Thursday, November 20, 2014

Life of a BJCP Judge - MALT Turkey Shoot 2014

This past weekend I volunteered as a judge for the MALT Turkey Shoot homebrew competition held at the Peabody Heights Coop brewery in Baltimore, Maryland.  The annual competition hosted by MALT (Maryland Ale and Lager Technicians) is a big fall competition for my area.  I judged this competition for the first time last year, where it was also held at Peabody Heights.  I have been told by some veteran participants this competition used to be held at Heavy Seas (formerly Clipper city) and it was always VERY cold!  Last year, the first which the competition was held at Peabody Heights, wasn't too bad, but this year it was pretty cold.  Good thing I wore my coat and hat!  When I arrived (it was high 20s (Fahrenheit) that day?) all the doors were open to air out the smell of beer and cardboard which was permeating throughout the brewery.  As 9am rolled around and we were preparing to judge, the executive decision was made to deal with the smell rather than the cold. Thank goodness!  Everyone seemed to get accustomed to the smell very quickly, but it took a while to warm up.

Whenever you register to judge a BJCP competition you are usually given a choice to state any categories you would, or would not prefer to judge.  I really have no preference as I enjoy most of the styles.  I may, however, request not to do porters and stouts in the future, as I have been assigned to this category for the past 3 competitions. In the morning I got to judge Category 10 - American Pale Ale and American Amber Ales.  In the afternoon I judged the aforementioned mixed Category 12/13 of Porters and Stouts.  In that afternoon session, we had an American Stout which unfortunately ended up being a "gusher."  This beer had a strong clove character, to the point I am almost wondering if it was intentional, and intended as a "Christmas stout."  If that was not the case, than it was an unfortunate infection.

I have been wanting to start publishing some video based content to the blog, but I always forget to record something, or the recording is poor quality.  Enough EXCUSES I say!  I am going to start pushing out some video whether its ready or not.  My hope is to be able to slowly learn/improve on editing and quality as I go - so go easy on this phone recorded video.  This is a quick clip of opening a gusher at a competition.  Occasionally this will happen at a competition and as judges we always request the 2nd bottle to give the entry a fair chance if there was just a single bad bottle.  I had my friend a fellow judge of this beer, Ed, film opening the 2nd bottle.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fall Updates - I am alive

I think I have given the Deck post an appropriate amount of Top-Blog time.  I have really been slacking with this blog and hope to liven things up with some more frequent postings.  A Few quick updates:

A few shots of my Wrong Coast version 2 which I brewed for the deck party, subsequently consumed all of it, and never blogged about the testing least I took pictures?

  • I will be judging this weekend at the MALT Turkey Shoot beer competition.  This will be my first competition I am judging where I can official check the "Certified" box on the BJCP Scoresheet.  Looking forward to it!
  • Finally purchased the Avantco IC3500 when it was on sale last month.  I believe I orginally posted about my intentions for buying this cooktop back in August of 2013 when I first blogged about having an Indoor brew space, so it has been a long time coming.  I will be doing some time/temp tests to provide some numerical data for others interested in using this burner.
  • I recently brewed an Oatmeal Stout and will have recipes and tasting notes going up soon
  • I am flirting with the idea of making some homebrew related videos, if so I will post them to the blog.
  • I wrote a guest post for on the Road to Becoming a BJCP Judge
Another beer I brewed for the party was a witbier.  I add some flour at flameout so it would remain cloudy, which it did for a little while...

And then it sat in the keg for quite a few weeks

Crystal clear!  Oh well, still tastes great!

Plan on posting again soon, so stay tuned :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Built a Deck! Now I Can Get Back to Brewing...

As I have alluded to in a few other posts, much of my all of my free time the past couple months has been devoted to taking down our old and unsafe deck, and constructing a brand new one!  It has been a really fun project even thought it has taken 5 times longer than I expected and roughly 30% more than I once, cry once.  I normally keep this blog strictly related to beer brewing and consuming, but wanted to provide everyone with proof of why I have been so absent in the homebrewing and blogging world, and use it as an excuse to show off my skills.

A big thanks to all who came out to help with the project.  I am in debt to you a lot of manual labor and malted beverages.

