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!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Absence Makes the Brewer More Thirsty

To my handful of readers, I apologize for keeping you waiting for more frothy beer news coming out of the Shegogue Brewery.  I have not brewed since October of 2013, and that is just too long!  I will be breaking out the kettles and propane this Saturday to make 2 batches of beer.  I plan on brewing an extract batch (haven't done one of this in a long time) of session IPA while I am mashing a belgian pale ale. 

I have wanted to make a session IPA for a while.  I love low abv beers and enjoy a fair amount of hops.  A few years ago, before I even started this blog, I had made a Scottish 70/- and entered it into the Delaware State fair competition.  It won 2nd place Best of Show.  I have not made this recipe since, and I am wondering - why?  I guess I am just too exploratory and want to try something different too often!  I have thought about it a lot and figure this same basic malt bill would make a great backbone for these new session IPAs.  The recipe will be based off of Jamil's scottish ale recipe using specialty malts.  I will then add a bunch of whirlpool and dry hops.  The session IPA is an undefined style and technically this is going to be more of a hoppy red ale then your standard bjcp pale/ipas, but hey, its low abv and high hops :)

Last on the update reel - I am still waiting to hear from the BJCP regarding my numerical score.  I was informed the one grader for my tasting exam had some personal issues, and the other grader supposedly had some grading inaccuracies.  This has led to the exams being looked over again by another set of graders.  The exam directors did pass on that I had passed the exam, as they wanted to make sure people in my area knew prior to the most recent tasting exam they were offering, to avoid someone retaking if not necessary.

Anyways, expect some more worthy (or should I say "worty") posts to be coming up in the future! 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Brew Year in Review

2013 was less post-worthy than the first annual installment of this blog.  Partly, because I changed the overall direction of the blog to focus more on my beer and creations and less on the craft beer industry and informational side of the hobby.  I also decided to post the recipe, brewday and tasting note as one post rather than individually as I felt it provides the reader with more resolution and/or less anticipation.  Additionally, some life events took much more of my free time than expected.

In 2013 I only made 6 batches, and one of them was a 2.5 gallon batch, tallying up to around 27 gallons of malty beverages.  My favorite beer of the year was easily the Wrong Coast IPA, which I will need to recreate or brew something similar soon.  I also was very pleased with how my second lager, Durstl√∂scher, came out.  My favorite label of the year would go to my most recent beer, Just an Udder, a milk stout which was inspired from Mrs. Shegogue Brew's creative mind.  I will say, although my quantity went down in 2013, the quality was very high standards.  Ever since I started homebrewing 4 years ago it seemed like every other batch would result in an imbalance or off flavor.  I think I was pretty successful at removing off flavors in 2012, and in 2013 I also was able to prevent any balance inconsistencies - you know, create a beer that was too bitter, or thin, or sweet.  Partly this was due to going to back to some tried and true recipes, but it was more so attributed to keeping an eye on my OG and evaporation rates to make sure my hopping rates matched by sugar content, and obviously, providing a healthy fermentation.

Outside of actually making beer I increased my social interaction in the hobby.  For a while, other than my best friend  (who also is my number one taste tester), I was kind of a loner in the hobby.  Sure, I participate regularly in only forums like, but that is the internet, not real live social interaction.  I connected with a friend colleg who I knew had also taken up the hobby and we traveled to the National Homebrewer's Conference together.  It was an amazing time and we were able to learn a bunch and meet fellow brewers.  I also met a group of friends through the BJCP Tasting Class I took.  Most of them already knew each other from the local homebrew club (which I always seem to miss the meetings for and therefore have not yet joined - 2014 resolution!?), but they were very welcoming and provided another resource and friendly outlet for me to grow in this hobby.  I am still anxiously waiting on my scores from the test I took on September 29th!

So as I sit here reflecting on another rather successful homebrew year, I would like to offer you and yours a very Happy Brew Year!

Snow picture
(Went looking in picasa web album for picture and saw that google had added a snow animation to this one so I decided to included it!)


