Author Topic: Judged beer process\ingredients help  (Read 817 times)

Offline gimmeales

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Judged beer process\ingredients help
« on: August 18, 2010, 07:00:24 AM »
Hey all,

Just got my results from a recent BJCP competition and I got some feedback I'd like some help with.  Brewed a Saison that ended up stronger than anticipated (8.8%), so I entered it as a Belgian Specialty instead of a straight-up Saison.

Of the three judge's comments, 2 of the 3 (in various combinations) checked the boxes for Acetaldehyde, Diacetyl, and Vegetal (not DMS.  I can't say I pick up the latter two, but if 2 of 3 judges did, I'm guessing it's there.  I still really like the beer, but would like to know of any weakness in process or recipe here that would contribute to those characters:

10lb  Domestic 2-row
1lb    Munich
.75lb Wheat
1lb    Cane Sugar

1oz Amarillo @ 60
.75oz Amarillo @ 5
1.5oz Willamette @5

OG 1.070
FG  1.004

Pitched a 2-liter starter of WY3711.  Fermented two weeks in primary (got up to 76F), + one more in the keg before cooling and carbonating.  Fermentation behaved normally.  Aside from my less than traditional hop bill, anything look suspicious?  For such a low FG, the beer does not finish particularly dry with a semi-slick mouthfeel which is a little surprising.  Thinking hard about my ingredients, it occurred to me my Willamettes are I believe from the '07 crop - old hops?  Anything else look particularly Diacetyl or Vegetal producing?

Any input greatly appreciated!

Offline bonjour

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2010, 07:50:46 AM »
Ingreedients look ok

Pitched a 2-liter starter of WY3711.  ok

Fermented two weeks in primary (got up to 76F), + one more in the keg before cooling and carbonating.  Fermentation behaved normally. 
Fermentation:  While, based on your FG everything looks good but how did you determine fermentation was finished?  Both Acetaldehyde and Diacetyl are fermentation byproducts, normally from premature removal from premature removal from the yeast cake though they can be the byproduct of contamination.
You do indicate that you likely sensed the Diacetyl, "semi-slick mouthfeel" is how a lot of people sense Diacetyl.

Aside from my less than traditional hop bill, anything look suspicious?  For such a low FG, the beer does not finish particularly dry with a semi-slick mouthfeel which is a little surprising.  Thinking hard about my ingredients, it occurred to me my Willamettes are I believe from the '07 crop - old hops?  Anything else look particularly Diacetyl or Vegetal producing?

The Old hops may contribute to the vegetal, though this too may be a byproduct of fermentation.

 Diacetyl

This compound is responsible for an artificial butter, butterscotch or toffee-like aroma and taste. At low levels, it may also produce a slickness on the palate. A significant number of tasters cannot perceive diacetyl at any concentration, so every judge should be aware of his or her limitations. Diacetyl is a fermentation by-product which is normally absorbed by the yeast and reduced to more innocuous diols. High levels can result from prematurely separating the beer from the yeast or by exposure to oxygen during the fermentation. Low FAN levels or mutation may also inhibit the ability of yeast to reduce diacetyl. Note that high fermentation temperatures promote both the formation and elimination of diacetyl, but the latter is more effective. For that reason, lager breweries often employ a diacetyl rest, which involves holding the beer in the 50-55 F range for a few days after racking to the conditioning tank. Diacetyl is also produced by some strains of lactic acid bacteria, notably Pediococcus damnosus. Low levels of diacetyl are permissible in nearly all ales, particularly those brewed in the United Kingdom, and even some lagers, notably Czech pilseners.

 Acetaldehyde

This compound has the taste and aroma of fresh-cut green apples, and has also been compared to grass, green leaves and latex paint. It is normally reduced to ethanol by yeast during the secondary fermentation, but oxidation of the finished beer may reverse this process, converting ethanol to acetaldehyde. Elevated levels are generally present in green beer or if the beer is prematurely removed from the yeast. It can also be a product of bacterial spoilage by Zymomonas or Acetobacter. Background levels of acetaldehyde can be tasted in Budweiser due to the use of beechwood chips to drop the yeast before it can be reduced to ethanol.