Without further ado:


The old deck had a lot of problems.  When we bought the house I had inspected it and new it was almost beyond saving.  The fact that we didn't touch it at all over the harsh winter insured there was no saving it.  The previous structure was two 12x12 decks at different levels.  The stairs from the upper level to the lower level took up almost 25% of the lower deck. There were also two built-in benches on the lower deck, which ended up being the most secure part, ha!

(These pics from the house listing make it look much better than it actual was, but you get the point)

Old Deck Issues

Anyone interested on the safety concerns form the old structure - The old deck attached to the house rim joist with a few lag screws installed into one 2x8 right through the siding.  A lot of these screws had rusted.  The deck frame consisted of 6x6 posts with 2x8 boards bolted to the sides.  This means the entire weight of the structure was being supported by the rusty lag screws at the house ledger and the bolts on the posts.  To code today, the beams must rest on top of the posts.  I later find out during demolition that (see picture below) the posts weren't even connected to a cement footing, or burried into the ground!  They were just sitting on the  Once we cut off the beam, the posts fell right over.

(Post just sitting in a bracket on top of the ground!)

New Deck

For the new deck I had to go to the county office and get a permit.  I made I sure I was there right as they opened at 7:30am.  This process would have been really quick and smooth had I not been right behind someone representing a fence and deck company.  This lady was getting 9 it was as if 9 people were in front of me!   So much for being there right when they opened!  The way my county has things set up, if a homeowner is going to build a deck by themselves, they don't need to submit official constructions plans as long as they follow the county deck packet to a "T."  Because of this, my end design would need to be framed a little differently than a normal deck with my proposed layout to meet the county requirements.  I confirmed with the county that as long as my two frames each met the requirements, I could run the decking over both structures.  I will end up having a 12x16 and a 12x12 framed deck at the same level for 336 total square feet!

Deck Plan - The angle on the bottom right was not allowed as I was required to have a perfect rectangle


Demo took a full weekend and some additional hands - big thanks to Steve and Suzie Welker, and John Hamlett.  We filled a 15 cubic yard dumpster up to the brim.  I took a few days off work thinking I could get the bulk of this new deck construction under way.  Started on a Monday morning with my posthole digger and digging bar.  I was greeted with a HUGE rock on my first hole...hope this isn't how they all are!  I dug out 4 holes and broke for lunch, my shoulders were sore and I had sweated so much you'd have thought I took a shower with my clothes on.  After lunch I went back outside and got half of a hole dug...then I think heat exhaustion kicked in...I decided to stop for the day.  Next day I brought in reinforcements, my friend Josh (pictured in the Flying Dog Tour pics), put in some hard work helping me dig the rest of the holes - 10 holes total.  I then had to get the holes inspected, and they passed.

15 cubic yard dumpster

picture doesn't do it just, but this rock covers 40% of the hole and was at least a foot deep

3 of my 10 holes

I then had a little setback in the schedule as I had to wait for a special order of lumber.  There is a LOT of varying opinions online regarding the best way to set posts.  Should they sit on concrete piers which come all the way out of the ground?  Should they be buried in the ground?  If they are buried should you pour concrete all around them?  After much deliberation and over-analyzing, I chose to bury the posts in the ground, sitting them on top of the concrete footing and then packing them with alternating layers of gravel and dirt.  Additionally, since the posts would be buried I special ordered 6x6 posts which were treated to the UC4B level of pressure treatment, rated for in ground burial for use in "permanent foundations."  These should be good for at least 20+ years.  I received my materials on Friday, June 27th from the local lumber yard - TW Perry and took the day off to pour concrete.  I roped Josh into helping again - what a guy!  We rented a jackhammer to bust up the rock from that first hole and poured our 8" concrete footings into the bottom of the holes.  We then proceeded to drink some well deserved homebrew.

Decking boards front left, all other lumber behind, pallet of concrete to the right

6 tons of gravel

I then spent most of the next day remeausring and laying out the exact locations of the posts (took much longer than expected).  I then got Mrs. Shegogue Brew to help me keep the posts level and in alignment as I shoveled gravel and dirt in to secure them.  Mrs. Shegogue Brew has an excellent natural eye for level and plumb.  We finished putting the 6 posts for the 12x16 frame up on Sunday the 29th and I cut the notches in them to hold the 3x12 built-up-beam.  We then called it quits as it was dark.

1st row of posts set

6 posts set for the 12x16 section

On the 4th of July I got my Uncle-in-law Tom to help with putting up the beams and framing.  Uncle Tom is an experienced DIYer and was extremely helpful.  We were able to frame up most of the section. 

