NHC Results: Vienna Lager and California Common

For my brewery in planning Burlington Beer Co. I wanted to create a beer for when people ask, "what's your lightest beer?". I wanted this beer to still be full flavored and something I would still like to drink. I came up with an idea to hybridize the bread-y malt complexity, German hop varieties, and clean lager fermentation of a Vienna style lager with the hop levels for bitterness and flavor of California Common style "Steam" beer. I called this beer 'Peasant Bread' and for Burlington Beer Company's first tasting event I described it as: "A hybrid between a California Common and a Vienna Lager. With the hop bitterness of a Common and the bready malt character of a Vienna Lager. Peasant Bread is cold fermented with a lager yeast strain creating a crisp, hoppy, lager."

Hybridized beer styles don't usually do well in BJCP events, but since this was my first attempt at the idea for a new beer I wanted to get some feed back. This beer was entered into each of the respective categories of inspiration, category 3a: Vienna Lager and 7b: California Common.

Peasant Bread

Pale Malt
Vienna Malt
Munich Malt
Carastan 30-37

mash at 151*f

Super Galena     :60
Tettnanger         :10
Delta                  :0

12.5*P (1.050sg)
Saflager 34/70

Category 3a: Vienna Lager

#1- crisp, toasty malt with some spicy hop notes
#2- light toasted malt character with light sulphur

#1- deep gold and clear, low head retention
#2- deep yellow color, minimal head, modest clarity with a slight haze

#1- spicy hops hit first, should have more balance toward malt, firm bitterness may be a bit too firm, the malt is not enough to properly balance this beer
#2- crisp toasty malt sweetness with clean fermentation character and a dry finish, hop bitterness is in balance with the malt profile

#1- good body and pleasant carbonation, clean finish
#2- light to medium body, medium carbonation, finishes crisp and dry

Overall Impression
#1- I like it, but it's too aggressively hopped for the style, I'd also say that the bitterness isn't soft, consider using only noble varieties for this beer
#2- very nice clean drinking lager balanced toward malt as per style, exceptionally smooth and dry finish, slightly too light in color for the style and could use a touch more malt complexity

#1- BJCP Certified        35/50
#2- BJCP Recognized   33/50

Overall 34/50---Very Good (30-37)

Category 7b: California Common

#1- light hoppiness, medium toasty malt, some fruitiness in background
#2- light hop aroma with minty/woody notes of classic northern brewer hop, slightly toasty malt character

#1- lighter copper color, good clarity, generally clear
#2- light in color for style, medium straw color, a light white head displays good retention

#1- toasty, moderate caramel malt, significant hop bitterness but balanced with malt, dry clean finish
#2- woody minty norther brewer hop flavor is in the fore front, backed by a toasty malt backbone, hop bitterness over powers malt sweetness, leading to a dry finish, with lingering norther brewer hop flavor

#1- medium body, medium carbonation, with a well retained off white head
#2- medium body with moderate carbonation, slight astringent hop flavor

Overall Impression
#1- pleasant example of the style, balance of bitterness and malt is good, more late kettle additions would increase hop aroma
#2- maltiness is a bit low, but it allows showcasing of the hop character

#1- non-BJCP          34/50
#2- BJCP Certified   31/50

Overall 33/50---Very Good (30-37)

The next time I brew this beer I'll be increasing the Vienna and Munich malt in the grist bill to increase the toasted malt flavors. I may also add some melanoidin malt, victory malt, or biscuit/aromatic malt as well to further increase the malt complexity. I'll also probably lower the bitterness, but increase hop flavor and aroma. I found it kind of hilarious that one judge was sure he was tasting and smelling Norther Brewer hops, which are traditional in California Common style beer when no such variety was used. Delta hops do provide a nice earthy and herbal flavor similar to Norther Brewer hops, which is why I used them. The hybridized beer idea worked, but as usually, can always be better.

NHC Results: Saison

A favorite beer style of mine to brew and drink is Saison. The style guidelines according the BJCP are quite broad in color, starting gravity, and final gravity allowing brewer's to put their own stamp on a style with rustic French farmhouse roots. You can take the style and make it hoppy, add spices/herbs to the mix, ferment with fruit, and age it with alternative yeast strains (ie: brettanomyces). At this point it seems like anything goes, as long as you use a Saison yeast strain at some point, I think it's fair to call it a Saison.

