Showing posts with label virginia beer blitz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label virginia beer blitz. Show all posts

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bitterly Gold

On Saturday, while I was working at the Starr Hill tasting room, the homebrew club to which I belong was storming the barricades of the 6th Annual Virginia Beer Blitz. Only one of our number got down to the St George Brewing company (makers of one of my favourite IPAs, a 100% Fuggles hopped affair which is rather moreish) to take part in the judging, but we had 25 entries from 6 brewers, of which, 10 entries from 5 of us brought some bling back from the coast, and we were overall 2nd in the club of the year part of the competition.


My contribution to our success was a gold and a bronze, for a best bitter and mild respectively, as some of you likely know if you follow my Twitter feed for are Facebook friends of mine. I was particularly pleased with the gold for the bitter because, as I wrote about a few posts back, I am working on creating my ideal bitter to become my house ale. As well as winning a medal, this first batch of bitter has had good reviews from other members of CAMRA and a couple of professional brewers who have tried it, so I think I am going in the right direction.

The bronze for mild was, if I am honest, entirely unexpected because it was an experiment and I used the Belgian witbier yeast strain and hopped it with Styrian Goldings and Saaz rather than 'traditional' English hops. That it came out far more 'English' in character than 'Belgian' has turned out to be a good thing really, but not an experiment I will be trying again as I have a more 'classic' mild recipe I am working on and may well be brewing this Friday.

Having blown my own trumpet a touch, I was thinking about the various medals I have won with my homebrew since moving to the States and something is becoming apparent, I have the most 'success' with traditionally British styles of beer. I have won gold for porter, bitter (twice) and Old Ale, silver for English Barleywine and Mild, and now a bronze for a Mild. For sure this is hardly surprising given that a lot of my brewing is more in the British tradition than American, Belgian or anything else, as is much of my drinking. Anyway, a touch of pointless navel gazing never hurt anyone.

The next big thing for my homebrew calendar is the National Homebrew Competition in the spring, when I hope to finally have a beer advance to the second round. Perhaps I will enter another bitter....

Note: I have to admit that part of me was pleased to note that the spelling on the medals has still not been corrected, 'Virgina Beer Blitz' it is!

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".

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.....

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Doing It Jazz Style

I think I mentioned on Twitter or Facebook, or quite possibly both, that I was planning on brewing a porter at the weekend. The weekend became Monday and the porter became brewing beer jazz style, as in making it up as I went along rather than brewing whilst playing the trumpet.

As I only had Admiral hops in the fridge, I popped round to Fifth Season to get some EKG and 1056 American Ale yeast, at this point the plan was to make a bigger batch of the Red Coat Export India Porter to satisfy the various bods who have asked for a bottle. I also picked up an extra pound of DME to bump up the fermentables a tad.

Eventually I had everything to hand in order to make the Red Coat, and for reasons best known only to the workings of my brain I decided to change tack. Thus it was that recipe became as follows:
  • 3lbs Light DME
  • 1lb Extra Light DME
  • 0.25lb Caramel 120
  • 0.25lb Special Roast
  • 0.125lb Carafa II de-bittered
  • 0.125lb Peated malt
  • 0.5oz 10.5% Admiral @ 60 minutes
  • 0.5oz 4.5% EKG @ 45
  • 0.25oz 4.5% EKG @ 15
  • 0.25oz 4.5% EKG @ 1
  • 1056 American Ale yeast
According to the various online tools I use to work out colour and bitterness, this beer has an SRM of 24 and an IBU rating of 21, the original gravity was 1.060 or 15o Plato. As to what the beer actually is, well your guess is as good as mine. Given the similarities to the original Red Coat it could quite well be a peat smoked porter, though it is stronger than a brown porter and less hoppy than a robust. It could also be an smoked American Brown Ale, but for the use of British hops. A quick aside here, I am starting to love the BJCP styles, simply because they give me rules to break! Whatever it is, it is dark, reasonably hopped, and hopefully about 6% abv with a decent peaty whack - one of the comments that came back about the peat smoked mild I made was that the smokiness could be increased, so an extra half ounce went in this one.

All said and done, I have a beer fermenting away happily, as you can see from this picture:


On a related note, and this isn't something I would normally do, but the picture below is the medals I won at the Virginia Beer Blitz. I had never won a medal for anything before, so I am probably inordinately chuffed at having done so, and it has made me more enthused to make more beer, improve my skills and hopefully add some more gongs to the collection.


Whilst talking about improving your brewing skills, this month's Brew Your Own magazine has a lot of interesting stuff about extract brewing, including a piece talking with professional brewers who do the whole extract with grains thing and have won multiple awards at things like the Great American Beer Festival.

Anyway, more ingredients arrived yesterday, so more brewing on the horizon.....

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Revival! Export India Porter...

Last night I went to my first CAMRA meeting. No, not the Campaign for Real Ale. Charlottesville's local homebrew club is called the Charlottesville Area Masters  of Real Ale, or CAMRA. Yes, yes, I know I have been here now for over a year, but I had not plucked up the courage to go to a meeting quite simply because these guys win medals left, right and centre at homebrew competitions.

Anyway, one of the members recently started following my Twitter feed and we got into the conversation that seems to be de rigeur in American beer circles at the moment, Black IPA or whatever the trendy term this week is. It turned out that Jamey had brewed a Black IPA around the same time as I brewed my Red Coat India Black Ale. We agreed to meet at CAMRA's monthly meeting and compare beers, a short version of the comparison would be; both were good. Jamey used American C-hops and for the first time in a Black IPA they didn't taste out of place, although my first thought of the nose was sweaty jockstraps, but that became blood grapefruits after a further sniff or two. On the basis of his beer I wonder if part of my gripe is with the lack of balance in the IBAs I have had so far?

My beer was also good, judging from the approving nods and comments from various members, but given that the hops were British, the consensus was that this was really a porter. I suppose that reaction very much vindicates my belief that Black IPA is actually just an over-hopped porter, using American hops rather than British. Given that the IBU range for Robust Porter according to the BJCP (sorry to the non-style people) is 25 - 50, and that according to a recent post on Ron's blog, 19th century porters shipped to India had about a third extra hops chucked in, then the evidence is stacking, in my mind, that India Black Ale belongs with the porters rather than the IPAs.

As such, I have decided to enter Red Coat in the upcoming Virginia Beer Blitz as a Robust Porter rather than my initial plan to enter it as a Category 23 Specialty Beer.Also being entered in the competition will be Machair Mild, as Experimental Dark Matter has been renamed, and Gunnersbury Gold, a Best Bitter.

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...

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