Placing the first beam!

Mrs. Shegogue Brew requested a smile for the'd think she was a photographer or something!

Didn't measure each individual board so we had to make some cuts

view from the ground

first boards laid down to lock the frame "in square"

More boards laid down

Over the next couple of weekends I was able to lay the flooring and frame up the second 12x12 frame thanks to my friend Alton.  I laid most of the floorboards on the weekends and finished screwing them in on the weeknights.  I also hammered in my hurricane ties and added diagonal bracing during the weeknights after work.

12x12 section almost framed

Its getting big!

Location of the stairs

 Over the July 19th weekend I was able to bring this thing closer to its final appearance as I finished flooring the entire structure.  I then cut off the excess and its looking real sharp!

flooring, almost done!

excess trimmed off!

Alternate view, through the window of our bedroom

The following weekend I tackled the Stairs.  On paper putting a 3 foot wide stairway in a 4 foot area would be easy.  In realty it wasn't, and there was lots of room for error!  Luckily during the week I mentally thought about how to go about this task.  It required me to bolt the 4x4 stairway posts to the stair stringers prior to attaching the stringers to the outer joist.  This was my first time cutting stair stringers, and thanks to some handy online calculators, it was a pretty simple job.  After installing the stringers and laying the treads, I realized I hadn't leveled the bottom, doh!  The following weekend I had to dig underneath the bottom of the stairs and pack it in with gravel to level the structure.

My first Stringer being used as a template for the other 2.  I checked to make sure this stringer landed in the correct location before cutting the other 2.

View from the top! Blocking was added since the 2x12 middle stringer had warped from sitting in the sun the past few weeks.

Now I don't have to keep moving the ladder around to get to the deck surface!

We are now heading into the first weekend of August and I started to tackle the deck railings.  I cut all of the 4x4 posts to length and then screwed in a 2 x 6 scrap piece to create a template so all the posts would sit at the same height on the deck.  I bolted all of the posts into the outer/rim joist and then screwed in my 2x4 rails.  The next day called for rain, so instead of starting to put the pickets up (didnt want to start and stop) I finished a bunch of little things - nailing in the remaining hurricane ties and leveling my stairs.  By the way, it didnt rain at all, ha!

The following weekend (August 9th/10th) I set up a stop jig so I could rapidly cut down my 12' 2x2 pickets into 36" lengths.  I then used a 2x4 (3.5" wide) block to help me evenly space the pickets all the way around the railings and meet code.  I took a picture later in the week after it had rained and I think it makes the deck look really sharp.

I cut the 2x2 pickets into 6' lengths and then shove an end to my stopper jig and cut.  Ended up with 2 - 36" pickets each time

Cut them at a 45* angle to make them more aesthetically pleasing appears Mrs. Shegogue Brew has been soaking up the sun as I slave away :)

Right after a rainstorm, the deck looks real bright.

August 16th, all deck progress was halted in the name of beer!  Hey this is a brewing blog, right?  I had to brew up a bunch of beer since I was running low and was planning some deck parties for September.  I started 5 gallons of hard cider, brewed an IPA and a Witbier to fill all my available fermenters (two 6 gallon better bottles and two 3 gallon better bottles).  Everything went pretty smoothly despite my kinda "wingy" the recipes.  Still without my computer and brewing software so I used the blog to look at old recipes.  I created the IPA to be very similar to Wrong Coast and the Wit was the Witty Welker, however, I correctly used flaked wheat this time around.

Sorry, no pictures of brewday...I know, I am a slacker :)

The following weekend I was able to add some lag screws and blocking to meet code.  I then capped the stairwell with a 2x6 and installed a graspable handrail.  I had to finish the handrail and sand the ends of the railings down the next Monday night.  On Wednesday,  August 27, 2014 a county inspector came while I was at work for the final inspection...

Blocking added - I was skeptical at the need for this, but there was a little play to the railings prior to adding it.  Aftwerwards it was solid.

Handrail installed!

Sanded the bottom of the 2x6 cap so there would be no sharp edges

View from below!  Looks pretty nice, huh?

So I guess you are in suspense wondering if I passed or not?  Well, I did!  Very happy to start to get my weekends back to a somewhat less productive schedule :)  Finished just in time to have family over for Labor Day cookout on the deck!