At the Burlington Beer Co. tasting event this beer was described as: "A French country farmhouse style ale brewed with barley, wheat, rye, and oats. Pink Peppercorns and Sumac Berries are added at end of boil, boosting the inherent lemon pepper flavors in classic Saison style ales. This is an easy drinking, yet complex, aromatic ale" 

Category 16c: Saison

Pilsner Malt
Torrified Wheat
Rye Malt
Flaked Oats
Munich Malt

mash at 149*

Delta                :60
Nelson Sauvin   :0

Pink Peppercorns  
Sumac Berries

14.3*P (1.057sg)
Wyeast 3726 Farmhouse

#1- cloudy yeast character, pleasant, tropical notes
#2- herbal, fruity (citrusy) with a pine-like hop. Moderate pepper elements. As beer opens, more white-wine like character

#1- pale straw with a continuous bubble
#2- very pale yellow with thick, finely beaded white head, good clarity

#1- light tropical fruit and hints of lemon, very mild overall flavor, pleasant and easy to drink, malt character is almost non-existent
#2-tropical fruit notes initially faded into a more hop driven beer, malt backbone is light and supports wine like character, bitterness is restrained

#1- good level of carbonation, full on the tongue but light in body
#2- medium body lightened by CO2 level, carbonation is prickly

Overall Impression
#1- very pleasant and easy to drink, tropical notes are uncharacteristic to style, makes me think of Nelson Sauvin hops, needs some additional malt complexity, maybe additional wheat and munich malt
#2- well made, very interesting Saison, hop flavor higher than expected but all together makes a very interesting beer, consider a more complex malt bill, maybe 10-20% munich

#1- BJCP Recognized        33/50
#2- BJCP National Judge   36/50

Overall 35/50---Very Good (30-37)

NHC Results: American IPA

Last summer I entered a bunch of beer's into the Delaware State Fair as part of a "To Style Series" where I shared the score sheet feedback and judges comments for each beer. My low gravity brown ale even won best in show over higher abv (sweeter) beers. The most fascinating part about the feedback was when I entered the same exact beer into similar categories and received completely opposite comments/reviews for a few (ie: too thin-full body or not enough malt complexity-great malt complexity) of the beers. Which I found kind of hilarious and sad. I think the number scale for BJCP is completely arbitrary. Neither the World Beer Cup or GABF use any type of number scale. A beer is either good, stands out on that day and moves on, or it doesn't. I still think it's a good idea for home brewer's to enter their beers into competitions, but take the results with a grain a salt. Some of the best selling craft beer's in the country have never won any GABF or WBC medals.

For this year's To Style Series I will be posting about a bunch of beer's I entered in the National Homebrew Competition. All of these beer's were also featured at my brewery in planning's inaugural tasting event where I presented sixteen different beer's to introduce Burlington Beer Co. The event went very well with over a hundred people stopping by to sample the beer's, an article in the local paper (Burlington Free Press) and featured on Beer Pulse

Category 14: American IPA 

American Pale Malt
Munich Malt
Flaked Barley
Victory Malt
Honey Malt
Caramunich 60

Mash 154*

Columbus      :60 (whole leaf)
Columbus      :20 (whole leaf)
Centennial      :1   (whole leaf)
Citra              :1   (whole leaf)
Galaxy           dry   (pellet)
Columbus      dry   (pellet)
Centennial     dry    (pellet)
Pacific Jade   dry    (pellet)
Citra              dry   (pellet)

14*P (1.056)
Safale US-05

#1- highly American hopped with citrus floral aroma, some light fruity notes, no diacetyl, no DMS
#2- big hop, citrus aroma, a little floral, some malt in background, clean, light esters

#1- medium, gold, good clarity, white medium retention head
#2- medium amber color, tan head, medium head retention, good texture, clear

#1- hop flavor is high, well bittered, hop character is resinious, light malt sweetness supports and balances hop bitterness, some low fruit flavors, no diacetyl
#2- hoppy flavor with bitterness evident, malt balances bitterness mid-palate, bitter finish and after taste without any harshness

#1- medium body, medium carbonation, well attenuated finish with some warming, no hop astringency
#2- medium-light body, could be a bit more, medium carbonation, fine creamy texture, no astringency

Overall Impression
#1- an excellent representation of the style, style appropriate balance towards hoppy bitterness, but with malt backbone, slightly higher carbonation would have thrown it over the top
#2- really enjoyable beer! body is a bit light for style, but malt/hop balance in flavor is good, bump up both a small amount, but overall, good job

#1- Non-BJCP        37/50
#2- BJCP certified   34/50

Overall 35.5/50---Very Good (30-37)

For the tasting event I described the beer as: A medium to light bodied India Pale Ale that delivers a spectrum of hop aroma's and flavor's. Ranging from pine, citrus, floral, and earthy. We called it Another IPA so it's easy to order Another..

I may bump the gravity up a bit and/or raise the mash temperature in the future giving the beer more body, but overall I'm pleased with the results. The patrons at the beer tasting were very pleased with Another IPA as the whole case was gone, as well as it's darker cousin Dark & Dank (which I did not enter in the NHC because there isn't a category for dark IPA's).