Author Topic: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong  (Read 12389 times)

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #45 on: November 07, 2013, 02:55:24 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.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #46 on: November 07, 2013, 03:08:06 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,
Dennis

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

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #47 on: November 08, 2013, 04:55:07 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.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #48 on: November 08, 2013, 08:52:27 AM »
It seems that when I brew my favorite recipe, I can have great hop aroma in about 2 weeks of bottle conditioning, but the malt flavors are missing, or I can have a nice roasty malty tasting beer in 4 weeks but the hop aroma is almost non-existent.  How can I get that balanced malty and the nice hop aroma at the same time?  I should note that I bottle condition... would kegging help?

That's a hard problem to diagnose; it's not something obvious.  Are you talking about repeating the same recipe, or recipes in general?  If it's repeating the same recipe, then all I can say is that you should try for repeatable processes and ingredient selection.  If you're using the same things the same way every time, then you might need to tweak your recipe to get the balance you want.  If you're talking about general variability in brewing, then I'm not sure there's much you can do other than trying to get the same result every time from honing your process and watching your ingredient freshness and quality.

Beers can change during conditioning, and that's usually a good thing.  Some beers require some age to mature properly.  If your beers change during the early weeks of conditioning, do they tend to stabilize after a certain point?  If so, adjust your recipe for the balance you want after it stops changing.  Then remember how long you typically need to condition your beers, and wait until that time passes before sampling them.

Beers can change character at a different rate depending on whether you are warm conditioning them or cold conditioning them.  If you get the beer to where you want it, I recommend moving it to cold storage to try to stabilize it at that state for as long as you can.

I wish there was an easy tip to address your problem, but without some more information it's hard to get to the bottom of it.  I tend to think you probably just need to accept that there will be changes in your beer and try to optimize your recipe for the flavor after it finally does condition.  That's likely to give you the best long term results.  But it means that you have to wait longer to try your beer, unfortunately.  So keep brewing other batches so you always have something ready!
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #49 on: November 08, 2013, 08:56:38 AM »
Hey Gordon,

Pleasure meeting you at the NHC in Philly during the BJCP Tasting Exam, and again at your book signing.  I must say that you were super friendly and approachable, which was a pleasant surprise given your notoriety.

In your book, and you when you talk about your home brewery I cannot help but think that you have a Sabco Brew-Magic setup, is that what you brew on?

BTW, loved your recent "Hop Techniques" podcast on BeerSmith!

Cheers!
Dan

Thanks for the compliments.  I'm always happy to meet fellow homebrewers at these events.

I don't have a Sabco Brew Magic system, but it kind of looks similar.  I have a Pico brewing system, which I don't think are made any more.  I met a Sabco rep once that said that Pico got their kegs from Sabco, so that could be it.

I've often thought about getting a new system, but I don't really want to go through the down time of relearning how the new system responds.  I know how to make good beer on my current system, so I keep using it.  I make small upgrades occasionally, but I try to keep changes incremental so I can adjust my processes more easily.  I don't really have a recommendation on a system today since I haven't used them, but there are certainly a lot of solid choices.
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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #50 on: November 08, 2013, 09:01:56 AM »
Are there plans to update the guidelines for IPAs, category 14?  It seems that the style has rapidly evolved, both with alcohol content (triple IPA) and with balance between hops and malt.  The current description includes "the malt backbone will generally support the strong hop character," which is not necessarily the case in the current best and most popular commercial examples.

I recently entered a well-brewed variant of a highly hopped IPA (PTY) that scored 42 in one competition and 28 in another.  The results varied only based on the judge's interpretation of the style, not on flaws in the beer.

Yes, the IPA guidelines will be revised in the next release, as I've mentioned in other responses.  I still think that statement about the malt supporting the hops is true, although some people may interpret it incorrectly.  IPAs shouldn't be rocket fueled hop juice; some malt is needed to balance, but that doesn't mean they should be malt-forward.

Even with changes in the guidelines, you will often see variability in judging.  Some judges will always insert their own opinions rather than allowing for the full range of the style.  That's unfortunate, but about all we can do is make sure the guidelines are correct and try to increase awareness and training.  You can make a wide range of beers called IPA and have them be delicious; no need to assume all of them taste the same.

It's not a new problem, and it isn't isolated to IPAs.  I could tell you stories of the ranges of scores some of my beers have gotten over the years.  You have to accept some of that as part of the game, but yes, we'll try to do our part by making the guidelines more accommodating to modern trends.
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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #51 on: November 08, 2013, 09:27:43 AM »
Gordon,

What is your general process on the cold side of making a lager?  I have only made 3-4 lagers but none of them have really been up to my standards yet and I am looking for ways to improve.  I have temp control, make large yeast starters, oxygenate my wort alot, etc... I tend to have alot of issues with acetaldehyde the most...  I have tried leaving the beer in primary for many weeks to allow the yeast to clean it up they just don't seem to...

Thanks.