The following weekend I installed a screen door and I started to spread gravel beneath the deck. Due to work, Mrs. Shegogue Brew Finished the task all day Thursday September 4th - Quite impressive!  I also quickly whipped up some benches for guests to sit on since we have not purchased any patio furniture yet.

View of Deck from far corner

View of deck opposite side - benches in view

Added two patio stones to the existing one and filled with gravel to prevent a trip hazard with the concrete slab

View from below - Planning to build a shed underneath in the future

Outside view

Well, that about finishes it up!  All I have left to do is stain it in another month or so once the wood has dried out a little more.  I should have time to brew and update this blog more in the near future :)


Monday, July 7, 2014

BJCP Updates

I just received my new certificate and pin for achieving the "Certified" rank in the BJCP!  I needed to accumulate 5 experience points for this to happen.  I accumulated the fifth experience point from judging the Frederick Battle of the Bubbles in May.  As you ca see in the picture, I am a little tired - been working long hours on my non desk job days DIYing a new Deck!

This accreditation comes right on the heels of the BJCP evolving its guidelines...

New BJCP Styles Coming Soon!

Gordon Strong gave a presentation at NHC detailing the future changes of the BJCP Style Guidelines (If you are an AHA Member you can log in and listen to the presenation and download the attached pdf HERE - you can listen to all the NHC seminars if you were unable to attend).  Changes to the guidelines have not been made for over 6 years - last major revision made in 2008.  The goal is to provide better categorization of similar and "new" beer styles to match the beers being put out by craft brewers and homebrewers.  This should help alleviate the session and black IPA....I mean Specialty Beer category at competitions :)

The DRAFT of the new BJCPGuidelines can be view here, and I will express this is not an official document.  There are quite a few changes! I will highlight a few:

  • Lots of revamped groupings - lots of style broken up by country of origin rather than base style.  Think American dark and English Dark, rather than Stouts and Porters
  • IPA - Specialty IPA can now have strength modifiers (session, standard, double) as well as a "specialty" identifier white/rye/black etc.
  • Historical Styles - Beers which there really aren't known examples and are passed off of recreations.
  • Speciatly Breakdown - Sour, Fruit, Spice, Wood will have subcategories to help define the entry
  • Specialty Category 34 - The final Specialty category allows for "clones," style combinations, and experimental beer
There is really a lot going on in the new guidelines, but if you take a chance to read skim the new guidelines I think it makes a lot of sense and allows for brewers to find a good "category" or a way to enter their beer in a competition so it can be fairly critiqued.  It will also help define the specialty category which was a little crazy as of late.

What are your thoughts on the new guidelines?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Belgian Pale Ale

My apologies to my faithful followers on my lack of content!  I have been doing some extra web work on the side and this home ownership thing entails quite a bit of weekly yardwork!  My faithful self-built PC of over 10 years old has finally seen its last days of 1's and 0's, so until I can hook the hard drive up elsewhere and grab all my data I will just give the tasting notes on this beer.  The recipe, and of course some snazzy label and witty name, will be added back later.

I brewed this beer back in February.  I did a 90 min mash (while mashing I was boiling my extract American Session ale) and a 90 min boil due to the pilsner malt.  It was a pretty smooth brewday considering it was my first double brew!  If I recall I was able to do two 5-gallon batches and cleanup in about 7 hours.

[RECIPE - To Be inserted at a later date]

Since I am now a a Certified BJCP Judge (got my 5th experience point a weekend ago) I guess I should post my tasting notes in BJCP style...though I am looking for feedback on preference vs my normal paragraph style.  I feel like paragraph is a little easier to read for the lesser beer geek?

Belgian Pale Ale

Aroma: moderate cracker like graininess with hints of bread, moderately low sweet malt, moderate spicy clove phenol,  low floral hop aroma, and low fruity character

Flavor: moderate grainy malt character, moderately high spicy clove phenol, moderately low malt sweetness, low floral hop character, moderate bitterness, balance is towards malt and and yeast character, finishes slightly dry

Appearance: Gold, moussy white head which fades to a thin eighth of an inch coating on the top, good lacing, good clarity but not brilliant

Mouthfeel: moderately high carbonation, medium body, no astringency, low creaminess, no alcohol warmth

Overall: This belgian pale is a very drinkable and well-balanced ale.  It is more towards the spicy floral phenols and does no exhibit enough fruity esters for the guidelines.  Probably around the low 30s for an official scoresheet, however, I really have enjoyed this beer.  I never considered myself a "belgian" beer guy, favoring more american hop forward beers, but I just keep finding myself pulling this tap vs my other two!  It is well balanced and finishes slightly dry making you want to take another sip.