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Just an Udder - Milk Stout

I brewed this beer on Columbus day, which I had planned to take off work as a floating vacation day, but was actually forced to because of the government shutdown.  It was the second beer I had made during the shutdown and third beer brewed at the new house.  The brewday went rather smoothly.  I did my standard infusion mash with a 45 min rest - I have been doing this a lot recently to try and make my brewday's quicker.  I went with 153 degrees since I was using the less attenuative WLP002  English Ale yeast.  I was adding a new piece of equipment to my setup: a smaller 9 gallon stainless steel bayou classic kettle.  This kettle worked out nicely as it is narrower and is part of equipment upgrades I need to get into the induction electric brewing setup I am always writing about but never making happen!  So without further ado, I present to you Just an Udder.

Milk Stout
Just an Udder - Milk Stout

Just an Udder

Brewed On: October 14, 2013
Kegged On: October 27, 2013
Style: 13B - Sweet Stout
Batch Size: 6 gallons (5 gal into fermenter)
Efficiency: 80%
OG: 1.060
FG: 1.028

IBU: 29 calculated (Rager) 
ABV: 4.3%
Yeast: WLP002 from Pumpkin Beer slurry Fermented at 62° for 4 days then rise to 67°

Grist Mashed at 153 for 45 minutes
74% - Maris Otter (Muntons) - 9.5 lbs
8% - Black Malt - 1 lb
8%  - Lactose sugar -  1 lb - added at 5 mins to the end of the boil
6%  - Crystal 80 - 12 oz
4%  - Pale Chocolate - 8 oz

Hop Additions 
0.50oz - Magnum 14.7% AAU - 60 minutes - 29 IBUs

Water Adjustments
Montgomery County, MD Water - 1/2 Campden Tablet for all brewing water
5 grams gypsum to mash water
5 grams CaCl to mash water

Tasting Notes
This stout pours a deep black with dark brown highlights when held up to the light.  It is topped with a very dark and moussey tan head which remains as a coating while you drink - excellent lacing.  The aroma has a moderate roast character which is dominated by chocolate, but has low notes of coffee and licorice.  There is a moderately low sweet note which is partially caramel, but also sweet cream, which is indicative of lactose.  An overall aroma descriptor one could relate to is milk chocolate.  The beer has moderately low hop bitterness and no apparent hop flavor.  The flavor profile of the beer is less milk chocolate than the aroma and more like a sweetened light (breakfast blend) coffee.  The malt and lactose sweeteness is nicely balanced by the roasty notes, which lead to a slightly sweet finish. The mouthfeel is comprised of moderate carbonation, medium full body, and moderate creaminess.  This beer does have a low astringency from the dark malts, but it is not displeasing and prevents the beer from being too sweet.
Milk Stout In the Snow

Milk Stout - With snow on glass

The pictures taken today after the little snow storm we had were very fitting.  This is a tasty beer, and went really well after my hours of shoveling!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My First SMaSH - Simcoe and Maris Otter

I finally got a chance to brew on Labor Day weekend.  I unfortunately had not spend to much time into recipe formulation so I decided to use what I had on hand to make a Single Malt and Single Hop (SMASH) beer.  I used the base malt I currently have on hand - Munton's Maris otter.  I chose to use Simcoe for the hop as I was a big fan of Uinta's wyld, which is majority Simcoe.  Brew day was fairly smooth other than having to run back and forth from the back porch into the basement for various brew day gear.

