Saturday, November 29, 2014

Shop Small: Check out a Local Homebrew Shop

The local homebrew shop (LHBS) is the lifeblood of the hobby. If you have one nearby it is the easiest place to buy ingredients. It is also where most homebrewers get started.

Support your local homebrew shop.
If you are a reader of this space and have considered getting involved in the hobby, a LHBS is the perfect place to start. If you have a loved one who loves beer, the staff at a LHBS can help you select the perfect kit to guy as a gift. You can walk in, talk to a human being, and ask questions. Their business depends on new customers like you. You're not wasting their time by "asking stupid questions".

Even after brewing for a couple of years I'll still chat with the staff and other customers at the LHBS. When I picked up my stir-plate, they made sure I didn't buy too small of a flask and made sure I had everything else I needed.

When you shop at a LHBS you are supporting a local business, its employees, and keeping the money you're spending in the local economy. Find a LHBS using the American Homebrew Association's directory. Check out your LHBS!

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Taking the BJCP Exam

I made it to the Rising Tide brewery where the exam was held about 5-10 minutes before the exam was set to begin. The only seat left was at a table in the front of the space in the brewery set aside for the exam. As the exam began, I looked over to my left and saw three people at that table start their evaluation of the beers and whip out the BJCP Guidelines. I didn't realize the exam was open book, so I pulled out my iPad and opened the BJCP app to reference the style guidelines as I judged the beers.

The gentleman administering the exam then walked by, said the exam was indeed closed book and took my iPad and iPhone. I felt like a kindergartner whose toys had been taken by his teacher. Evidently I was sitting next to the exam proctors who are supposed to have the answers.
Will this be me?

The exam itself consisted of judging six different beers. Since the exam was clearly closed book I was fortunate that I was familiar with all six of the styles. When judging beer in a competition setting style adherence is clearly important. When the exam is graded the proctors will be looking at the descriptiveness of the comments, what off-flavors or defects in the beer did the exam-taker (me) notice or not notice, and what if any suggestions to improve the beer were offered. As I studied for the exam, the feedback on the scoresheet seemed to be what separated the good scoresheets from the better ones.

The actual beers at the exam can be a curious mix of beers. If the exam consisted of six commercial and/or award winning homebrew beers it would not be the best way to evaluate a prospective judge's ability to notice flaws. Two of the beers I tasted were well known commercial beers that had been altered so that they would taste like they had obvious defects. One was a blend of three different homebrewed beers that were each six months old. There was one unaltered homebrew that I thought was excellent and gave a 39, and there was an unaltered commercial beer that as soon as I found out what it was kicked myself for being overly critical in my comments and giving it a score in the mid 30s. Just like a competition, the condition of the beer when it is served is out of the brewers hand. I think all the beers we judged came out of growlers and were on the flat side which can certainly effect the aroma, mouthfeel, and flavor of a beer.

After the exam I mingled a bit with the other exam takers and the exam administrator. Speaking with them made me feel like I did okay on the exam. If I finished with a score of 70 or higher I will be attain the rank of a Recognized BJCP judge. From there based on the exam score and accruing experience points judging at competitions, a judge can move up in rank from there. It is also possible to retake the exam to try and obtain a higher score and ranking.

It can take several weeks or even months to receive the results. These are people with jobs who do this in their spare time. If I pass the exam I can see myself judging locally at competitions. I don't think I see myself taking Written Proficiency Examination or aggressively trying to move up the ranks, but if I find I enjoy judging who knows? If the experience can make me a better brewer that was always my main intention. I certainly think that it has.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Judging at the Best of Boston Homebrew Competition

As preparation for my upcoming Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) tasting exam in Portland this weekend, I judged at the Best of Boston Homebrew Competition last weekend.


My only previous judging experience was at the Boston Homebrew Competiton run by the Boston Wort Processors Homebrew Club. That day I judged stouts in the morning, and light hybrids in the afternoon. This time around I wanted to experience brewing something completely different, and was assigned to Belgian ale in the morning and American ale in the afternoon. The former consisted of saison, bier de garde, and Belgian specialty, a kind of catch-all for any Belgian beer that did not conform to any particular style. Having brewed none of these, I made sure to study in the days leading up to the competition.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Free Beer Contest Winner!!

In honor of The Would-be Brewmaster Facebook Page hitting 100 likes I awarded one lucky fan a free sample pack of my homebrews.

Instead of cutting up little slips of paper, writing every fans name on one, and pulling a name out of a hat, I used Woobox to pick a winner. All fans had to do to enter was to like and/or comment on this photo.

The winner is Charles Hildebrand of Salem!

Free Beer Contest


Thankfully this means I don't have to pack and ship beer to some far off locale. I will have another giveaway once the page has 200 fans!

