Showing posts with label dominion cup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dominion cup. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Judgement Days Cometh

The next couple of weekends promise to be awash with beer, for the very simple reason that I am judging at competitions on both upcoming Saturdays.

This coming Saturday is the Dominion Cup, Virginia's largest homebrew competition. As well as judging a couple of categories, I have entered 10 beers of my own:
  • Bitter
  • Best Bitter
  • English Pale Ale
  • Southern English Brown Ale
  • Robust Porter
  • Flanders Red
  • Belgian Dark Strong Ale
  • American IPA
  • Specialty Ale - 19th Century Burton Ale
  • Specialty Ale - 19th Century Czech Dark Beer
I am quietly confident about a few of these beers, in particular the porter, Burton Ale, and bizarrely enough the American IPA - which I have to admit I brewed mainly to avoid judging the American IPA category. If you've been following Fuggled for a while you'd know that beers hopped with the likes of Chinook, Cascade, and Centennial are not generally speaking my thing. I hopped my IPA with the classic triumvirate of Northern Brewer, Chinook, and Cascade, and I have to admit I am rather happy with the outcome, so much so that I can see me brewing it again at some point. The Burton Ale is my interpretation of the 1877 recipe which was brewed as the International Homebrew Project.

The following Saturday is the Virginia Craft Brewers Festival down at Devils Backbone, part of which is the Virginia Beer Cup. I judged the competition last year, the winner being Devils Backbone's magnificent Schwarzbier. This year's festival looks as though it will be bigger than last year, with more than 30 breweries involved and from what I have heard from the organisers, about 130 beers taking part in the competition. Looking at the list of participating breweries, that promises to be a very difficult task to decide on the beer to succeed the Schwarzbier.

Friday, August 10, 2012

BreakFast Time!

I haven't had a drink for 12 days now. Yes, I am on my annual, post Daytona Beach beer fast, though this year it is forming just part of a bigger program to get myself back down to my 2009 weight, and once that happens perhaps I will keep going until I reach my 2007 vintage.

The beer fast itself though will come to an end tomorrow as it is the Dominion Cup and I have volunteered to judge - though at the time of writing I still don't know what categories. Even though the beer fast will be broken, I have a plan to avoid the booze effecting me too much too soon, involving a nice greasy fry-up and a pint of whole milk. This weekend could also see the return of brewing, depending on what the wife is doing on Sunday.

With this being my first brewday in the new house I have decided that I will do a double header to see the difference between my well water and the usual purified water I use from the shop. I am hoping that my well water makes good beer and thus cuts a cost from my brewing (did I mention that I am quite cheap?). To test the water I will be brewing my autumn beer, which in keeping with the spirit of my post on Wednesday will be ready around the time of the Vernal Equinox (the middle of autumn in the UK, the beginning in the US). My autumnal beer for this beer is an 80/- "Scottish" ale using the following recipe:
  • 96% Golden Promise Pale Malt
  • 4% Roasted Barley
  • 15 IBU Fuggles for 60 minutes
  • 5 IBU Kent Goldings for 15 minutes
  • Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale Yeast
I won't be engaging in any spurious techniques like boiling down some wort to make an intense maltiness, or adding peated malt to get that smokiness which is wrongly considered part of the style by some. Nope, this will hopefully be another session beer to enjoy when the days of steady rain finally arrive.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Backwards and Forwards

Saturday was a brew day for me, indeed it was the last brew day of this year. Next weekend Mrs V and I head south again to South Carolina to drop our wee Cairn terrier off at Mrs V's parents, and then the following Friday we fly to France for Christmas. I brewed my strong ale for next Thanksgiving, changing tack a little bit by brewing a Belgian style strong dark ale, which the 3787 Trappist High Gravity yeast is fermenting away nicely at the moment.

I have brewed 21 beers this year, with an average starting gravity of 1.053, an average IBU rating of 32 and an average ABV of 5.1%, not including the beers I currently have in various carboys. I guess if that shows anything, other than perhaps an unhealthy interest in statistics, it is that generally I like beers that are balanced and drinkable, but you knew that already.

This year I also made the jump from brewing with extract and specialty grains to brewing all grain, and while I enjoy the process more than before, I am not going to make claims that all grain is naturally superior to extract and grains. I have also had some success in competitions, picking up 2 golds and an Honorable Mention in regional competitions, the latest gold coming just this weekend at the Palmetto State Brewers Open, where Samoset 2010 went one better than the 2009 version.