 Grassy

This is the flavor and aroma of freshly cut grass or green leaves. Responsible compounds include the aldehydes hexanal and heptanal, which are produced by the oxidation of alcohols in the finished beer or the deterioration of improperly stored malt or hops. Some English and American hop varieties produce grassy notes if used in large quantities, but this flavor should not be a significant part of the profile.

Vegetal is often DMS
 DMS

DMS, or dimethyl-sulfide produces the aroma and taste of cooked vegetables, notably corn, celery, cabbage or parsnips. In extreme cases, it may even be reminiscent of shellfish or water in which shrimp has been boiled. DMS is normally produced by the heat-induced conversion of S-methyl-methionine (SMM), but most of this evaporates during a long, open, rolling boil. A short, weak or closed boil, or slow cooling of the wort may therefore lead to abnormally high levels. Some DMS is also scrubbed out during a vigorous fermentation, which is why lagers and cold-conditioned ales may have slightly higher levels than warm-fermented ales. Wild yeast or Zymomonas bacteria may produce high enough levels of DMS to make the beer undrinkable. Pilsner malt contains as much as 8 times the SMM of pale malt, so Pils-based beers sometimes have a DMS character; this is a much more common cause in most beer than a covered boil. Low levels of DMS are appropriate in most Pils-based lagers, particularly American light lagers and Classic American Pilsners, but are not desirable in most ale styles (Cream Ale is a notable exception).
Fred Bonjour
Co-Chair Mashing in Michigan 2014 AHA Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan
AHA Governing Committee; AHA Conference, Club Support & Web Subcommittees



Everything under 1.100 is a 'session' beer ;)

Offline gimmeales

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2010, 08:18:40 AM »
wow, good stuff, Fred - thanks!  Sure sounds like fermentation-related when put through that lens!  I had forgotten the slick-mouthfeel aspect of Diacetyl, that's good to know as I evidently can't pick up the flavor particularly well.

Gravity reading at 14 days was 1.006, I roused the yeast at that time and measured 1.004 a week later as it went into the keg and assumed it was as far as it would go (though I guess without another identical reading a few days later I shouldn't have assumed this).  Damn, sounds like I went against my normal steely resolve and kegged this one early, I should know better.


Offline bonjour

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2010, 08:22:39 AM »
Also note that high temp fermentation can also do this and yours was one of those.
Fred Bonjour
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AHA Governing Committee; AHA Conference, Club Support & Web Subcommittees



Everything under 1.100 is a 'session' beer ;)

Offline gimmeales

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2010, 08:35:36 AM »
Yep, should have given this my standard 3-week primary before racking, but wanted to make the comp deadline and thought any phenols\acetaldehyde wouldn't be out of place in such a spicy\estery style.  Hadn't considered the other negative side-effects that have been the downfall of this one.

In my impatience, beer quality suffered - I repent!  Never again!

Offline wingnut

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2010, 08:40:04 AM »
I agree with everything Fred listed (He said it all better than I would have anyway!)

However, I do have on tidbit of personal experience to pass on... the low final gravity combined with the score sheet comments reminds me of an issue I had for a few months....  I had an infection in my brewhouse.

While the Acetaldehyde, Diacetyl, and Vegetal characteristics are spot on for a number of issues, it turned out my issue was with an infection I had.  The beers would slowly dry out over three to six months of storage at 55-60F.  The bottles also became a bit over carbonated...some to the point of being gushers when opened.  

What I also noticed was the malt character of my beers went away quickly, and then was replaced slowly over time by a vegital... almost sour note.  It turned my award winning Viennas into award winning American Dark Lagers... and then into beers that were not so good...  as the sour and vegital notes increased.

If it were me, I might store a bottle or two of this Saison away for a couple months in my basement and see if you have a similar experience.  If you do, then there is something hiding in your brewery you will want to find, but more than likely, it is just the small process correction!
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Offline hokerer

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2010, 08:42:54 AM »
Also note that high temp fermentation can also do this and yours was one of those.

