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Author Replies
Mike T
06/11/07 11:18 AM  
How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
First off, what a great experience the Brett swap was. So many different and amazing flavors, it was truly inspirational. In all of the beers I only occasionally picked up a real funky/barnyard character, and at most it would be called mild. However, I wonder if tasting so many funky beers over the course of the swap as well as other homebrew and commercial examples has dulled my pallet to the funk.

On Saturday my local club was having a saison competition, just for fun and to see what the judges would say I entered my first all Brett beer. It was based on a recipe Sebastian posted awhile ago, essentially Pils + wheat to 1.048 with 24 IBUs of Mt. Hood and Sterling and Brett C fermented at 85 or so. I thought the beer turned out spicy with notes of bubblegum and fruit, a hint of tartness and a mild funk/earthiness.

According to the BJCP it is right on the minimum for gravity and bitterness, and only 1 point off the low end for FG at 1.009. Quenching acidity is allowed and the Fantome Saisons are the third commercial example, many of which have a Brett character. So while I thought my beer was a bit too weird to win, I still thought that it was reasonably close to what I consider to be a pretty broad category.

Needless to say my beer got hammered by the judges, 3 out of the 4 commented on the “Brett infection, watch your sanitation” one said it would be more appropriate as a lambic, and several commented on acetlyaldehyde and a lack of a strong malt character.

Has my pallet just adjusted to the point that I don’t realize how strong the Brett character is? Was it really acetlyaldehyde, or is apple just one of the flavors that Brett C puts out (as we saw with several beers in the swap)? Or were the judges really just looking for a Saison Dupont clone?

Sorry for the rant.

Cisco
06/11/07 11:29 AM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
I think the judges didn't have any real experience tasting commercial Belgian Saisons (especially a Fantome). "lack of a strong malt character"?????????????????!!!!!!!!

Inexperienced judges who do not have the well rounded pallets from tasting the wide range of available (sometimes hard to get)commercial examples and following the inaccurate sanctioned judging guidelines for the supposed style.

This is why I rarely ever enter competitions.

SteveG
06/11/07 12:20 PM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
It can also be because tasting beers in a line up is so different from casual drinking. N8 reminded me about my "5 sip rule". Taste a beer in a swap then try another. Take 5 sips then go back to the first. It can be amazing how different a beer can come across. My Berliner was hit pretty hard in one contest (whose judging I would tend to trust) because to them it was barely sour. I don't think anyone who tried it last Sunday would have thought it insufficiently sour. Then again, those judges may well have preceeded it with a couple gueuzes.

I can say that though I have made some truely oddball brews I still have a real softspot for a simple, clean European type pale lager. Got one on draught now. So I don't think there has been a palette adjustment on my part.

By and large I'm with Cisco on the competition front. I support a few clubs cause I like what they are doing, but I seldom take score sheets to heart. Occasionally I enter a beer if I for whatever reason want an outside objective opinion. But I recommend against measuring yourself by competitive success.

SteveG
06/11/07 12:58 PM  
Finish that thought....
... But I recommend against measuring yourself by competitive success ... or lack thereof.
Jim Denier
06/11/07 01:47 PM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
All I can do is whole-heartedly agree with you guys- competition results and comments can be pretty frustrating! I don't know how many times I've told myself I'd never enter a competition again. My Flanders Red last summer received comments in a state fair like, "... off-flavor, too sour..." My reaction was "...bunch of retards, I'll never enter a competition again." Then I enter the same beer in the NHC and it's in the 2nd Round! Go figure.

Jim

Mike T
06/11/07 01:55 PM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
Don’t worry I’m not taking the comments to heart, particularly after all of the kind comments on my other Brett beer last night during the swap. In addition one of the judges had even tried the beer a couple meetings back and told me that he really enjoyed it. It really is just an issue of whether or not it was to style and what you are expecting when you try a beer.

I was more wondering if I just wasn’t tasting Brett flavors as clearly as I used to, similar to the way that hoppy beers don’t taste as bitter to me as they did when I tried my first couple big IPAs or high abv beers don’t taste as strong as they used to.

I won’t give up entering competitions (not that I do it more than once a year anyway), but I think I’ll stay clear of entering such “unique” beers.

Sean White
06/12/07 01:36 PM  
Re: How much has your PALATE adjusted to funk?
It's hard to say of course without tasting the beer, but:

For one thing, the BJCP guidelines are FAR off as far as FG's for saison. They can go down super low, 1.004 is not uncommon. Saison D'eapeautre is even lower.

I think too much apple aroma would be inappropriate for a saison. I haven't fermented with brett only but a lot of apple would seem to override the fruity complexity that I expect with saisons. Funk should be pretty minimal, just to add a "3 Dimensional" quality.

And I can say this as a somewhat experienced, BJCP certified judge: Many judges really don't have a lot of experience in the categories that they are judging ( including myself sometimes). You can get undeservedly low or high scores in any category. It's quite possible that none of the judges have even had Phantome. You'd hope not, but it's possible.

You can always try entering a brett saison in the Belgian specialty ale category. Try entering it in both categories and see if it does better in one than the other.

The only other thing you can really do is get more tasting input from other experienced drinkers and at other competitions.