Mr. Mo Simcoe Label

Brewed On: September 1, 2013
Kegged On: September 21,2013
Style: 10A - American Pale Ale
Batch Size: 6 gallons (5 gal into fermenter)
Efficiency: 77%
OG: 1.047
FG: 1.010
IBU: 39 calculated (Rager) 
ABV: 4.8%
Yeast: Safale S-05 American Ale Yeast.  Fermented at 64° for 3 days then rise and held at 68°

Grist Mashed at 154 for 45 minutes
100% - Munton's Maris Otter - 10 lbs

Hop Additions
.5 oz - 
Simcoe  - FWH - 28 IBUs
1 oz - Simcoe - 10 min -11 IBUs
1 oz - Simcoe - 0 min
Dry Hop Addtion of Simcoe
1st Addition - 2 oz ~9 days (ran out of CO2 so it stayed in longer than planned)

Water Adjustments
Montgomery County, MD Water - 1/2 Campden Tablet for all brewing water
12 grams gypsum to mash water
5 oz acid malt

Tasting Notes

The aroma has a moderately high and complex citrus which is a combination of sweet orange and grapefruit with a hint of a more sour citrus fruit - think lemon/lime.  There is a low bready quality from the malt, but the hops are the star. Light gold in color and clear, just shy of brilliant, with a fairly thick white head that fades fairly quickly to a coating on top.  The flavor contains a moderate bready malt character and moderately high grapefruit/lime citrus hop character.  The moderately high hop bitterness is a tad too much for the malt backbone which leads to a decidely balance bitter balance.  The beer has a moderate carbonation and a medium light body.  The beer finishes slightly dry.  

Overall, it is a very drinkable beer and coming in at 4.8% is very sessionable.  For hop heads this is a solid pale ale, but is definitely too bold for the BJCP determination of APA. After doing my first SMaSH, I think simcoe is a great hop which can contribute a complex citrus character to beers, however, it needs the synergy of other hops to produce a great beer.  I guess the sour citrus fruit I perceive is what others attribute the "catty" quality of simcoe and although I kind of like it, I can see how it would deter others.  The maris otter malt does a good job against the highly hopped competition, and I think a standard american 2-row would have made this beer even more of a hop star.  It provides a depth and I believe mouthfeel the 2-row just cant compete with.

Monday, October 21, 2013

BJCP Tasting Exam

I have been rather quiet over the past couple months.  Partially due to the new house, but a lot due to my beer-based hobby time being devoted to studying for the BJCP Tasting Exam.  I knew fairly quickly after entering two different competitions in the summer of 2011 I would want to become a judge.  I received scoresheets back from the two competitions with a 29 and and a 38 for the same beer - a Scottish 70/-.  In the one competition I didn't place at all.  In the other, I received 2nd place Best of Show.  This is not the first time this injustice has happened to a homebrewer, and I am sure it won't be the last, but I knew I wanted to become a well-qualified judge and do my part to prevent this!

I looked at the BJCP exam schedule and found out the closest exams to me where held a few miles north in Frederick, MD.  In April of 2012 (10 months out), I contacted the exam organizers to get into the exam in February of was already full and I was placed into the 12th spot on the waitlist - Wow!  I knew you had to sign up early, but didn't realize it needed to be that early.  I was then informed another exam would be administered in September of 2013 - I signed up.

Fast-forward to this spring and the organizers contacted everyone and let them know of a tasting course they teach to prepare people for the exam.  The class was 12 weeks long, meeting for 2 hours once a week.  We went through all of the BJCP style guidelines trying a dozen or so beers at each meeting.  The teachers also graded sample scoresheets for us and halfway through the course we took a practice test.  We had a few "flaw" sessions which were critical as I came to learn that some of the descriptors for a certain off-flavor were not the tastes I would natural associate.  For example, DMS to me tastes like regular V8 tomato juice.

BJCP Entrance Exam Certificate
Entrance Exam Completion Certificate

As you can see above, I passed the new online entrance exam - required before you can take the tasting test.  I took the tasting exam the last Sunday in September and was pleased with how I think I did.  After the exams were handed in, the proctor told us the judges consensus scores and what beers we had.  I was only 5 points off the judges consensus scores at worst, and one of my beers was within a point and a half!  Being the nerd that I am, I looked up the scoring guidelines and it looks like my scoring should average around 16.8 points in the scoring accuracy part.  16-17 points on scoring accuracy is required for a "National" ranking.  I figured this will put me fairly close to the score of 80 which is what I am striving for as this score will make me eligible to take the written exam (after accruing the necessary judging points) and to try to become "Nationally" ranked.