Although he did use WY3711 French Saison whose recommended temp range is 65F - 77F so technically he was still within the range.
Joe

Offline gimmeales

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2010, 09:15:34 AM »
Thanks for that input, wingnut.  I have several bottles already sitting in the fridge - will be opening one in Oct when I go to visit family, so will be definitely be paying attention to it's character then....will try to keep one or two around for longer, but no promises :)  Thankfully, for all its flaws I find it a good beer, so all is not lost....but the added IBU's of mediocrity with be harder to swallow ;)

Offline redbeerman

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2010, 10:01:54 AM »
From the Wyeast website about 3711.   
"Produces saison or farmhouse style biers that are highly aromatic, peppery, spicy and citrusy. This strain enhances the use of spices and aroma hops. It is extremely attenuative but leaves an unexpected silky and rich mouthfeel."

I have used this yeast and my results fit the description to a tee.  I enjoy this beer very much.  The silky mouthfeel can be mistaken for diacetyl.  The temp range is 65-77F and you should expect esters and phenols with this strain.  I am at a loss for what the judges would think a Belgian specialty ale should be.  I would think that door would be pretty wide open.
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Offline bonjour

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2010, 10:06:22 AM »
I would have probably entered it as a Saison vs Belgian specialty

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

Offline wingnut

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2010, 10:18:48 AM »
I would have probably entered it as a Saison vs Belgian specialty



I would tend to agree, as long as the alcohol character was not terribly evident.  For the most part, being off a few IBUs, a few SRM, a few gravity points.. etc.  are not critically evident in a competition judging.  As long as you are in the ball park of the guidelines, the judges will not dock you, in fact, if you do it right, it will set your beer apart from the others in the flight.  The key I think is to push the envelope a bit on a style, but not so far that the judge is smacked up side the head with the guideline creep.  If the change is subtle compared to the others in the flight, the scores are usually a bit higher than if your beer is smack in the middle of the guideline. 

That is my experiance anyway!
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Offline gimmeales

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2010, 11:45:21 AM »
seeing this in the full guidelines, I change my entry to 16E: 'Strong versions (6.5%-9.5%) and darker versions (copper to dark brown/black) should be entered as Belgian Specialty Ales (16E).' I see now this could have meant Strong AND Dark, not Strong OR Dark.  The alcohol is not hot or distracting, so perhaps I would have done better leaving it as 16C like was suggested.  However, one judge likened the fruity\sour tinge to a Beliner-Weisse and suggested it be entered in the Specialty Beer category 23A, so who knows!

Another judge also commented on the sour\fruity quality and in a vaguely negative way, though the Saison guidelines expressly describe this as appropriate (moreso in stronger examples).  Again, maybe some palate misdirection with it being in the wrong category.

Also forgot that the yeast was described as leaving a silky mouthfeel - maybe a combination of my process, yeast character, an poor category choice all conspired against me here.  Anyway good discussion here - appreciate all the feedback!

Offline MDixon

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2010, 01:33:22 PM »
When you say got up to 76F do you mean the room or you were actually measuring the temp of the wort/beer inside the fermenter?
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Offline gimmeales

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2010, 02:50:49 PM »
MDixon - the fermometer on my bucket read as high as 76F

Offline MDixon

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Re: Judged beer process\ingredients help
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2010, 03:24:17 PM »
Then I don't exactly subscribe to the high temp scenario. Because all three of the described characteristics can come from bacterial and/or wild yeast contamination I'm voting ya got some buggies in there.

As far as using mouthfeel as to make the determination of whether or not diacetyl is present, I would only think those who cannot taste or smell diacetyl would use that methodology. If it has a butter aroma or flavor - bingo...

FWIW - IME if it does have an issue with bacteria or wild yeast and acetaldehyde is present it will most likely INCREASE with time to the point of becoming almost undrinkable (for me at least).
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