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Author Replies
11/14/06 04:35 PM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Hey Airguy, (T)

Good meetingyou guys over there. Great times. Even remember most of them..

11/14/06 08:48 PM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
One point about the Belgian Speciality category that may brewers miss is:

The judges must understand the brewer’s intent in order to properly judge an entry in this category. THE BREWER MUST SPECIFY EITHER THE BEER BEING CLONED, THE NEW STYLE BEING PRODUCED OR THE SPECIAL INGREDIENTS OR PROCESSES USED.

Depending on what you specified (or what the judge may have assumed if you did not specify) the "all about malt" may be true for your entry. The speciality category is not just any belgian style beer that does not fit the other categories, but one focused on an existing special or a some other deliberate atempt at something new. Usual disclaimer that sometimes judges don't get it right.

Jim Denier
11/15/06 10:23 AM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Hey Steve,

Thanks for the acknowldegement on my win at the Fanco-Belgian competition. I thought I'd try something different and enter into a smaller competition outside the usual circles here in CO and the Rocky Mtn region,...judging in the same competitions starts to get a bit subjective after awhile! Anyhow, I was thrilled to see the win for my framboise, and encourage others to spread their creations around to new competitions to get a better cross-section of judging/critiquing! Congrats to you and other babblers for their wins!

I read this forum religiously and it has certainly added to my knowledge base for brewing BE beers.

FYI, I'd like to encourage ye fellow babblers to enter your creations in the Belgian & Big Beers Festival coming up in early January in Vail, CO.(www.bigbeersfestival.com). It's probably my favorite beerfest. There's the homebrew competition on Friday, a Brewmaster's dinner on Fri nite, followed by an amazing beerfest on Saturday. I've been judging and entering in the homebrew portion for 5 years,...great event! This year, the dinner features Great Divide and Urthel Brewery, where the actual brewers are present and match their brews with a great dinner spread!!



11/15/06 10:57 AM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
<<In order to place in any BJCP event, the beer really has to fit within style guidelines.>>

Theoretically, correct. Not my experience in practice.

The BJCP is an all volunteer group w/ the vast majority of judges in the lower ranks (still learning). In the NHC a couple years back I enterd an IPA that was 75 o.g., 75 IBUs. Should have been dinged for being too big, judges comments came back that the beer wasn't big enough for style. That raises the question of what beers were getting better scores?

One of the most common problems in BJCP events (IMO)is that big beers score better than they should. Big beers tend to do better than wonderful beers at the lower end of the style.

11/15/06 11:47 AM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Jim, keep us informed, I'd personally be delighted to help however I can. I am personally a little depleted at this point, but I might be able to scape up something. I'll support the effort however I can.


>>Big beers tend to do better than wonderful beers at the lower end of the style<<

Not just a BJCP issue though I think. This chimes in well with some recent talk on the other board. On enthusiast sites like BA small beers stand little chance of being voted best beer ever over the Westvleterens of the world. Somehow scoring seems to be somewhat in synch with gravity!

12/12/06 10:28 AM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Just got my score sheets in - my highest scoring beer was the triple. 37 and it did not place!!
12/12/06 12:56 PM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Got mine last night also. My highest score was a 42. Got 4 ribbons, 1st place, 2nd place and two best of shows plus a $75 and a $50 gift certificate to the local homebrew shop. Already spent it today. I emailed the competition coordinator to find out how many entries they had in each category. I'll post it here.
12/17/06 11:00 PM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Has anyone else received their score sheets? Haven't seen mine as yet. Cisco, did you get the entry quantity info?

Dave I
12/18/06 01:21 AM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
I have not gotten mine yet either. And I live 80 miles away! Maybe they just have not gotten around to mailing all of the out yet.


12/18/06 10:30 AM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
The total number of entries was 65. I asked for a break down by category also and they said they would try to get back to me with the info.
Dave I
12/20/06 10:53 PM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
I got my results back today.

First beer got a score of 18.5. This is a Westvleteren 12 wannabe. It has a solvent flavor that both judges attributed to fermenting too warm. Otherwise, they said it might be pretty good. Any chance this will mellow out? I used Wyeast 3787. I thought that yeast was fine to ferment pretty warm, and it was just fermenting at ambient temps.