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Tasting Notes: The Sustenance (American IPA)

This is a beer that I dedicated not one, not two, but three posts to. This was as near and dear to me as anything I have tried as a brewer, which is ironic because most of the recipe came from a professional brewer. Even though this was an extract batch where water chemistry is less important, it was still the first beer I applied what I had learned about water.

On a scale of one to ten with ten being the most satisfied, I would give the beer a seven. I did a side-by-side comparison of The Sustenance and The Substance:

My beer is on the left, Bissell's is on the right. Looks like it cleared while in the fridge

The can I cracked open was three months old, but still had a noticeable hop aroma. The clone didn't have as pronounced of an aroma, but it had slightly more hop flavor. I think the hop bag I used in an almost full carboy didn't enable enough of the hops to be in contact with the beer. I would also whirlpool for 15 minutes instead of the 20 minutes that I did to try to capture more aroma and less bitterness from the late hops.

Slightly better picture of the clone. Slightly.

I think using the campden tables to de-chlorinate the water made a huge difference. When my girlfriend tasted the beer she noticed the difference right away. She couldn't put her finger on it, but did say the beer tasted a lot better. Well, that was easy and something I should have started doing a long time ago.

If I were to do the extract version of the recipe again I would use more corn sugar and less extract to try and match the attenuation in the commercial version. Honestly, if I were to brew this again I would want to do an all-grain, or at least a partial-mash batch. I would be able to more closely match the color, and by mashing at a lower temperature create a more fermentable wort. Even adding most of the extract at the end of the boil, the clone is still noticeably darker.

As the picture shows, the clone has a much larger head. The bottles aren't gushing, but the beer is very foamy. Even when poured slowly there is a thick white clumpy head. The beer itself is almost opaque. The beer looked clear all the way until bottling. Initially I was afraid the beer became infected at bottling, but luckily the beer hasn't started gushing and it still tastes fine. Another adjustment would be to use less priming sugar.

The beer is entered in the Best of Boston Homebrew competition where I will be judging tomorrow as a final practice before my tasting exam on the 22nd. If the beer comes in with a score higher than a 30 on the BJCP 0-50 scale I will be pleased.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Win free beer!

I had been running a contest to drum up likes for my Facebook page that as soon as the page hit 100 likes that I would select one lucky winner to receive a sample pack of some of the very beers you have read about me brewing on this blog

If you are a fan of the blog, have a Facebook account, and like free beer, all you have to do is Like The Would-be Brewmaster on Facebook, like, comment, or share the post pinned to the top of the page (one entry for each), and you are automatically entered. It is that easy!

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Brew Day: Pa's Video Board Lager (International Pale Lager)

Our grandfather was certainly his own man. He had his views and opinions and was never afraid to share them or make excuses for them. When he was a younger man craft beer wasn't exactly a thing yet. In those days at a bar there would often be a price for a domestic beer (Budweiser, Miller, etc.) and a price for an import which usually came in a green bottle. The imported beer would usually be a bit more, but the import was perceived to be of a higher quality which was likely why that was what Pa Chalifour liked to drink.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Beer competitions and becoming a judge

Competitions are an important for the homebrewer, especially a "would-be" like myself. It is not always easy to get constructive feedback on your beer. Most of my friends aren't hardcore craft beer aficionados. When you share your homebrews with a Bud Light drinker he/she will probably say the beer tastes like a Sam Adams because it is likely the only beer that the person can think of that has actual flavor. Even when you share your beer with a beer geek, if he/she isn't familiar with the brewing process he/she won't likely be able to offer any advice to improve you beer.

Passed on the first try! Boom!

Most competitions are use Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) judges, scoring, and style guidelines. Not all of the judges who judge your beer are certified by the BJCP. Any brewer or beer lover who feels like he/she knows his/her stuff can judge a competition as a novice judge. The competition organizers will pair or group a novice judge with an experienced or certified judge(s) to provide guidance. My girlfriend and I volunteered as novice judges at this past Boston Homebrew Competition (BHC) organized by the Boston Worts.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tasting Notes: 1944 Brown Porter

No, I didn't brew a porter and not write about it. If you recall my new fall seasonal beer was originally Bill's Brown Ale, an American Brown Ale. That beer used balanced Willamette and Cascade hops as well as darker malts and molasses.

Beautiful color, if too dark for style. 

The finished beer didn't have a distinctive American hop flavor and came out a bit darker than I had anticipated. When I had my first sip my first thought was that the beer tasted like a porter. The molasses I used to prime the bottles and carbonate the beer had a profound impact on the color and flavor. There was a noticeable difference from when I sampled the beer out of the fermenter on bottling day and now.