Author Topic: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong  (Read 10838 times)

Offline duncan

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #30 on: October 29, 2013, 07:19:50 AM »
Thanks to everyone who posted a question for Gordon Strong to consider! The question submission window is now closed, and Gordon will post his answers by 11/11/13. Stay tuned!

Cheers,
Duncan

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #31 on: November 07, 2013, 01:06:09 PM »
Gordon,

Are there any plans within the BJCP to institute a way for a judges ranking to be keyed to the on going quality of their judging?

I have seen in contests where I was stewarding or participating judges with quite high ranking sometimes make glaring mistakes throughout a flight, not simple disagreeing on a particular entry but misapplying guidelines or making comments to others at the table that they have no sense of smell etc.

I am sure this is a complex proposition and the big focus is increasing the pool of available judges but it seems like maintaining a pool of Quality judges would be even more important to the goals of the organization.

Thanks,
Jonathan Fuller

It's been kicked around a few times before, but nothing was ever workable.  There is currently a proposal under review for an outside party to develop something like this for judges and competitions.  We'll see how it proceeds.

There are several real problems involved with any kind of crowdsourcing app, mostly with making sure the data is actually valid.  If it's used for people to flag people they just don't like regardless of their judging skills, I'm not sure that gains us anything.  It's also not clear what the BJCP would do with such data, if anything, or if it would just be feedback to the judge.

We've looked at scoresheet review systems before, as well as disciplinary systems.  Again, none were really workable, but maybe we should take a new look since technology has changed since that last review about 6 or 7 years ago.

In the meantime, there are certainly other things people could do, such as emailing the judge directly about complaints, or providing them to the competition organizer or BJCP competition director.  Most judges include their email address on scoresheets, but I've heard very few actually say they've ever received feedback.  That would be a good start, IMHO.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #32 on: November 07, 2013, 01:11:34 PM »
My question is this: what is the fastest/youngest to the National judge level and/or the Master judge level?

I ask because I am usually the youngest person around at any competition in the area at 26 years old. I also have realized that within a little less than a year and a half from my first exam, I had made National. At my current rate, I could be at Master by the beginning of next June. I'm sure someone has done it faster than me or younger than me, but I'm curious.

Cheers!

That's hard to say since the BJCP doesn't track a judge by age, gender, race, or other similar tags.

Anecdotally, I know Kris England made Master when he was 28, so there's a goal for you.  As far as soonest to Master, I took a look at some stats and it looks like the fastest was 431 days.  Points are more available now through more competitions, and they are also processed faster than in the old days.  There are also more study materials available, so that could help some people.  It took me 871 days, and that was the fastest I saw until around 2007 or so.

Master rank in the BJCP is a huge accomplishment since it is earned by less than 2% of judges.  It's a great recognition to receive regardless of age or time.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #33 on: November 07, 2013, 01:16:41 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.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #34 on: November 07, 2013, 01:28:37 PM »
I know there is a lot of debate on Hot Side Aeration.

Would like to know your take and experience on this.

Thanks,

-- 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... 
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #35 on: November 07, 2013, 01:38:49 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,
FH

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?
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #36 on: November 07, 2013, 01:48:25 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.

Thanks,
Aaron
 

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.

Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #37 on: November 07, 2013, 01:50:08 PM »
Gordon,

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.

Cheers,

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.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #38 on: November 07, 2013, 01:54:15 PM »
Gordon
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.
Jim

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.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #39 on: November 07, 2013, 02:11:55 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.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #40 on: November 07, 2013, 02:17:36 PM »
Gordon,

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.

Cheers,

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?

cheers--
--Michael

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.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #41 on: November 07, 2013, 02:21:16 PM »
Gordon
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.
Jim

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.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #42 on: November 07, 2013, 02:29:28 PM »
Gordon,

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.

Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #43 on: November 07, 2013, 02:31:56 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...
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #44 on: November 07, 2013, 02:45:06 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"?

Cheers,
-Jeremy

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.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong