Author Topic: Homebrew contest scores?  (Read 2481 times)

Offline garciarb

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Homebrew contest scores?
« on: July 22, 2010, 02:55:03 PM »

Hello fellow brewers, I brew partial mash and I was wondering if anyone could provide me with good tips that might help me reach scores of 40s or better if possible. I've entered quite a bit of contest in the past 3 years I've placed third place in a few of them and came in second place two years ago with a Pale Ale in the famous Texas Blue Bonnett Contest which to this day is my pride and glory hahaha. Anyhow it seems like im missing the mark on the Flavor charecteristics, my score tend to avg between 10 and 12 out of 20. If I could only swing 6 or 8 points more I would have some amazing brew since my avg contest scores hover in the mid 30s. I've ask various homebrewers at my local homebrew shop and I've heard better fermentation would help but I beleive there is probablly more I can do to get this right. Please advise.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2010, 04:22:56 PM »
Good God... I think about 99.9% of homebrewers would like the same answers to the same questions.  Myself included.  I think it's just an iterative process.  Keep on researching what you can do to improve, and then do it.  Over the years, your beers WILL get better and better if you learn from all the feedback from contests and from reading a lot.
Dave

"This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption. Let us give praise to our Maker, and glory to His bounty, by learning about... BEER!" - Friar Tuck (Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves)

Offline troy@uk

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2010, 02:47:00 AM »
It's hard to tell what will help without knowing what you are doing.  I can asume from your success to date that you have the most important factor down and that is of course sanitation.  The next area that I concentrated on was fermatation knowledge and TEMPERATURE CONTROL.  Since so many of the most common off flavors are a result of these two areas, that is where I figured I hade the best chance of not loosing potential points.  The areas that I am working on now are recipie formulation and balance.  This forum has been a great help thanks to Denny, Kai and all the other regulars that are willing to share.
Now there are fields where Troy once stood....  OVID

Offline MDixon

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2010, 05:23:07 AM »
Since it sounds as if you have the recipe part figured out due to your past performance, 1st thing to try is full boils which you may already do. 2nd is precise fermentation control. After those two, tweak the recipe to increase complexity of aroma and flavor.
It's not a popularity contest, it's beer!

Offline a10t2

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2010, 08:31:22 AM »
Are there any comments are off-flavors that are appearing on scoresheets frequently? If there's a specific problem that you can correct, that would be one thing, but "how does one make better beer" is a pretty broad question.
Beer is like porn. You can buy it, but it's more fun to make your own.
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Offline garciarb

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2010, 01:38:59 PM »
Excellent guys I appreciate everyones imput on this topic I know is probablly not the best of topics for this forum on partial mash but since thats how I mostly brew I posted here, I guess I better let the wife know I need an extra fridge with control temp to keep my fermantion nice and clean hahahah I think its better than fermenting in guest bedroom and having yeast all over the ceiling ;.) Hard to keep a house nice and cool without paying the cost in energy bill here in Austin TX in the summer so its been keeping me from brewing throughout the summer heat. Got to get back on my brewing horse fall is coming soon.

Offline mpg157

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2010, 05:46:10 AM »
Here is the order of things I would change staring with those that give most bang for the buck.

1. Use a yeast starter to ensure you pitch an adequate amount of healthy yeast.  Only requires a flask, some DME, and a day or two planning ahead

2. Get a fridge with an external thermostat, or some other way to control your fermentation temperature so you can ferment at a constant temperature appropriate for the style you are brewing.  Will require fridge and external temp control, but causes a bifg improvement in quality of beer

3. Move to a full boil.  Will require a big kettle and wort chiller

4. All Grain.  Requires Mash tun (or to minimize the amount of equipment to buy try brew in a bag)  Also requires capability to do full boil

Good Luck
Mike Graham
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Offline thomasbarnes

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2010, 02:05:16 AM »

I brew partial mash and I was wondering if anyone could provide me with good tips that might help me reach scores of 40s or better if possible.

Scores in the mid to high 30s are comparable to well-made commercial beer, and are often good enough to place or win. If you're consistently getting scores in that range, you're doing very well!

Scores in the low 40s are generally the highest that judges ever give out, and indicate truly astounding, world class beer. I describe any beer with a score of 45 or so as "the angels sing when you taste this beer." A hypothetical score of 50 would be "Choirs of angels sing, the heavens open, divine light shines down on the beer, the hand of God points down at it and a booming voice says, "That one!" :)

Look at the Commercial Calibration column in Zymurgy to see the sort of scores that Grand Master judges give to well-made commercial beers. That will give you a better idea of how judges score good beer.

Anyhow it seems like im missing the mark on the Flavor charecteristics, my score tend to avg between 10 and 12 out of 20.

So, look carefully at the judges' comments for Flavor and Overall Impression and tweak your recipe from there.