Hmm, seems like you're doing the right things.  In general, acetaldehyde says to me that the fermentation is incomplete.  You may wish to use yeast nutrients (I like the Wyeast brand, using the dosage recommendations on the package) to ensure a healthy start.  You didn't mention if you are using different yeast strains.  It could be that you are using some that produce higher levels of acetaldehyde (Budweiser yeast, anyone?).  Maybe you should beechwood-age your beer  ;)   I don't like high sulfur levels in beer, so I try to avoid strains that produce a lot of that character.

According to Kunze, acetaldehyde is increased by: (1) rapid fermentation, (2) temperature increase during fermentation, (3) increased yeast dosage, (4) pressure application during primary fermentation, (5) too little wort aeration, and (6) infected wort.  It is reduced by (1) all measures to promote vigorous secondary fermentation and maturation, (2) a warmer maturation stage, (3) sufficient wort aeration, and (4) increased yeast concentration in the maturation stage.

Assuming your temperature isn't getting too high, I'm guessing you might be overpitching and/or getting too quick a fermentation, based on these.

For a normal strength lager, I typically use a smackpack of Wyeast or make a 1L starter with a vial of White Labs.  I don't go crazy on yeast, but I will often repitch from a normal batch if I'm making a stronger lager.  I oxygenate and pitch with the yeast and wort at the same temperature.  I ferment at about 50F, waiting until it seems pretty well done, then I rack to a keg and lower the temperature slowly until it gets to about 33-34F.  Then I let it hang out for a long time.  I'm more inclined to use the traditional German method of 1 week for every degree Plato of original extract (even though most German breweries only lager for 2-3 weeks nowadays).  Then I fine with gelatin and rack to a serving keg.  I almost never do a diacetyl rest, but I don't tend to pick strains that are big diacetyl producers.  I do taste my beer before lagering, and only do a d-rest if it needs it.  I'm kind of fond of WLP833, Wyeast 2124, and Wyeast 2206 for my lagers.  Lagering at a very cold temperature for a long time and fining the keg do give me better results.  Most off flavors in lagers I taste usually are from rushed processes, or insufficient yeast separation.  Be sure not to crash your temperature too fast, because you want the yeast to continue to work during lagering.  Temperature control helps because you can knock it down a couple degrees a day until it's where you want it.

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

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #52 on: November 08, 2013, 09:34:10 AM »
Hi Gordon,

For a spiced ale; is it best to add the spices (tea or tincture or...) to the secondary or are some OK for the boil? I worry about astringency when tossing cinnamon sticks in the kettle. Boiling wood doesn't sound like a good idea to me. What is your take?

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience!

Phil

You can do it either way.  I tend to add the spices at the end of the boil and let them steep for awhile (5 or 10 minutes, usually; I put them in a fine mesh bag to make it easier to remove), then do final adjustments through teas once fermentation is complete and I can taste the final balance of the beer.  I don't boil the spices; I just let them steep, like you're making tea.  I keep track of adjustments made post-fermentation so I can revise what I do in the kettle in the next batch.  However, keep in mind that the intensity of spices can vary based on their age, source, and handling, so you may want to keep it on the lighter side and nudge up to your target when you can actually taste the beer.  I don't like the taste of raw spices, so I do like them to see some heat, whether in the kettle at knockout or through making a tea for later adjustment.  I've made a few spiced beers recently (pumpkin pie spiced beer for autumn, and a Chilean-inspired foreign stout with honey, coffee, and smoked chile pepper) and have used these methods successfully.
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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #53 on: November 08, 2013, 09:36:37 AM »
Gordon,

When building your water profiles do you fine adding magnesium to be a desirable flavor ion for any styles?

I tend not to add magnesium to my brewing liquor.  It can be a bit metallic and sour tasting if used too extensively.  I've added some when making a Flanders red, but I keep it very light.

For most styles, I use RO with calcium chloride only.  For a few styles, I will swap in some gypsum.  But that's basically it.  I don't like excessively minerally beers.  Maybe I have Pilsen genes in my lineage...
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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #54 on: November 08, 2013, 09:48:14 AM »
Hi Gordon,


Do you feel that competitive brewers and the BJCP have become too exclusive? Do you think more casual brewers have an equal playing field, particularly at the national level? Is there any thinking about restructuring competitions to address the "submit as many beers to as many competitions as possible" game?


Any recommendations on the testing process for BJCP judging? What's do you think is the best place to start?


Thanks, Matt

As a reformed competitive brewer, I don't think so.  I don't think either competitive brewers or the BJCP are exclusive.  When I was competing, I wanted to compete against the best brewers.  Excluding people wouldn't help me meet that goal (and is probably one of the reasons I don't enter the NHC any more -- too many limits).  I don't think the BJCP is exclusive at all.  Anyone can take the test and become a judge; it's all based on demonstrated skills and knowledge.

I think there has always been an even playing field.  You could always enter whatever you wanted.  That's about as even as it gets.  Every beer is judged on its own merits.  Someone who makes better beer and more of it is likely to win more awards.  Equal opportunities don't really imply equal outcomes.  I've never been a fan of 'participant' medals; I want them to mean something.