As for the beers themselves, I think brewing the 1933 Barclay Perkins Milk Stout as part of the International Homebrew Project was the most technically challenging. The 3 way wheat beer experiment where I used the same ingredients to brew 3 batches on the same day and then ferment with different yeast strains was also very interesting, if a little hectic. My favourite beer to drink was my Fuggold Bitter, a clean Ordinary Bitter weighing in at just 3.3% ABV, which took gold at the Dominion Cup back in August.

Not one to rest on my laurels, I am putting together my brewing calendar for 2012 already. Apart from my annual strong beers, I am planning to make next year a study in beers below 12° Plato, or 1.048. I am convinced that the truly great brewers are the ones making session beers which are packed with flavour and drinkability. I might never reach those heights, but as the much maligned Gerard Houllier once commented, "if you aim for the stars you might just land on the moon".

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Sweetness of Bitter

The results are in and one of my beers brought home some bling on Saturday.

Of the seven beers I entered in to the Dominion Cup, the weakest as far as I was concerned was my Fuggold Bitter. Fuggold bitter uses 4 malts, pale, amber, brown and caramel 10, 2 hop varieties (can you guess what they are?), and the Windsor yeast strain. At 3.3% abv, it is very much a session beer, and one that every time I drink it I tend to think is a bit on the thin side, though tasty enough. Yet on Saturday afternoon my little Ordinary Bitter came away with the gold medal in the Bitters and English Pale Ale category, pushing a couple of ESBs into second and third.

As you can imagine I am very please with this. Everyone likes to win competitions and get some freebies, I particularly like my new Sierra Nevada glass, which will likely make an appearance soon. Most intriguing though is a small packet of unlabelled hop pellets, seriously, I have no idea what they are. I think I will make a SMaSH beer with them though, perhaps with a base of 100% Vienna or Munich, just for fun.

Despite the bling and the freebies, it is the feedback on the score sheets that I am most interested in. I like getting feedback on my beers, and the medium of judging beers anonymously really is helpful as it takes away the element of being nice to the brewers face. Some of the comments about Fuggold Bitter were in stark contrast to my own opinion, for example one judge thought the beer had "too much body for this category" and that it might be better as an ESB, another judge thought it "a bit full flavoured". Maybe the next time I am back in Blighty I will have to go on a bitter drinking spree, but thinking back on a pleasant afternoon in Oxford's The King's Arms, drinking mostly Young's Bitter, I don't recall it being as thin as I think my bitter is.

Some other interesting comments on the beers I entered included both my witbiers being described as closer to saison than wit - mainly due to the colour and being "too hoppy" for a witbier, I never thought I would read that 18 IBUs of pure Saaz would be too hoppy. From this feedback though, I think I will enter both witbiers in the saison category at the Virginia Beer Blitz in October. On the subject of the three wit experiment, it was the American Witbier - same base beer as the other 2 but fermented with the American Wheat Strain - that scored the highest of all my beer and was in the running for another medal as it was involved in a category Best of Show playoff.

The beer with the lowest score was my Export India Porter, which I entered as both a robust porter and a specialty beer. For the base beer in the specialty category, I put British Black IPA, as it uses all British hops to achieve the same IBU rating as an American Black Ale/Cascadian Dark Ale/Insert Name of the Week. It was as a specialty beer that I got the dreaded "not to style" comment, at which I chuckled broadly as there is no such thing as a British Black IPA, so what possible style could it not conform to? The beer did better as a robust porter, and I entirely agree with one of the judge's comments that "a bit more substantial malt base" would "support the formidable hop bitterness". I attribute this to the fact that the first batch, which took gold as a robust porter in last year's Beer Blitz, had an OG of 1.062 as opposed to this batch's 1.052.

As a club, the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale pulled in a total of 16 medals, including some for mead and cider, and a second place in the overall Best of Show. Not only is the Charlottesville area something of a hot bed for good breweries, but also seems to be something of a breeding ground for homebrewers.

With my medal hanging with the others in the kitchen, my attention has already turned to preparing for this year's Virginia Beer Blitz.......

Friday, August 12, 2011

Competition Time

Tomorrow is the Dominion Cup in Richmond, one of the largest homebrew competitions in Virginia from what I have read, and one of only 3 competitions that I will be entering this year.