SteveG
06/12/07 04:05 PM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
As loathed as I am to admit it, this is probably true:

>>You can always try entering a brett saison in the Belgian specialty ale category.<<

Why do I think so low of this notion? Because brett beers are not Belgian! Sure, a couple Belgians have a bit of brett in there, as do a few English beers. But we are not talking about a brew with a brett component like a lambic, or brett finishing like Orval. Can anyone name a beer from Belgium that uses brett either primarily or exclusively? I can't. A lot of apple might override the fruity complexity - but that is what brett beers can do. Because they are not stylistically represented (or understood - even by we who have been specifically experimenting there!) in BJCP guidelines we have to settle for squeezing them into categories where they may only loosely fit. Mike - the reality is that at this time the world is simply not ready for brett beers in competition. A few of us have had luck - but there will be far more judges out there who don't understand what you are doing that ones who will.

No slight on you Sean, you post was loaded with truth - but not the last sentence. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a community with more all-brett beer experience than this one.

Brendan
06/12/07 05:06 PM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
<< Can anyone name a beer from Belgium that uses brett either primarily or exclusively?>>

ah,

have you ever tried the flemish primative? - De Proef?

primarily and exclusively. That's one.

SteveG
06/12/07 06:14 PM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
Oh yes - I think you're right there. A newer brewer though, pretty much the breweries that are part of Belgiums tradition use brett as a seasoning at the most. So many US styles of brewing are European knock offs - we have our version of pale ale and IPA and Imperial stout. But brett brewing is really more of an American thing than European, actually until recently it was almost exclusively a CA thing. Brett brewing might be the most American genre of brewing there is. But if we want to make brett beer and compete the only place it can generally fit is Belgian ale! I hate that.
Brendan
06/13/07 07:30 AM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
This reminds me of the basic brewing radio - Peter B. interview. When they entered la folie it didn't have a category, now it does. Maybe 1. theres a way to create an american specialty beer category, and/or 2. that's what is unfortunate about styles/style guidelines. - It gets in the way of enjoying good beer.
SteveG
06/13/07 09:23 AM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
It can get in the way sometimes I think. IMO the deal with brett beer is not that it needs a category. It needs a genre. The recent swap involved beers that were extremely varied, there was a 1035 Berliner weisse style beer, a 1.110 olde ale, dry, fruity refreshing beers, intensly pineapply beers, one extremely robust Belgian-type golden ale. Man, another was spicey like a bowl of potpourii, extreme cinnamon and spice. No two beers belonged categorized together, and all were at least as different from ales and lagers as ales are from lagers.
Sean White
06/15/07 09:23 AM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
SteveG Said:

">>You can always try entering a brett saison in the Belgian specialty ale category.<<

Why do I think so low of this notion? Because brett beers are not Belgian! Sure, a couple Belgians have a bit of brett in there, as do a few English beers. "

I was looking at the style guidelines for both 16 E: Belgian Specialty ales and 23A: Specialty beer.

My interpretation is that if you're doing a Belgian style beer using Brett only, it fits in 16 E. If you're doing another style or using non-Belgian ingredients, it's probably a 23 A.

But that's still not to say it will score well, even if it's a great beer. I think it depends on the judges who are judging that day. (Which refers to the last sentence of my last post. What I was really trying to say was not to rely on the feedback you get at only one competition.)

SteveG
06/15/07 12:29 PM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
>>But that's still not to say it will score well, even if it's a great beer.<<

Therein lay the point. The reason a good beer would not score well is that it is out of style. Brett beers are so unique and diversified that their styling is really mostly unrecorded thus they are loosely represented at best. At this point in time the categories you cite are the closest - but in so many cases the closest is not all that close.

Sean White
06/15/07 04:29 PM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
I truly see your point, however, a great brett-only beer might score really well. I think the categories are fine and it's just a matter of time before judges and the BJCP acclimatize to a new flavor profile.

How would you like to see brett beers categorized? I also think it's not right to create a "Brett beer" category, if you say that they can be so diverse, then how could they all stand side by side in a comp?

The bottom line is I've got to start brewing some brett-only stuff so I relly know for myself.

And the other bottom line is that you ALWAYS have to recognize that the BJCP is going to have weaknesses and you have ot take competition input with a grain of salt. If your beer is great but doesn't score well, so be it.

Sorry for totally hijacking the post. But it's good subject matter to discuss.

SteveG
06/16/07 05:32 AM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
No hijacking, I agree the subject matter is well worth discussion.

>>How would you like to see brett beers categorized?<<

Honestly I don't know. I think a category would not be adequate as they can be as varied as ale or lager styles. Certainly ale or lager could not be covered by a single exclusive category. I would hope that if brett brewing recieves the attention I think it deserves that categories will be added over time. This could not be fast. BTW, if you really want to know more about this, brewing some is step one - you should keep your eyes open for future swaps. A sampling from many people can be a real shocker here.

SteveG
06/17/07 01:54 PM  
Re: How much has your pallet adjusted to funk?
Sean, upon further reflection I think the experimental beer category might come in real handy with brett beers. I guess that is where you put beer that is very nice but conforms to no established profile. Maybe that is how "wood aged beer" came into become its own nitch.
 
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