of decoction mashing especially dark german lagers? Recently I tried a hybrid decoction starting with dough in protein rest at 130F for 20, another infusion to 142F for 40 min then a thick decocotion, rest at 160F, boil 15 and adding to get mash to 158F for 20 min then a thin decoction to mash out, drain then batch sparge. (I'm limited to mashing in a 10 gal cooler.)

Secondly, how long is too long for fermentation? Many suggest going a full month rather than after reaching FG. Does this negatively affect the beer? Would lager yeast differ than ale yeast in this regard?

Lastly, for my hoppy beers, what is the most effective dry hop duration? I read a study that says 1-2 days is all you need.  What dry hop method gives you the best aroma?

Thanks in Advance
Bob Manke -Kansasville WI

(1) I *love* decoction mashing my German lagers, especially the dark ones.  Yes, you can get similar flavors by playing around with your grist, but I generally like the mouthfeel of decocted beers better.  However, I haven't done any blind tastings or other experiments to see if that's something that I believe to be the case, or that is actually true.  I really like decocting my German wheat beers too; there's a definite mouthfeel advantage that I perceive from those beers.

Your decoction technique sounds fairly similar to what I do, except that I can direct fire my mash tun so I don't have to infuse to go from 131 to 145 (my choices for rests), or decoct to mash out.  The main decoction I do is the same as you; while you are resting in the mid 140s, pulling a thick decoction to get to the high 150s.  I think that gives you the most impact for the least time.  It's the basic hochkurz technique I describe in the book.  I try to do a decoction for most German beers whenever I have the time.

(2) How long is too long for fermentation?  When autolysis starts.  That is more a function of temperature and time than just time alone.  Higher temperatures force the yeast to try to be active, and they cannibalize themselves if given the chance.  You can tell this happens when you start getting more of a glutamate flavor in your beer (like adding MSG).  Generally, I don't worry too much about leaving my beers on the yeast unless it's hot.  When the beer drops bright in the primary, fermentation is done and the yeast have flocculated.  Time to rack.  Some yeast take longer than others (some Belgian strains need the extra time to clean up after themselves), and other yeast will drop like a rock (I'm looking at you, 1968).  I don't transfer based on gravity unless I'm trying to do a secondary fermentation or lagering.  I generally wait for it to finish, and then drop bright.  That's for ale yeast.  I don't expect lager yeast to drop bright until lagering is done, and even then they often need help.  I'm more likely to transfer to a secondary when the yeast are still working since it reduces the chance of oxidation.  However, most of my batches just go from primary to keg, so getting them bright is important to me.

(3) Regarding dry hopping, there is a big difference of opinion.  I don't use the technique too often since it tends to make a mess of clarity.  However, when I do it, I try to limit the dry hop contact to 7 days.  Some say that you can go 2 or 3 days; that's probably fine too.  You can also dry hop multiple times, if you want.  I just worry about oxidizing my beer with all that cold side work.  So I tend to go 7 days with all my dry hops.  I think the best aroma comes from a combination of whirlpool hops (steeping at knockout) with dry hops later.  They aren't direct substitutes, but they each give a nice complementary character.  If you want the best aroma, I'd use both techniques.  I think the duration of dry hopping is of secondary importance, as long as you're talking about keeping it under 2 weeks.  Keeping oxygen out of your cold side is critical, so keep that in mind as you execute these techniques.  You can ruin that great fresh hop aroma so quickly with oxygen.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 08:54:15 PM »
Would the BJCP consider a method of getting good experienced feedback on submitted beers in a non competition format? It seems like it would be a great way for rural brewers to grow their skills and knowledge without having to take up space at a competition. I'm planning to send a couple to a friend who is a judge, but I think this would be great for all of us. Seems like BJCP could make a few bucks in the process.

As a formal program of the BJCP?  This isn't something we've considered.

We are looking at ways to implement regional training events and other more local functions.  Maybe that could be accomplished at that level.

The problem with the concept as stated is that there is no central BJCP location to send these to.  It's more of a professional association in that regard.  So if you want to set up something with a BJCP judge directly, you might have more luck.  Maybe post something to the BJCP Forum looking for a judging partner.  Kind of like a pen pal, I guess.

I think the BJCP is probably best suited to trying to grow the judge population so that you are more able to find judges in your area to help you directly than to try to set up a centralized system.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 08:50:08 PM »

Has there been any discussion regarding increasing the catagories for sour and wild fermentation beers.    It seems like Belgian Specialty and Catagory 23 are too broad for all of the great beers that can be made with wild yeast and 100% Brett fermentation.


Michael Crane

Yes, I expect the next edition of the style guidelines will address this directly.  I share your concern with the structure of the specialty categories at present due to their popularity.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 08:48:25 PM »
Hi Gordon,
I was listening to a recient podcast in which you spoke about first wort hopping adding hop flavor, I was wondering if you'd done any specific experiments that backed those findings, or if it was just your experience brewing recipes with FWH that provided the evidence.