Now I just have to wait for the exams to be graded.  This will take a couple of months as it is all volunteer based and a very time intensive process.  In the meantime, I can get back to brewing! 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Planning my Indoor Electric Brewspace

Back in March of 2012, I discussed brewstands and recirculation mash system as 'wants' in part 3 of my all grain series.  They are still on my wants list, but with the new house I have decided I need to enact a plan to get indoors for brewing, with electricity.  Too many days where my hands are freezing from cleaning my mash tun out in the cold.  Additionally, we do not have a garage so I would be out in the full elements for brewing.  Below I will go over the pro's and con's of having a dedicated indoor brew setup and then layout my 3 phase plan to get indoors and use induction!

(New house - want to brew INside it, not OUTside it)

PRO's of Dedicated Indoor Brewing

  • Weather - Indoors you can be the postman of brewing - rain, sleet, snow, extreme heat, extreme cold - it doesn't matter.  This is the best reason for indoor brewing and could possibly outweigh any of the cons in and of itself.
  • Dedicated Brew Area - this isn't necessarily only specific to indoor brewing, as having a brewstand on casters would classify.  But having a dedicated space for brewing, you can organize and optimize for an efficient and quicker brew day.
  • Operating Cost - Brewing with electricity is far cheaper and more efficient than propane.  Also, as long as you pay your electric bill you will not run out of fuel - unless there is a power outage.
  • Proximity - Depending on where you setup your indoor brewing you should be close to hot water, and a sink/cleaning area, maybe even a T.V. or bathroom!

CON's of Dedicated Indoor Brewing

  • Initial Setup Cost - To do 5 gallons or more you will need access to 240v electricity with GFI, Ventilation etc.  Also if you want more advanced mash system you will need to spend quite a bit in the electronics department for a control panel.  This is probably the biggest hindrance to going indoor.  People can spend thousands of dollars getting a dedicated brew room - check out to see what i mean.
  • Ventilation - Boiling off 1+ gallons of liquid will create quite a humid environment.  You will need to have some sort of ventiliation to keep the area in and around your brewery dry and free of mold.  Additionally, some family members may not appreciate what I think are wonderful smells of wort and hops.
  • Mobility/Portability - You are kinda stuck to a location with the appropriate power you need.  It will be hard to take your system to club brewing event which is outdoors.
  • Electric knowledge - If you don't already know, you will need to learn a little bit about wiring electricity and electronics OR pay big dollars  to buy a prefabbed setup (see con # 1)

Shegogue Brew's Indoor Electric Plan

  • Frugal - Anyone who knows me knows I love a good deal.  I will DIY whenever I can to save some $$$.
  • 1) Electricity First - The first part of the equation is getting adequate power supplied to the unfinished side of the basement.  This needs to happen anyways to be able to run my keg fridge and ferm chamber - there currently are no power outlets on this side of the basement.  While at it, I will have the electrician wire up power for the brewspace
  • 2) Simple Setup - Once electricity is in place I will be going with a 20a/240v 3500watt induciton cooker.  This removes the need of a control panel, PID's etc.  I will brew in the same manner I currently do outside just with induction rather than propane burner.
    • Vent Hood - I will construct some sort of a vent hood and wire up a 6" inline fan to run the exhaust outside - all DIY, all savings
    • Brewstand - will construct a simple 2-tier brewstand to utilize gravity (as I currently do)
    • Gravity fed MLT

  • 3) Automated Mash Temp Control
    • Add a 15a/120v RIMS or "teakettle" type HERMS system.
    • This will require fancy pumps, and a control panel
    • A lot of extra hardware for installing valves into kettles
Step one should be completed sooner than later. Hoping to be able to jump into step 2 after the Xmas season (hint to santa).  And Step 3 will be a year or two out, maybe longer - really need to rebuild our deck.  As long as I am inside, I think I will be a real happy brewer :)