Brewing The BJCP: Categories 10 & 6

It's been a long time since I have been here... Quite a long time... at least I am on the same focus as I was the last time I wrote. The BJCP.

One update about this whole thing, though. I take the Tasting Exam May 17th! That is just a few weeks away... I feel pretty confident about Categories 14 and under. I mean, I can still learn a thing or two about the styles and a lot about the history, but I feel pretty good. 15 through 23, however... I guess some of them are pretty straightforward. For 20-23, essentially you have to know how the ingredients within them affect the base beer. There are some styles within those categories that are all their own, but again, I said I need to study.

I am going to be getting into the categories again, shortly. But for now, I guess this is a good time to start a new goal for my brewing... or at least something I thought about doing. Maybe not a goal, per se. I want to brew at least one beer from every style of the BJCP guidelines. I guess I started with one that a lot of homebrewers do, but for no other reason than at a recent competition I won a 5lb bag of Belma hops from Hops Direct... 5 POUNDS! I can't imagine using it all in a reasonable amount of time, so I may end up giving some away. I went with a Single Hop Belma, American Pale Ale, (Category 10A: Check) to be my first beer... and since I had two empty carboys, I thought that an American Wheat with Belma might also work... only one way to find out, right?

A very clean hop, with a very orange, slight grapefruit, tropical pineapple, strawberry, and melon aroma.
 This batch is also the first time I had everything right in order to brew on my new system. What was funny about this brewday is that it was the day after "Stouterday". A few of us got together at Bryan's and... well, I think this photo says it better than anyway I could have.

Now imagine that photo with a game of Cards Against Humanity... and Judge Dread... and... well, yeah...

Now that we are past that... I drove home the next morning with a slight headache. It seemed to get worse though when I started brewing. It was never really bad, but it took some coercing of my liver to make it go away...

The brewday started out slow just because I wanted to be sure everything was perfect. I mean, this was my drool stands first major showing. It had to be perfect. I pulled it out a few days earlier to run water through it all. I figured out where I had issues and fixed what I could then. Obviously brewday would present with real life challenges.

Everything was going smooth up until the point when I decided I wanted to Mash In... typical, right? Nothing major happened I just realized that I FORGOT TO PUT IN THE CAMPDEN TABLET! I realized as soon as I finished mixing the mash and getting the pH. I sat down then shot up and went to crush the tablet. I typically put half of one in my strike water and the other half in my sparge water... Now that I am fly sparging instead of batch, I guess I have to remember to treat my whole volume. I just need to get my third Keggle back. I dropped it off at a shop to have some work done on it... anyway, I put the whole tablet into my mash tun and then crushed a second one into my sparge water... hopefully it worked out...

Everything else worked out perfectly until the very end. I got my pump all hooked up and I was ready to flow the wort through my plate chiller... for some reason, after I turned it on, nothing was flowing... I thought maybe there was an air pocket inside the motor, so I flushed it out. I thought maybe the elevation of the pump was not at an acceptable level, I thought maybe my false bottom was clogged because I typically use all leaf hops but today I was using pellets. This was also my first time using a false bottom. I typically use a Bazooka Screen in my brew kettle, and I know how pellets can gunk that up and mess up everything... the issue... I forgot to open the outlet valve on the pump... Yup...

So for this batch, I used the BeerSmith suggested profile for my system. I obviously made some edits to the profile but nothing I was not sure of... I ended up with about 7 gallons of wort... I hit my gravity dead on, 1.052... so there's something... I just had way too much volume. I ended up racking some off until there was room in my carboy and then pitching my yeast before bed. I spent a bit of time preparing for my American Wheat Ale, (Category 6D), brew the following day.

Honestly, there isn't much to talk about with the brew for the American Wheat. It was a very calm day, I ate the contents of my Easter Basket; Cascade hop candy, chocolates, a Brubar, and oh, I forgot to add the second half of campden tablet to my sparge water... I need to get my keggle! I never forgot before, but I used to do everything inside when I brewed... well, besides the brewing. I used to get all my water from inside, crush my grain, etc. etc.. etc... Now, I own a food grade hose, i.e. collect all water outside and other things. I guess I need to put it in a more obvious spot. I remembered initially, but oh well... I will get this worked out. Who knows, it may not be an issue. I should get one of those RV filters for my hose... yeah... that will work...

Again, the calculations in BeerSmith were a little bit off. My volume was a little high, but not like the brew before. I missed my gravity by a few points, Target: 1.050 Actual: 1.048 before adding the starter, 1.046-ish after. I'm not worried about it. I'm just looking forward to a nice, easy drinking, wheat beer... that I used 50% wheat in... so glad I had a ton of rice hulls just sitting around.

I guess my next brew is revisiting Category 6: Light Hybrids. On May 3rd, for the AHA's Big Brew Day, I will be brewing a Kölsch, (Category 6C)... or a Kölsch Style Beer... whatever. I'm brewing it! I'm using a Kölsch malt that is made in/around Köln and a yeast from one of the breweries there... Also, GUESS WHAT NOBLE HOPS I'M USING!!! Besides the water, everything is coming from an authentic source... Now lets hope this stands up to the great examples I have had...