Unlike last year I will be heading down to Richmond with a couple of other guys from the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale to steward and, in the afternoon, do a bit of judging. Thankfully I am only judging one style, but it is one of my two favourite styles, a style that I love muchly and have been drinking since the very beginning of my drinking career.

Naturally I have entered a few beers for the judging, so hopefully they won't get massacred. One thing I am looking forward to very much though is meeting up with Eric, James and a couple of other bods I know and having a good day with a great bunch of beer lovers.

Every prospect pleases.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Plotting Season

It's that time of year. The sun shines more often than not, the trees are in bud and pollen fills the air like a yellowy green fug. Yes it's spring, the time of year when I give thanks for being short sighted and needing glasses, thus staving off some of the delights of hay fever.

It is also around this time of the year that I start thinking about the homebrew competitions I intend to enter in the coming months, and try to create a brewing schedule to fit around them. This year, for the first time, I entered the National Homebrew Competition. I only entered the one beer, Red Coat Export India Porter, which took gold in the Porter category at last year's Virginia Beer Blitz.

This version is slightly different from the winning batch, being 5.4% abv rather than 5.9%, and about 50 IBUs, which is a little less than the last batch, but maintains the same BU:GU ratio. With the beer entered in the NHC I am hoping just not to get slaughtered in the feedback forms, anything beyond that is a bonus.

In the regional competitions, I am pretty sure that I will just enter the same as last year, which would mean brewing beers for the Dominion Cup and Beer Blitz here in Virginia, and the Palmetto State Brewers Open in South Carolina.

Over the coming months I have a load of projects I want to complete, including a triumvirate of wheat beers based on my LimeLight recipe. LimeLight has become my most commonly brewed beer, and has proven to be well received by those that have tried it. My three way project is to make 3 batches over a weekend, with exactly the same ingredients except for the yeast. The yeast strains will be the classic 3944 Belgian Wit, 3068 Weihenstephan and 1010 American Wheat.

As a result of brewing a historical recreation of milk stout for the International Homebrew Project, I have found myself wanting to brew more historical beers, one that took my particular interest was a 1921 Pale Ale from Barclay Perkins. My interest was piqued by the use of Saaz hops alongside Goldings. Also coming up will be a a single hopped Old Ale, a blackberry lambic, a mild, and perhaps a peated pale ale.

There is a big homebrew project on the very near horizon, something that has been in the works since November, but I will tell you all about it when the brewday has been done.....

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Dominion Cup Results

Patiently I waited, patiently that is once I had given the Dominion Cup organisers my address again because I couldn't remember filling it out when I registered. 2 weeks went by and still no sign of the score sheets for the 3 beers I entered in the Domion Cup, Virginia's largest home brew competition, then yesterday they arrived.

I had already been tipped off that my dunkelweizen/weizenporter had scored 30 out of 50, putting it in the "Very Good" category - defined as "may have a minor flaw (technical or stylistic) or may be lacking in balance or complexity". The thing though with the score sheets is that they give feedback which I can use to improve my beers.

Continuing with the dunkelweizen, which came 10th from 20 entries, the theme from both judges was that it was more roasty than malty. The dark grains in this beer were caramel 60 and chocolate, so perhaps in future versions I will tone back the chocolate and add an extra caramel malt, perhaps a 10 or 20, especially if it is being entered in competition as a dunkelweizen.

The peat smoked mild scored 33 out of 50, and placed 7th out of 15. In my eagerness not to allow the smoke to overpower the other elements of the beer I only used a very small amount, which seems to have caused the biggest criticism of this beer. I entered the beer in the Smoke Beer category rather than the mild or porter categories, and am now convinced that it needs more oomph to really make it as a smoke beer. Next time it will be a mild, or I'll just add more of the peat malt that I still have vacuum packed away.

The last of the three beers was Samoset 2009, my barleywine. Averaging 32 out of 50 from the 2 judges (the higher score coming not just from a Master BJCP judge but also a professional brewer), Samoset came in 6th out of 25. Both judges really only had two criticisms, both said it was a touch thin and that it would have ranked higher as an American Barleywine rather than the English that I put it down as.

Overall, I am very happy with the score sheets, especially as I have been brewing for little more than 18 months and am using the extract with grains approach. This weekend I will be dropping off more beers for another Virginia home brew competition and hope to score as well there as in the Dominion Cup.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...