I haven't done experiments per se, but I have brewed hundreds of batches using different techniques and have my direct observations from those experiences.  When I first read about FWH (late '90s, maybe?), I tried using the technique to confirm what was written.  I kept getting much more flavor than the papers suggested, but no aroma.  I've made batches with nothing but FWH, and I've seen the effects directly.  But no, nothing measured in a lab.

It would be an interesting experiment, provided suitable equipment was available.  I'd love to know how to balance the quantity of FWH vs. flavor hops to get the same output.  My observation is that FWH gives you more flavor than an equal weight of flavor hops added at 10-15 minutes, but I don't know how much more.  That's something I'd love to know.  I think you'd be able to do that with just your own senses, not lab equipment.

I'm looking into whirlpool/steeping additions of hops in the same way now, trying to develop a better characterization for them.  I'm most interested in knowing how my choices of ingredients and techniques influence the final beer so I have a better predictive understanding of the impact of changes before implementing them.

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 08:38:49 PM »
Mr. Strong,

There are several things I changed about my brewing process after reading Brewing Better Beer: I started brewing with reverse osmosis water, I reduced mineral additions, and I began adding dark grains during the sparge rather than mashing them.

I’ve found that, even using 100% RO water, I can hit my target mash pH without the need to add any alkalinity if I don’t mash the darker grains.  However, a lot of the water adjustment spreadsheets available to homebrewers suggest that bicarbonates are necessary.
In your opinion, if the target mash pH can be achieved with a water profile that contains little or no bicarbonates, is there any reason to add them?  Do they have any discernable or beneficial effect on flavor, mouthfeel, etc.?

Thanks for your time,

Glad I was able to help.  If my book helped you rethink and optimize your brewing, then mission accomplished.

Honestly, it sounds like you answered your own question.  If you can hit your target mash pH without adding excessive minerals or chemicals, why would you want to add them?  Spreadsheets are just models, and models can be wrong.  They can also be based on assumptions that are not valid for how you brew.  If you can directly measure your mash pH, then why would you need to have a spreadsheet tell you what to do?  I think water spreadsheets are more valuable when you *can't* hit your mash pH.

Mineral additions will have a flavor impact (as will using low mineral water).  What you prefer is pretty much up to you.  Personally, I detest the flavor of (bi)carbonates in my water and my beer, so I try to avoid them.  Some like the flavor of chlorides or sulfates in some circumstances, but I like to taste the beer.

Think of it like cooking.  If you add some salt to your food, it makes your food taste more like the ingredients.  Unless you add too much, and then it tastes like salt.  In brewing, if you start tasting the minerals more than you taste the beer, I think you've gone too far.  The brewers in Pilsen seem to get away with making decent beer without a bunch of mineral additions, so I don't understand the need to fiddle with your beer so much.

My water is awful for brewing since it has a high level of chalk in it.  I tried to get rid of it several ways, but the easiest for me is to just buy RO water.  I adopted my brewing techniques around that, and they seem to work pretty well for all styles.

If you're trying to make an arbitrary style using an arbitrary water profile, then you're likely to have to use a bunch of mineral or acid additions; a spreadsheet can be handy for that, if it models your brewing process correctly.  But why play that game if you don't have to?

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 08:28:37 PM »
I know there is a lot of debate on Hot Side Aeration.

Would like to know your take and experience on this.


-- mark

Personally, I don't know that I've ever seen it in my beer.  I don't know what measurements you'd take to confirm it (dissolved oxygen, perhaps, but few homebrewers are equipped to do that).

But just because I don't know that I've ever seen it, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.  I think you can avoid it through following a few fairly easy practices, obviously trying not to excessively aerate your beer during the brewing process (splashing and such).  Any air you get in your beer has to get driven off when the boil starts, and that tends to increase the chance of boilovers, so why encourage it?  However, I also know that the solubility of oxygen in a liquid decreases as the temperature increases, so I wonder how much of a problem it could be.

So I guess I would say don't worry too much about it, but don't do things that would encourage it.  If you do splash here and there, don't dump the batch... 

Ask the Experts / Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« on: November 07, 2013, 08:16:41 PM »
Hi Gordon, thanks for the Q&A.

I don't mean to be too generic with my question but as a new homebrewer I ask this when touring breweries and have received some great info.

What is one tip that you would share with a newer homebrewer to improve the quality of their beer?

That is a hard one, since not all new homebrewers will have the same gaps in knowledge or experience.  First one I would say is learn how to manage a fermentation properly; more problems come out of that than any other issue, and the problems are usually more serious.  But it's also a problem I don't see as often as 10 or 15 years ago.

My personal favorite tip is to learn how to evaluate your own beer.  If you can identify problems with your beer, you can correct them more quickly.  If you know what you are trying to produce, you can more readily tell if you hit your goal.  This speeds up the feedback loop incredibly, and lets you learn more from each batch.  So I try to get people to learn how to assess their beer, how to identify specific flaws, and how to recognize beer styles -- all things you need to be a credible beer judge.  Better judges make better brewers, and vice versa.

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