I'll post back with updates on the beers and also information about the style guidelines for them. In the meantime..



Learning The BJCP: European Amber Lagers

As some of you may know, I'm planning to take the BJCP Tasting Exam in a few months. So, I thought I would share my "hardcore" lead up to that here. Granted, the information that I'm posting is not necessary for the tasting exam but this is the way I learn and it should be helpful to those in the future and to those who just want to learn more about beer. I plan to go into each of the categories, and I will probably make posts on different specific topics. But this is just the start. So, here we go!

European Amber Lagers

Category 3 of the BJCP covers European Amber Lagers. The two Subcategories take you into the world of the Vienna Lager and Oktoberfest/Marzen. I think I may have picked a bad time to start studying, because while it is easy to find a Vienna Lager, I missed out on Oktoberfest season. I know I had some good ones, though.

In short, The Vienna Lager (Category 3A); is a soft, elegant, dark golden to light brown beer with a maltiness that dries out in the finish to avoid becoming sweet, with a nice toasted character. This doesn't really tell you much, but when you think about some that you may have tasted before, it all makes sense. Negra Modelo, Dos Equis Amber, & Samuel Adams Boston Lager are the beers I picked to sample.

The Vienna Lager was first introduced by Anton Dreher after he and, Gabriel Sedlmayer first recognized that there was an actual difference between ale and lager yeast. Though, the Pilsner was the first traditional lager beer.

In the 1830's Dreher produced the first amber lager when he wanted to combine the crispness of a lager with the color of an English Pale Ale. He named the style after the suburb of Vienna where his brewery was located, Schwechater Lagerbier.

As time went on, the Vienna Lager style started to die off. They say that it went entirely extinct in Europe after World War I. Immigration kept the beer alive elsewhere. As brewers were moving to the United States, they brought with them the styles that they were accustomed to and made necessary changes to incorporate local ingredients. Due to the number of brewers established in the North and Midwest, the brewers carrying this style decided to go South; some into Mexico, Central, and South America. At this time refrigeration was a real thing and it made industrialization and brewing lager beer more accessible.

Prohibition killed the style in the United States, but it did not effect the Mexican culture surrounded by this beer. It even became a traditional part of their culture. Over time though, some examples of the style began to see the use of adjuncts.

Dos Equis Amber

The characteristics of this style that should be noted while judging a Vienna Lager are:
Aroma: Moderately rich German malt, light toasted character, low to no Noble hop aroma, clean lager character, i.e. no yeast character, and THE AROMA OF CARAMEL IS INAPPROPRIATE.

Appearance: Light reddish amber to copper color, brilliant clarity, & large, off-white, persistent head.

Flavor: Soft, elegant malt complexity. A toasted character but no roast or caramel flavors. A firm enough hop bitterness to provide a balanced finish. Low to no Noble hop flavor. No Fermentation Characteristics. Fairly Dry Finish with both malt and hop bitterness present in the aftertaste. There should be no other flavor characteristics.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body, moderate carbonation, slight alcohol warmth is ok, a gentle creaminess, no astringency, smooth with a moderately crisp finish.
*NOTE*: These are the baseline characteristics for the style. There is room for variation but you must also know what is inappropriate. Read into, and understand, the guidelines. Not only the guidelines.

Oktoberfest & Marzen

Everyone always asks why Oktoberfest (Category 3B), is held in September, so I thought I would go into that a little bit to start.

The first Oktoberfest was October 12th, 1810. It was held as a celebration to Crown Prince Ludwig and his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildurghausen. The celebration went on almost annually. In 1819 it was declared that it would be held annually. They extended the total time of the festival and bumped the dates up a couple of weeks to take advantage of the better weather in late September and early October. There were some years where it was cancelled due to war or disease, but it held on strong over time and is now probably the biggest beer festival in existence.

Marzen was a German term that classifies any strong, "keeping" beer, that is brewed in March and stored for the length of the summer. Marzen and Oktoberfest are now essentially one in the same. The Oktoberfest style is defined as, "Smooth, clean, and rather rich, with a depth of malt character. This is one of the classic malty styles, with a maltiness that is often described as soft, complex, and elegant but never cloying."

Marzen is what was thought be served at the original Oktoberfest celebration and throughout the time until Josef Sedlmayr, in 1871, first created the beer. It is unknown if he originally intended for this beer to be used at the festival, but it was sold there and became extremely popular. Other breweries began to brew the Oktoberfest style and further increased its popularity. By technicality, only beers brewed by Munich breweries can be called Oktoberfest and all others must indicate that it is just in such style.

This is an Oktoberfest, I promise.
The characteristics of this style that should be noted while judging a Oktoberfest are:
Aroma: Moderately rich German malt, light to moderate toasted character, NO HOP AROMA, clean lager character, i.e. no yeast character, and THE AROMA OF CARAMEL IS INAPPROPRIATE.

Appearance: Dark gold to deep orange-red color, brilliant clarity, & large, off-white, persistent head.

Flavor: Initial malty sweetness, distinctive and complex maltiness often includes a toasted aspect. Hop bitterness is moderate, and noble hop flavor is low to none. Clean lager character with no diacetyl or fruity esters. Balance is toward malt, though the finish is not sweet, moderately dry. NOTICEABLE CARAMEL OR ROASTED FLAVORS ARE INAPPROPRIATE.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, medium carbonation, creamy texture, and smooth. Fully fermented, without a cloying finish.
*NOTE*: These are the baseline characteristics for the style. There is room for variation but you must also know what is inappropriate. Read into, and understand, the guidelines. Not only the guidelines.

If you are studying for this exam and you have any questions, or need help, please let me know! I have quite a few resources I am using that I can share. It may even help me along in the process!

Two good sources for information are the Upstate New York Homebrewers Association, and of course, the Beer Judge Certification Program's Website.

Next Up: You Will See.



Craft Beer Growth?

Right now is a time where all in the beer world is golden. Some even say its recession proof. Your neighbor, who used to only drink American made lagers or fancy imported beers whose names you cannot pronounce, is jumping into the game; opening a brewery simply because it is a great investment. There is even a chance that your favorite brewery has reached capacity and now has to make the ultimate decision; Stop where we are and let our product and fans speak volumes for our business. Or take route number two and expand, increase production, or even move to a secondary location.

Several breweries are at that point now and both decisions have been made. Both Russian River and Hill Farmstead took the ‘stop where we are at’ route. Some are disappointed by this decision, but others respect it and understand what it will do for their local market or the quality of their beer in the future. On the other hand, there are the breweries, such as Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and even potentially Deschutes that are expanding and bringing their beers into new markets as they do. Some people complain about what this is doing to the local beer scene, even though New Belgium stated they did not want to interfere, and others are excited to finally get their hands on beers that were nothing but a rumor... Then there’s me.

I have gone across many places in this country for work, enjoyment, and as you suspected, craft beer. I travel not only for the love, but for the fact that I cannot find what I want where I live. Sure, you think I’m exaggerating, but I'm not. What makes this even sadder is the fact that I live in North Carolina; home to a number of great breweries and the new location of some of the big shots.

As you know, Oskar Blues is already in town, Sierra Nevada is months away from completion and New Belgium has plans to be open and in production next year. With all the beer these guys are known for, and the big shots from North Carolina, you’d think I'd be set... WRONG!

Okay, sure. I get Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and similar beers from other major breweries. But nothing beyond that and a few seasonals. A funny thing, I went into a local store to see if I could find Celebration Ale. You know what I found? Summerfest... IN NOVEMBER! I really don’t remember seeing Summerfest during the summer. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough but there’s no excuse. I have contacted other breweries about similar incidents in the past. Is there some reason this is happening?

While there is great choice and variety in the United States, it only goes as far as consumers will allow it. In this case, I am not even sure it is the consumers fault. On one of my beer-scapades, I drove up to a favorite bottle shop of mine, Bottle Revolution, and asked them about their distributors and beer availability. I was informed that where I live is kind of a grey area for beer in the state. Distributors don’t even consider ordering or sending much craft beer to the area. This is shocking to me being there are two well established homebrew clubs and over 350,000 people living in this “small” area.

Granted, not all of them are known craft beer drinkers, or even of age but part of this population is a military base. With people from all over the country, some of whom, have a certain expectation for the beer that they drink. One of the two homebrew clubs was actually set up and ran by service members who cannot get the beer they want. The members come and go as they enter and leave the area. But the passion and love for craft beer stays. So there IS a market.

I really don't know how to explain it but I’ve lived in similar areas before. There are always one or two local craft breweries within a few miles and they make a name for themselves. But for the everyday consumer, i.e. not the obsessed craft beer nerd, unless you were going there for dinner, why do you care? You aren't buying their beer when you go to the grocery store and you aren't sharing it with your friends.

I hear about all this growth and I’m truly excited to see the companies grow... but what does it mean for my town? Nothing? Is it going to be just the same as it was before? Even when it comes to "local" options, I can only get a select few because even those breweries are looking for more lively and thriving markets. No one wants to try an untapped market; they stick to pre-established ones. That doesn’t make sense to me, but what can I do? I make decisions based on what beers or breweries I feel are worth it. Nearly 2500 breweries across the country and the selection, not to mention rotation, in my local stores would not make any enthusiast happy.

Only 18 months old and outdated

I know there is interest, but what is it going to take? Who do I have to talk to in order to bring awareness and better products into my area? I am not even talking about the major, regional brewers right now. What’s it going to take to get a brewer from Charlotte, approximately 120 miles away, to sell their beer where I live? They ship further East than me, as well as further North. Why not here?