Second beer got a score of 23. This is my Rochefort 10 clone. The main problems with this were it lacked carbonation and was too sweet, which may have been balanced out by more carbonation. This one rated as a better beer overall, but lacked some IBUs (accidentally had an OG of 1.130) and was flat. It is kegged, so I can adjust that when I use my counterpressure bottle filler. But one judge said the flavor and aroma were right on, so that was pretty cool. One judge asked if I was sure it was not a Barleywine and compared it to an English Ale in some regards.

Not terrible for a first try, particularly since nothing they commented about was incorrectable. Sadly, neither of the beers blew their socks off.


12/21/06 05:49 AM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Is now (December, 21th, 2006) a company selling MALT WHISKY in Belgium or near Belgium ?

There is no more such barley malt available in usual shops !

Thank you !

12/21/06 09:33 AM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Stassar, I'm guessing you're from Belgium. Is what you mean to say that you can't find regular malted barley for brewing so you're looking for whiskey malt? Wow! Sadly just about everyone here is North American, I don't think we'll be able to help.
12/22/06 10:51 AM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Dave I,

People often attribute solventy flavors to warm fermentation--but there is more to it than that (more than a judge probably has room or time to write on a scoresheet). Naturally there has to me more to it, given the fermentation temps at some of the breweries using 3787-type strains (both in the US and Belgium) to make unsolventy beers. Forgive me if you already are aware of all this, but here are my thoughts on your solventy thing.

To me, solventy flavor means an excess of the ester "ethyl acetate." Some people associate solventiness with fusels, but I am not sure this is correct. I once brewed a beer with huge fusels and not a trace of what I'd call "solventy." It may be a personal thing, but in any case I associate fusels with more of a whisky taste and sudden headache. (Though sometimes of course you can have both fusels and ethyl acetate, which confuses things.)

Eccess ethyl acetate happens when there is still sugar left but the yeast have run out of something they need to keep growing. When they realize they can't keep growing, they express an enzyme that starts making lots of esters, and especially lots of ethyl acetate. In a healthy ferment the yeast run out of sugar before they run out of anything else, and then shut down, so ester levels remain reasonable.

There are two main things the yeast can run out of. One is "nutrients." If your beer was all-grain then this was probably not the problem. But if you are using huge amounts of sugar, or brewing high gravity with extract, I am not so sure. Which was it?

The other main thing (and I think the more common one) that yeast might run out of, is the kind of cell material that can only be made with oxygen (sterols and fatty acids used to make cell membranes). As the cells divide, each cell naturally has less and less of this material, and since there is no oxygen in your ferment they can't make any more of it. If levels get too low, and there is still sugar left, then bang: solventy. This is why it's important to aerate well--so that the yeast can store up a lot of this material. It's also why it's important to pitch a lot of yeast--so each cell doesn't have to divide too much before all the sugar is gone. How much yeast did you pitch and how did you aerate it?

As for warm fermenting--less oxygen dissolves in warm wort, so it's harder to "charge up" the yeast with oxygen. To me, then, the culprit was probably not really the warm ferment but the fact that there wasn't enough charged-up yeast at the start.


12/22/06 11:28 AM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
I'll back up Baums on his excellant post. I warm ferment all my Belgian beers (some up to 90F) and they always get plenty of pure oxygen and a very large starter. Never had any solvent flavors or esters.
12/22/06 01:16 PM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Dave you also asked if the flavor will age out. There were some very interesting posts on the Homebrew Digest list recently, and from those discussions I'm pretty convinced that esters will generally age out, and fusels generally will not.

There are good reasons to believe this, based on chemistry and experience, but I'm not sure it's the whole story...

Dave I
12/22/06 07:27 PM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Hey guys, I made a gallon starter, decanted the starter beer off, and aerated with a B3 aeration kit (aquarium-style pump w/ stone). The beer was all-grain, 1/2 TurboPils, 1/2 Maris Otter, single infusion @ 149, plus two bottles Belgian Dark Candi Syrup late in the boil.

That probably does not help diagnose my problem, but that is what I have got.


12/23/06 03:10 PM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Any chance on people posting some of their winning recipes along with any fermentation details/technique details?

I know the recipe is only one aspect of brewing, but I enjoy looking at them all the same.

Baums, your post offers excellent feedback and is a great example of the type of feedback I think people who enter comps. are looking for. Unfortunately, some judges sometimes don't have the time, or sometimes knowledge, to write out detailed feedback like that.