UP NEXT: My Tasting notes on my American Session Ale

Saturday, April 19, 2014

BJCP Tasting Exam Results

The results are in from my BJCP exam on September 29, 2013!  drum roll please........


I am ecstatic, but most of all in shock.  I knew I had performed solidly on my test, but didn't think I had did this well. As you can see from my RTP (Report to Participants) I scored at the National level for all categories and was on the cusp of scoring at a master level for completeness. If  you are not familiar with the BJCP Tasting Exam, you are graded on your ability to describe the following five categories when tasting six different beer styles:

  1. Perceptive Accuracy - Did you note the primary characteristics of the beer?  Were there characteristics you made in error or omissions?
  2. Descriptive Abilitiy - Were you able to correctly identify "What Kind" and "How much of" each characteristic of the beer?
  3. Feedback - Did you provide the brewer with appropriate and detailed feedback on how to improve this beer based on the flaws or imperfections you perceived?
  4. Completeness - Did you touch on all the different components of the scoresheet in detail?
  5. Scoring Accuracy - How far away was your score from the proctorsconsensus score?

Test Beers

The following beers were judged, followed by the proctors consensus score, my score, and any thoughts regarding the beer.

  1. Octoberfest | 35 (proctors) | 30 (me) - This was one of my worst judge beers compared to the proctors.  I picked up some musty character in the aroma and some alcohol warmth that the proctors did not.  My feedback was deemed to be vague and not as helpful as it could have been.  This beer ended up being Sam Adams Octoberfest and given the time the test was taken, end of September, it should have been pretty fresh! 
  2. American Wheat |  23.5 (proctors) | 21 (me) - I picked up a strong acetaldehyde character in this beer and I was 100% sure of it.  The week prior to the test we had done a flaws kit and I got this off flavor very strongly, unfortunately the proctors did not and it hurt my score a bit.  Other than this I did a solid job on this score sheet and being within 1.5 points of the proctors got a Master level on scoring accuracy.
  3. American Pale Ale | 25 (proctors) | 20 (me) - I identified some spicy alcohol notes in the aroma and a sherry-like oxidation which the proctors did not, which is probably why I scored this lower than they did.  The graders felt I did a good job addressing all the different aspects of this beer.  As I recall this beer really lacked american hop character which is fairly important in the style.
  4. Brown Porter | 33.5 (proctors) | 30 (me) - Overall, I did a solid job on this beer.  I missed mentioning the lack of roast malt at all and was given feeback that I should I have stated it needed more.  Additionally, I found the fruity esters of this beer to be more prevalent than the proctors.
  5. Saison | 38 (proctors) | 35 (me) - On this beer I score a Master level on everything but feedback!  I perceived the body to be more full than the proctors.  I remember this being a solid beer.
  6. Imperial IPA | 38.5 (proctors) | 37 (me) - This was a great beer.  It was a commercial beer, however, I forget the brewery.  I was off on a few items from the proctors, but overall they agreed it was solid.

What I learned

On last page of the RTP the graders provide additional commentary.  They noted I may be perceiving creaminess in mouthfeel differently than most people as I differed from the judges on almost all of the beers scored.  The only disappointing part of these results was getting dinged for picking up the acetaldehyde character in one of the beers.  A week before the exam, in the tasting class, we had done a flaws session and I was picking up this off flavor and it was fresh in my mind.  It was unfortunate the judges did not pick up on this.  All things even out though cause I have a very high threshold before I sense diacetyl, so I could have been dinged if we had a butter bomb on the test.

I think to improve my skills I really just need to judge.  I find a lot of people perceive things differently and judging with others is one of the best ways to fine-tune your pallet and hone your judging skills.

What is my BJCP Status

After judging the DC Cherry Blossom Homebrew Competition at the end of March I have accumulated 3.5 points.  I need to judge two more competitions to receive the necessary experience points to move from Recognized to Certified rank.  Now I just need to start studying for the written exam so I can further prepare towards my goal of becoming a National Rank BJCP Judge!