Searching for the line between "hobby" and "obsession"

Upper Mississippi Mashout results – Belgian golden honey ale

I recently entered three of my beers in the 2012 Upper Mississippi Mashout, which this year became the second largest homebrew competition in the world right behind the National Homebrew Competition.

Here, you can find the official 2012 Upper Mississippi Mashout competition results. In forthcoming posts, I will recap feedback my three entries received from the judges, one of whom was Gordon Strong, current President of the BJCP, the organization that publishes universally accepted beer style guidelines. This was very exciting. The President of the group that literally defines beer styles tasted one of my beers, and happened to think reasonably well of it! Very cool.

In today’s post, I’ll dissect feedback received on In the name of doG (brewed Feb. ’11), BJCP category 16E, Belgian Specialty Ale.

My Belgian golden honey ale scored best of my three entries and was also the one Gordon Strong judged. He gave it a 34 while the less experienced judge (Scot Schaar, who ended up placing 2nd in best-in-show with his English Barlywine (19e)) gave it a 33.

  • Aroma – coriander spiciness, aromatic, floral hop character, light licorice, malty sweetness, no DMS, no diacetyl, not enough honey in the aroma. 7/12 (Gordon), 8/12 (Scot) — Next time: Add honey just before flameout.
  • Appearance – malty clear, moderate cream colored head with fine bubbles that soon dissipates, light/medium gold color. 3/3 (Gordon), 2/3 (Scot) — Next time: I’ll throw an extra pound of wheat in there to help with head retention, going from 4 to 5 lbs. No regrets on clarity here. Glad I had the opportunity to let this one age 10 months between bottling and competition.
  • Flavor – starts malty, sweet hot bitterness that is a risk to the balance, strong coriander flavor, honey is prevalent, some musky flavors in the finish, sweetness lasts into the aftertaste but the bitterness makes it seem bittersweet, fairly bitter for the style, dry (harsh) finish. 13/20 (Both judges) — Next time: Not sure hot to combat the musky flavors. This recipe had two ounces of Liberty and one ounce of Styrian Goldings. I’ll use only one ounce for the bittering charge next time and see how that goes. I got up to 89% apparent attenuation on this batch with WLP550. I could dial that down by employing a mashout step, which is now part of my routine but wasn’t at the time I brewed this. Also, I could mash maybe at 155* (I didn’t record the mash temp but assume it was approximately 152*). BUT… given Gordon’s comments in the “overall impression” section, I may not change mash temps or maybe even reduce them.
  • Mouthfeel – high (proper) carbonation, medium body, slightly warming but ok. Over-attenuated, finish is too dry, removes too much of the sweetness from the aftertaste. 4/5 (Gordon), 3/5 (Scot) — Next time: Employ mashout step and higher mash temp as indicated in the flavor portion. OR… maybe not. Check out Gordon’s overall comments below.
  • Overall impression – Decent Belgian quality, coriander is a bit much, overall balance is good between rounded mouthfeel with honey, just a touch too sweet. More attenuation would help. 7/10 (Gordon). A bit too dry for a blonde, no honey flavor detected, could use more malt character to balance things out. 7/10 (Scot). — Next time: I had used 0.5 oz bitter orange and 0.5 oz coriander. Maybe I cut those weights in half to reduce the spice and bite? Regarding attenuation opinions, see below…
I broke out Gordon’s feedback from Scot’s in the last section because they were directly opposed. Gordon says it could use a little more attenuation to dry it out while Scot says it is too dry for a blonde and could use more malt character for complexity. Their opinions seem opposite to me. Maybe the issue is that I shouldn’t have called out the base style as a blonde? Should I have said instead that I was going for a golden strong ale as a base within the 16e category? Possibly.
I looked back at the results I received from this same beer’s entry in the 2011 MN State Fair competition. Those judges both said the beer was a bit sweet, siding more with Gordon’s opinion rather than Scot’s. However, the State Fair competition was 5 months before the Mashout judging session, so maybe it had dried out further in that time period, giving Scot’s opinion some credence. Gordon and the State Fair judges both seemed like they wanted more honey flavor and more attenuation, both of which could be attained by bumping up the amount of honey in the recipe. I had used two pounds. Maybe next time I try three. If I do that, I probably shouldn’t reduce the hop additions from 3 oz to 2 oz but maybe I could try to use an even lower AA% hop than Liberty (2.5% – 5%) for the bittering charge. Not sure if that’s possible.

Summary of recipe tweaks:

  • Mash: do a mashout step, mash at 152*, no higher, maybe lower than that…
  • Malts: throw in an extra pound of wheat to aid in head retention, going from 4 to 5 lbs
  • Hops: try to find a lower AA% hop than Liberty for the bittering charge and/or something softer than Styrian Goldings for the aroma addition, but keep weights the same as I’ll be pumping up the fermentables so that will require more bitterness for balance
  • Adjuncts: use more honey, 3 lbs next time and add it all in the last two minutes of the boil instead of in the last 10 minutes
  • Spices: dial coriander and bitter orange back from .5 oz to .3 oz each
  • Fermentation: keep it at mid- to upper-70’s, as critiques weren’t fermentation-related

In my next post, I’ll review competition results for CUJO SPICE v2.1 pumpkin rye ale.


One response

  1. Pingback: Upper Mississippi Mashout results – Pumpkin rye ale « Barking Dog Beer

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