As a guess, you might be missing the sort of subtle sweet, grainy, bready pale malt flavors and aromas that good all-grain brewers can put into their beers. If you aren't doing it already, you might try doing a mini-mash of pale malts. A crock pot works pretty well for this, since it can be temperature controlled in roughly the ranges you need for mashing. Its only limits are that you can't put more than a couple pounds of grain into it and it's messy to get the liquor out of it.

Mash at higher temperatures to get a more dextrinous wort from your grains. Your malt extract will provide the fermentables you'd get from a lower temperature mash.

Practically, there's no reason to switch to all-grain when you're brewing most styles of beer, as long as you're using good quality, fresh malt extract and you've got your mini-mash and grain steeping techniques nailed.

Ways to improve your beer otherwise:

1. Be righteous about sanitation.

2. Only use pale malt extract and only use it to replace base malts used in all-grain recipes. Use mini-mashing and/or steeping to for other malts.

3. Make a yeast starter. Keep it at the right temperature. Pitch the proper amount of yeast for the style. Properly aerate your wort immediately after pitching your yeast.

4. Gain fine control over fermentation temperature. This doesn't necessarily mean a refrigerator or a chest freezer with a temperature controller on it. Depending on your house, your climate and the style of beer you're trying to brew, it could be as simple as putting your carboy in a temperature-controlled water bath - like a plastic trash with a fish-tank heater for a temperature control.

5. Chill your wort quickly. Immersion chiller good. Counterflow chiller better. Counterflow chiller running ice water from an immersion chiller set in a bucket of ice best. (short of a glycol-chilled heat exchanger like pro-brewers use).

6. Blend your beers. Make multiple batches with slight variations in technique and ingredients and blend them.

7. Practice. Don't skip around the style guidelines. Just brew one or two styles of beer until you've got them perfected. Then branch out. Try to identify and eliminate any sources of variation in your brewing set-up and ingredients as you go. Learn the quirks of your brewery and equipment.

8. Keep good notes. Otherwise, you're just guessing when you try to recreate a really good batch.

Offline babalu87

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2010, 09:07:07 AM »
Look at the Commercial Calibration column in Zymurgy to see the sort of scores that Grand Master judges give to well-made commercial beers. That will give you a better idea of how judges score good beer.

I cant remember many that arent in the very high 30's to low 40's from those pages.
Jeff

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Offline bfogt

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2010, 07:42:04 AM »
Are these generally the same styles or a pretty broad range that are having taste score problems?  Improving the flavor of a Porter is going to need different attention than a bock or light lager.  If it's a general problem, you should have some common descriptions from the scoresheets that would help narrow it down.

My biggest flavor problem encountered in judging beer is that the flavors are one dimensional.  Some beers, that's okay, but most can stand a bit of complexity.  I think that something as simple as using a blend of caramel malts in place of a single one adds a huge diversity to the flavor, even if it's taking out something like C-40 and replacing it with a 50/50 C-20/C-60 blend.

Offline gtoothaker

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2010, 08:22:45 AM »
In addition to all of the above suggestions, if you are not already a BJCP judge, you should consider it.  You will learn a lot about brewing and common flaws while you educate yourself to take the test, and in my opinion, learning to evaluate and judging beers makes most brewers better. 

Offline tom

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2010, 01:02:40 PM »
A 2nd place in the Blue Bonnett in a popular category like American Ales is awesome.
Brew on

Offline garciarb

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2010, 08:33:07 AM »

That 2nd place in the TX BlueBonnet is truly a huge honor for me, hopefully one day I can get that recipe out there to all the folks in Texas and outside of Texas with my own Micro or BrewPub ;.) In the meantime I'll try to brew something that finally brings me 1st place jeje. I highly recommend any homebrewer out there to enter there beer at least once in a homebrew contest, its amazing the things you learn from the feedback of the judges, and defiantely competitive and just to win one or place in the top three is amazing and so rewarding makes you want to brew everyday for the rest of your life!

Offline marty

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #13 on: August 16, 2010, 02:24:08 PM »
Are you brewing with competitions in mind, or are you sending in what you have when it's time for a competition?

Age of the beer matters a lot for those last points, too young or too old and it's going to lose points - what is a 44 point beer this week could be a 35 point beer 2 weeks from now

Brew the same recipe enough and you'll know when it's at it's best. Work back that number of weeks from the competition date, and brew so it peaks at the right time. And compare those scores to what you got for the same beer at a "random" time.

Offline garciarb

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Re: Homebrew contest scores?
« Reply #14 on: August 16, 2010, 03:02:26 PM »
Hi Marty you raise a good point and I agree age does matter big time, I've actually done both in the past years. It all depends on the style of beer I've brewed. Like for example this past spring I brewed an ESB, I experiemted with dry hopping it a bit just for the fun of it well of course I entered the Blue Bonnet again but this time no success, it did get a good score of 32 and 34 but the judges found it a bit to hoppy for the ESB style, thats my bad cause it was just 1 month old. I drank some of it yesterday 6 month in and I think now is a good time for it to be submited to a contest since the hops have mellowed out alot in a 6 months period and the beer still is yummy!