12/26/06 12:03 PM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Dave, I think those details do help narrow things down.

Let's look at your pitching rate. Numbers for yeast growth in a starter are hard to find, but a good guess for a starter that is aerated once and then fermented under an airlock might be 60 B cells/L. (You probably get more cells by intermittently aerating the starter, and certainly more with a stir plate.) Assuming that kind of starter, you would have grown ~240 B cells. (But did you really make a whole gallon of starter? Or was it a starter in a gallon jug, with less than a full gallon of liquid?)

Not sure on the details of your batch, but for a 5G (19L) batch at 25P the pro "rule of thumb" of 1 M cells/L/P would recommend about 19L*25P*1M = 475 B cells.

So, given I've made some assumptions that might not be true, it does look like you are ~2X (and maybe more) under the pro rule of thumb. Not necessarily a huge deal--"Brew Like a Monk" makes it pretty clear that some Belgian breweries pitch at half or two-thirds of this rate. But these breweries probably have very nice yeast propagation systems and pitch very healthy yeast. This is a very strong beer and if the yeast are a bit low on sterols and fatty acids after fermenting your large starter, you may have a hard time getting enough oxygen through this very heavy wort to the yeast, so they can fully replenish themselves. Oxygen is not as soluble in such high grav worts.

If you agree that a likely source of your excess esters is a lack of sufficient sterols, then here are some suggestions to address it:

1. you could grow more cells to pitch (using either a stir plate, a larger starter, or repitching from a batch of lower gravity beer).

2. you could make certain that the cells you do pitch are fully "charged up"--one way to do this is to make your 1G starter, let it settle, pour off the liquid, and then a day before you brew, add a pint of wort and repeatedly aerate the hell out of the thing several times over the next day, by shaking.

3. You could effectively increase your pitching rate by lowering your gravity, or brewing a smaller volume of beer.

4. You could do exactly what you've been doing, but pitch a pack or two of a neutral dry yeast in addition. I personally don't think there is any shame in that at all.

What about a combination of 2 and 3 just to see if it solves the problem (maybe brewing 3G at 1.080)? If so, THEN you can worry about how to get enough yeast for 5G at 1.100 or whatever. If not, then you can curse my name for leading you astray...

Good luck.

Dave I
12/26/06 03:16 PM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
Baums, first off I really appreciate the analysis.

A couple of notes on my current practices/observations:

1) I used the gallon-jug filled probably between 3/4 to 7/8 full, so not a full gallon of wort.

2) I aerate with an aquarium-style pump and filtered air.

3) My Westvleteren 12 Clone (OG ~1.082) tasted solventy (I thought it was just esters from warm fermentation at first and would mellow with time), while my Rochefort Barleywine (OG~ 1.130) had no such side effects, yet may have not attenuated as much as it should. The Roche is not bad since I fixed the carbonation, but when it was flat it was like syrup on the tongue. I do not know if that confirms or refutes temperature or pitching rate having a role, but the Roche fermented lower (about 65*F) but with the same pitching regiment of the Westy-wannabe. The Rochefort tastes and smells fine (well, better than fine), but the Westy obviously has the flaw.

Things I am doing differently in the (very near) future:

1) Aerating with pure oxygen. Since I brew almost nothing but big beers, it makes sense to avoid any guesswork and just pump two minutes of O2 into the wort and be done with it. I ordered my oxygen kit (regulator for disposable tanks and stainless steel stone) so will use that on my next batch of beer in a week or so. It cannot hurt anything as long as I do not horribly over-oxygenate.

2) I am going to start building up yeast cakes. It just seems safer and will give me lower FGs.

3) I do not have a stir-plate, but that is my next investment.

4) I will probably keep fermentation at lower temps unless there is a strong reason to ferment warmer and I know what sort of temperature-schedule to put it through.

Anyway, I think those should fix any problems I have in how the yeast acts. I might not be brewing a Belgian for a couple of months (I have a Dunkel, Baltic Porter, American IPA, and a Barleywine or two on the agenda for now), but will definitely brew at least a couple of Belgians this spring, so I can see if my improvements actually work.

Thank you again.


Brian Richards
12/27/06 11:07 PM  
Re: Belgian/French homebrew comp
I got all excited for this and then I saw that this has long since ended. I'll have to get something ready for '07.
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