In the modern NHC, I think casual brewers have an even better chance of winning something since brewers are limited in their number of entries.  However, they still need to make great beer to have a chance.  So as long as 'casual' means 'infrequent' and not 'mediocre'...  Quality still matters; it's just the quantity that's being restricted.

I've seen more and more competitions introduce quotas on entries.  As the hobby expands, more people will want to enter competitions.  That often strains traditional competitions, so they have to respond by making it more manageable.  But that's basically a competition-by-competition decision.  No competition should accept more beers than it feels it is able to adequately judge.  Anything else does a disservice to the entrant.  But I don't see the BJCP introducing any limits; there's no way we could understand 400+ competitions better than the people who are running them.

As to the BJCP exam, I think the BJCP Study Guide is a great place to start.  We cover the topics that will be on the exam, and talk about other reading sources.  Secondary reading is great for learning and becoming a more knowledgeable judge and brewer, so I really do recommend that.  But the material on the test is generally covered in the study guide.  A good understanding of the BJCP Style Guidelines is critical, so I would spend more time there than anywhere.  And since the new exam format emphasizes proven tasting skills for new judges, getting practical experience judging with other BJCP judges is pretty important.  You can't really develop a good sense of scoring calibration if you're only judging beers by yourself.  So get out and attend competitions, volunteering to steward and judge, and let those people know that you are training for the exam and that you'd like to be paired with experienced judges who have an interest in educating and training new judges.

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

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #55 on: November 08, 2013, 10:04:22 AM »
Hi Gordon,

Listened to an interview with you on Beersmith.  Enjoyed it very much!  I had a couple of questions:

* You mentioned that you have a false bottom in your kettle.  Do you prefer whole hops or does your false bottom filter pellet hops as well?

* As a big fan of FWH do you have a preferred variety?

* I had read some tips that you gave in Zymurgy.  You said that one of the ways you can brighten up a finished beer is to add some phosphoric acid to it.  Do you have a target pH range for hoppy beers?  Do you think lower pH helps with flavor and aroma?  How low is too low?

Sorry for all the questions!

Best,
Thom

Glad you liked the podcasts.  Brad has been very kind to invite me on his show several times, so I always like to know people are listening and getting something out of them.

My system has a two-piece (think half moon) slotted copper false bottom that sits on top of a stainless steel stand.  The false bottom has a rim to it, so when put in place, it's kind of like a tray in the bottom of the kettle that is level with the ground.  I think whole hops work best with the system, but I've lately been using all pellet hops to good effect.  As long as I let the wort stand for 20 minutes at the end of the boil and as long as I don't runoff too quickly, I get pretty good clarity.  The false bottom is basically acting like a hopback, so it is able to filter pellet hops fairly well.  But having some whole hops does improve the process.  If I could get all the hop varieties I liked in whole form, and they were always fresh, I'd probably use them.  But I can't, and I don't want to miss out on using some hop varieties that I can only get as pellets.

I will use many different varieties of hops when I FWH.  Basically, anything that I think has a good flavor.  Looking over my last several batches, I've used FWH with Styrian Goldings, Hallertauer, Tettnanger, Willamette, Mosaic, Galaxy, Citra, Centennial, Motueka, Pacific Jade, and Saaz.  And that is just for stuff I've made this fall.  So, I guess I'll use any hop as long as I think it tastes good.

Regarding tweaking a beer with phosphoric acid, I don't normally measure it.  I just do it by taste.  You can overdo it, though.  Adding a little bit can brighten a beer, but too much can make it actually taste acidic or sour, and it gives it a thinner mouthfeel.  I did measure the pH on a few beers when I was first experimenting with it, and there is no specific rule -- it depends on the balance of the beer and the other flavors present.  In general, I think you want to avoid going below around pH 4.1 unless it's a sour beer.  I think it helps with the flavor more than the aroma.  It's something I sometimes try if the beer tastes too dull or heavy, but that's rare.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #56 on: November 08, 2013, 10:05:50 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

OK, got through them all.  Thanks everyone for the questions.  Hope you got something useful out of the answers.
Gordon Strong • Beavercreek, Ohio • AHA Member since 1997 • Twitter: GordonStrong

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #57 on: November 08, 2013, 10:38:38 AM »
Gordon has completed his answers for this edition of Ask the Experts. I would like to express a huge thank you to Gordon for taking time to answer our questions!

I will keep the thread unlocked for a while to give people the option to discuss any of Gordon's replies, though this is not intended for submitting follow up questions to Gordon.

Thank you to everyone who participated and be sure to share this with your homebrew friends!

Cheers,
Duncan

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #58 on: November 08, 2013, 11:36:54 AM »
Thanks Gordon, good read.
Tom Schmidlin

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Re: Ask the Experts: Gordon Strong
« Reply #59 on: November 08, 2013, 11:54:52 AM »
"Creativity is the residue of wasted time" - A. Einstein

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