Author Topic: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?  (Read 2695 times)

Offline blatz

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #15 on: May 11, 2010, 02:33:08 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.

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?

richardt, in my experience, 5-10% is not a 'small percentage' of aromatic/melanoiden (I believe they are virtually the same) - I keep them at less than 2% when I use them - a little goes a long way.


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.

I've never thought of using them, but I am definitely going to toast the oats on my next stout - just gotta remember to do it ahead of time so I can give them enough lead time to rest.
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Offline sienabrewer

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #16 on: May 11, 2010, 04:45:36 PM »
I've never thought of using them, but I am definitely going to toast the oats on my next stout - just gotta remember to do it ahead of time so I can give them enough lead time to rest.

I don't think that is necessary.  When toasting grain, yes, you have to give them 2 weeks minimum.  I toasted oats on brewday for an oatmeal stout.  There were no ill effects, i.e. astringency, and the beer tasted great.

Offline uthristy

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #17 on: May 12, 2010, 07:33:09 AM »
The other no-no that I do is the 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!

Not sure how enso does it but when I make a dark Bière de Garde, I drain off 4L of 1st runnings,add some sugar and boil that down to .75 -.5L. Add back to kettle at flameout, really darkens and adds sweetness  to the finished  beer.

« Last Edit: May 12, 2010, 07:35:10 AM by uthristy »

Offline enso

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #18 on: May 13, 2010, 02:07:09 PM »
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.


Check.  I was drinking a bottle as I read the judging sheets.  Tasted great.  Though I suppose the ones I sent out were not kept in as controlled an environment.
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Offline enso

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2010, 02:11:57 PM »
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!

I take the first 1 gallon of runnings and I boil it hot down to about a quart or less and add it back to the rest of the wort.  I tried to tack a gravity reading the first time I did it.  It was malt extract thick and off the scale!  You have to watch it like a hawk.  Boils over or burns easily when it gets that low.   ::)
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Offline enso

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #20 on: May 13, 2010, 02:27:51 PM »
I love my milds too.  I have actually done fairly well with my mild.  Took 2nd in 2 different competitions.  Though it does suffer the same fate at times as the shillings.  I agree that there is less familiarity with milds amongst judges and drinkers in general.  I disagree that there is a better understanding of Scottish shilling ales out there.  I think there are MANY incorrect commercial examples brewed here in the U.S.  and just like milds, few to none imported from Scotland due to the same transportation issues milds face.  Plus there has been for a long time the erroneous information out there about peat smoke and the reek...  My take is that a mild actually stands a better chance as many have not tasted one and do not have any preconceived notions.  With Scottish ales they have all kinds of misinformation and preconceived ideas of what it should be.

I concur on the brewing of session beers.  You have to think a bit differently to pack more flavor into a small package.  A key to getting good flavor and mouthfeel is to mash high.  I mash my mild at 156-158F.  I mash the shillings up there too.  I tend to mash each succession (60, 70, 80...) a notch higher than the preceding.  In my mild I use some dark crystal, a good amount of aromatic/biscuit/melanoidin type malt (about 14 %)

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Offline santoch

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2010, 12:26:05 AM »
I live near Seattle.  I've judged plenty of BOS rounds that go to the smaller beers. Last year's Puget Sound Pro-Am (>300 beers in the comp) BOS was a fantastic Kolsch.  We also had a Mild take the BOS at Novembeerfest (~280) a few months ago.  Great beer.  I guess I'm saying that the big beers don't always win around here.


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Offline dbeechum

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #22 on: May 14, 2010, 12:34:30 AM »
I guess I'm saying that the big beers don't always win around here.

Nor do they in many places once they make it to the BOS round. Hopefully the BOS judges who are lined up are experienced enough to step out of that strong beer bias.
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Offline richardt

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #23 on: May 14, 2010, 06:24:05 AM »
Looks like there's some difference of opinion on "how much aromatic/melanoiden malt to use."
Blatz says "less than 2%" and enzo says "around 14%" for a mild.  I'd like others to chime in if they could.

I have not brewed a mild, yet.  But I'd like to do so--I'm in the researching the style stage right now.
I didn't have my beer notes in front of me when I wrote my first post and threw out a 5-10% figure for aromatic/melanoiden malt.
   
I went back and checked my recipe for my Saison (1 lb aromatic out of 21 lbs total [17 lbs grain + 4 lbs cane sugar] = nearly 5%).  The judges didn't think it was overpowering---my Saison placed first.

I agree with dbeechum that most judges (myself included), while trying to honor and judge a beer in accordance with the BJCP style guidelines, will tend to show a bias towards more robust, fuller-bodied and fuller-flavored beers within the category, and for stronger and fuller-bodied beers overall.

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #24 on: May 14, 2010, 06:39:52 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.

I'd also suggest doing it as a no-sparge, for maximum body.
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Offline blatz

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #25 on: May 14, 2010, 07:48:53 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.

I'd also suggest doing it as a no-sparge, for maximum body.

might as well, right?  what would sparging save you on a beer of this gravity, maybe $2 in grains??  ;D

I think I just might have to make this sometime soon.  It'd be nice to have a beer around that I could have a pint or two of on a work night.
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Offline tom

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #26 on: May 14, 2010, 09:22:20 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.

I'd also suggest doing it as a no-sparge, for maximum body.
I did that once and a judge thought it was "too big for style" although it wasn't.
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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #27 on: May 14, 2010, 09:52:59 AM »
I did that once and a judge thought it was "too big for style" although it wasn't.

I never assume anything (good or bad) is actually in my beers unless two different judges in two different comps have noted it.
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Offline wilypig

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Re: Is it just me or are session beers hard to enter into competitions?
« Reply #28 on: June 14, 2010, 10:11:08 AM »
I am very involved in the local HB competition and have just organized the Extract COC. It is my opinion that it is harder for a Session ale to fair well against the previously stated WOW factor of very complex bigger beers only if the judges are not experienced enough to appreciate the subtleties of session ales. For the Extract COC the top 2 beers were very subtle in their own right. The first place was a lightly spiced Weiss beer with black pepper corn. The second place was a perfectly balanced American Amber lager. These entries stood up to some very complex and robust IPA's, Porters and RISs. An exceptionally well balanced session ale can stand up to a complex yet busy RIS any day. If you are a Session ale brewer have faith, keep working for balance and drinkability. It is not uncommon for my local HB competition (over 350 entries) to have at least half of the top 10 beers at the BOS table be session or very subtle beers
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