Author Topic: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?  (Read 2692 times)

Offline enso

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Judges seem to be really hard on them. Or perhaps they don't quite know what to make of something under 4% abv?

I love Scottish shilling ales and I believe I make some damn tasty ones.  I think they are wicked smooth, clean and flavorful.

Judges don't seem to agree.  I have often had comments about sourness and infections.  I don't taste or smell sourness or infection at all and I am pretty sensitive to that.  I wonder if it is the malts I use?  I love to add a bit of aromatic malt for the wonderful maltiness.  Early on in fermentation I perceive a fairly noticeable raisin character from it.  It fades to more bready malt flavors as it cold ages.  I wonder if that is what they are picking up on?

The other no-no that I do is the kettle caramelization.  I know that this is often perceived as diacytal by judges so it is not recommended, but I love it.  It adds to the malty sweetness I think and certainly the color.  I try to stick to the "authentic" simple grist approach.  I used to use only Marris Otter and a touch of roasted plus the caramelization.  I only added the aromatic to boost the maltiness to try and mimic the more amber/brown base malts that would have been used.  I have not had any complaints about diacytal, but perhaps it is adding to the sourness issue?  One judge actually did recommend MORE kettle caramelization...   ::)

Another comment that tickled me was that the yeast character was not evident enough.  That is one thing I personally do NOT expect in a Scottish ale.  I intentionally ferment as cold as the yeast will let me.  In this case 55F for Wyeast 1728.  After a long cool ferment I age it even cooler for a month or so.

I realize infection is probably more of a potential in such low abv beers but I really truly do not believe these are infected.  I do not have any issues with any other beers and I really do not taste it in these.  My sanitation is excellent and once they are fermenting they tend to be almost lager like in there treatment.

I am just stumped.  It isn't that they are always slammed.  I entered the same beers recently in 2 competitions.  One in the NHC and one in a local comp.  I did not have much hope of my Scottish 70/- doing well in the local comp (non-bjcp) because generally the beers that win are HUGE, either in alcohol or hops.  I actually took 1st.  In the NHC...  Bombed,  only 28!

I don't know.  I really love how the beers are so I won't be changing them.  Anyways, just rambling here I guess.  Thanks for reading.
Dave Brush

Offline dbeechum

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I totally get where you're coming from. I think most judges on competition day are looking to be "wowed" and don't stop to remember that the "wow" in the smaller beers is the flavor that's added to a small package.

My mild, which I'll defend to the death gets pounded on (it has won a few medals so I guess I shouldn't kevtch too much) for various reasons, but sit back at a fest and I can guarantee that a full 5er is going bye bye before the day is done.
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Offline bo_gator

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Way to go Drew, I was about to mention problem with milds. At least with Mild there is the excuse of not knowing what is should taste like due to lack of commercial examples, but Scottish ales should be something any and or all BJCP judges should know how to judge no matter the ABV ::)
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Online hopfenundmalz

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Enso - on the sourness issue, when you submit your bottles, keep a couple for yourself and drink on or near the judging date.  I had one that went to the NHC that was off when I tasted at the end of April.  If you bottle from kegs, this is one of those quallity checks that you can do.
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Offline MDixon

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The other no-no that I do is the kettle caramelization.  I know that this is often perceived as diacytal by judges so it is not recommended, but I love it.  It adds to the malty sweetness I think and certainly the color.  I try to stick to the "authentic" simple grist approach.  I used to use only Marris Otter and a touch of roasted plus the caramelization.  I only added the aromatic to boost the maltiness to try and mimic the more amber/brown base malts that would have been used.  I have not had any complaints about diacytal, but perhaps it is adding to the sourness issue?  One judge actually did recommend MORE kettle caramelization...   ::)

Explain in detail how you "kettle caramelize", if all you are doing is boiling, you are not caramelizing anything, you must boil to a candy stage (removing the water) to achieve caramelization!
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Offline blatz

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not for nothing, but I just gave a mild a 45, and it won the English Brown cat,  2 weekends ago.  best damned mild to pass this lips.  

turns out I know the brewer, so he gave me some pointers on what made it so great, and then also told me its only barely above 3%!!

so there  ;)
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Offline richardt

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... he gave me some pointers on what made it so great, and then also told me its only barely above 3%!!

Care to share?  I'd love to know what ingredients or methods makes for a great tasting session beer.

Offline mikeypedersen

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... he gave me some pointers on what made it so great, and then also told me its only barely above 3%!!

Care to share?  I'd love to know what ingredients or methods makes for a great tasting session beer.
+2.  I'll second that emotion!

Offline weithman5

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all that matters to some people is the alcohol content (same people who probably tried to get their hands on everclear when they were teenagers) it sounds like you guys all love your milds and that is what is important.  and sometimes you win and sometimes you don't.  when i can make a good mild,  i will enjoy it for what it is not what someone else thinks it should be.
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Offline tom

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The BOS at the NHC in Cincinnatti was a Cream Ale.
Brew on

Offline bonjour

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2010, 11:03:00 AM »
I do make a pretty good Imperial Mild, 17+%,  tastes like a big Barleywine.

To get the flavor ino a small beer is as difficult (if not more so) than brewing a really ig beer well.

I'll have a Amarillo Mild and a Simoe Mild at the NHC.  Yea that's out of the box, but they are about 3%

Fred
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Everything under 1.100 is a 'session' beer ;)

Offline blatz

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2010, 11:23:45 AM »
his secrets were a high mash temp (body, dextrins) and home toasted oats.  The toasted oats gave so many interesting flavors - I don't make a lot of british beers but I am intrigued to try this out.
The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.

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Offline smoga

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2010, 11:35:08 AM »
I have to reply.
I love the style. I did enter a Scotch 80 in the BJCP
And yes, my BJCP S80 also received a 28 - and yes, they did knocked it down for....diacetyl

Couple of things to note: These beers (Scotch 60/70/80) really change character as they age.
How old was the beer you entered? Have you tasted it lately?
My beer was only about 6 weeks old at judging and that buttery character has completely disappeared as it aged.
I admit, I gave the wort a 2 hour boil to bring out more of the caramel flavor. See page 127 of "Brewing classic styles"

You cite one of the most common problems with judging; useless and contradictory advice. I find that it is common to get middling scores with no real reason why the beer got knocked down. One judge called for more hops (in this style?) the other called for less hops. A couple suggested a dacetyl rest (with Wy1728?) and colder fermentation. I fermented at 60

I too found the judging comments not very helpful or relevant to this style.

Offline richardt

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2010, 11:45:30 AM »
his secrets were a high mash temp (body, dextrins) and home toasted oats.  The toasted oats gave so many interesting flavors - I don't make a lot of british beers but I am intrigued to try this out.

Thanks for sharing!  YUM!  That sounds like the right approach for max flavor in a session beer. 
I've also considered adding a small percentage (5-10%) of aromatic or melanoiden malt--what do you think?

Offline Pawtucket Patriot

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2010, 12:38:49 PM »
his secrets were a high mash temp (body, dextrins) and home toasted oats.  The toasted oats gave so many interesting flavors - I don't make a lot of british beers but I am intrigued to try this out.

Home toasted oats add a great depth of toasty flavors.  I used them in my winter ale last year and I thought it was one of the best beers I've ever brewed.
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