Becoming a Beer Judge (BJCP)

It’s been over a year since I got back my exam results from my Nov 2014 BJCP exam. I’ve always meant to make a post like this, but never got around to it. So here it is!

I wrote the exam on Nov 9th, 2014 and got the results back March 18th, 2015. Many thanks to my graders, admins, and proctors for volunteering their time to help me become a BJCP judge. That’s about 4.5 months for those keeping score, not to mention there were Christmas holidays in there. In 2014, while I was studying for the exam (shout out to Craig, Kyle, and Shaun the best study group ever!) I used to hear BJCP took 6-8 months for grading so I was pleasantly surprised that it only took 4.5 months. I believe it might even be quicker than this these days.

BJCP certified certificate

I earned the rank of Certified on April 2nd, 2015 after getting the 1/2 point I needed to advance from Recognized after getting my exam back.

Since getting my results back I’ve Continue reading

Induction Brewing: Using the Avantco 3500

This post is an overview of my experiences as an induction brewer using the Avantco 3500 cooktop.

Apologies, again, for the long blogging hiatus. Things have been quite busy on the homebrew club side and GTA Brews has eaten almost all of my free time. The club is doing extremely well, over a thousand people in our Facebook group, and about 100 people (growing quickly since it was recently introduced) that have elected to become paid members.

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This was my last brew day that used the induction cooktop (after I got a lower table for the new system)

I’ve still been brewing plenty often but haven’t had much time to write up overviews of my recipes. I also recently finished setting up a brand new brew system from the ground up (20 gal Stout Kettles, HERMS, with eBrewSupply BCS panel), so I’m hoping to start blogging more Continue reading

Doppelbock 2.0 – Double Diamond Doppelbock

Doppelbock is a style of beer I really love. I love the intense bready/toffee malt character coupled with the clean fermented lager profile. Doppelbock is a traditional German style lager with high level of malt flavour/aroma and higher ABV. Not what you typically think of when you hear the word lager, but remember lager is just a type of yeast (and also a conditioning practice). I previously brewed a Doppelbock back in Feburary 2014 and it turned out fantastic. It even did quite well in a few competitions including a 3rd Best of Show (BOS), my best placing so far in a competition. Naturally I had to brew one for the wedding.

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Dark English Mild – Stamford Session Ale

I love Mild. There is just something about this style of beer that speaks to me. I love the toasty flavours with supporting malt complexity, I love the lower ABV that allows you to drink more than one, and I love that, so far, I have had good success brewing this style of beer. Mild (BJCP 11A) isn’t a style you find a lot of in bottle shops or tap lists in North America, usually if a brewery is making a low ABV beer it’s either a Session IPA or some kind of English Bitter. I’m sure part of the reason for this is that low ABV beers with low bitterness don’t tend to keep as well over time.DSC_2698~2[1]

Historically, as the story goes, the term mild was used to refer to a beer lacking the sourness that aged beers tended to have, unfortunately they didn’t have StarSan in the 1800’s. Today, mild is defined as a style of beer by the BJCP. A Mild is a, low alcohol, malt focused beer with character ranging from lighter malt flavours like caramel and grainy up to dark chocolate or light roast. The bitterness should only play a supporting role to balance the malt, but not distract from it.

This is the second Mild I have brewed in my short brewing career. The first one turned out very well, but had a bit too much diacetyl for my taste, probably due to the WLP005 (Ringwood) strain I used. Keep in mind that low levels of diacetyl can be nice in certain English styles of beer. For this iteration however I wanted to use a cleaner yeast, so I used WLP002, which I already had on hand anyway. I have found that I really like the toasty character that brown malt lends to Brown Ales so I upped the amount from my previous recipe. The pale chocolate is there to give a nice deep brown colour and some light roast malt flavours of dark chocolate. The Crystal 65L is there to give some toffee flavours and to add some body.

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Saison 1.1

Saison isn’t a style of beer I have much experience brewing. In the past I tended to shy away from brewing most styles of beer that focus on esters. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of brewing a clean beer, free of esters and other yeast derived compounds, that allows the malt and/or hops to shine through. For some reason back in September I decided to eschew this and brew a saison, I suspect it’s because it’s so popular with my brewing friends. I needed to brew one to fit in.

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Version 1.0 of this beer turned out okay but I decided to make a few changes when I brewed this 1.1 version. I decided that I wanted more wheat character, so I upped the wheat a substantial amount from 9.5% to 36.4%. I love the creamy mouthfeel and bready flavour that high percentage of wheat gives a beer. I had decided to use WY3711 as the yeast in version 1.0 of this beer because many of the saison brewers I know swear by it. I believe that is mostly because of how attenuative it is, and doesn’t have the same sticking problem as the Dupont strain (WY3724). I had already harvested some WY3711 from version 1.0 so I didn’t change that for this iteration. I also decided to add some Amarillo at flame out, to give a more interesting grapefruit flavour, unfortunately at the time I had forgotten how much I hate the 2013 crop of Amarillo. I decided to go with a somewhat neutral water profile, electing to use slightly more sulfate than chloride to help accentuate the crispness of the beer. In the previous attempt I mashed at 150*F and the beer attenuated all the way down to 1.000, so I upped that a bit this time to 152*F hoping the yeast would leave a bit more body. Continue reading

Helles 2.1 – Where the Helles Newton

This may have been my first time re-brewing a recipe without any changes. I last brewed this beer in September and it turned out pretty fantastic. Very clean, low grainy malt flavour, and just a hint of spicy hop in the flavour. The 2.0 was brewed back in September and submitted into a homebrew advent calendar, the 2.1 was re-brewed on Nov 16ᵗʰ for the wedding. The name is inspired by my dog Newton, who is always off somewhere getting into trouble! The below picture is of the 2.0, it is slightly blurry but you can see the perfect clarity and beautiful pale gold colour.

Going back a step, Helles is kind of an obscure style for some people in North American. According to the German Beer Institute it accounts for one out of every four beers consumed in Germany, only less popular than the German Pilsner and Weizen styles. The name Helles comes from the German word “hell” which means light. This style is one of the few with a definite birthday, first released by Spaten Brewery on March 21ˢᵗ 1894. It is the main beer style served in the beer tents at the Munich Oktoberfest, and is typified by beers like Hofbrau Original, Spaten Premium LagerHacker-Pschorr Münchner Gold, and many more. Those listed beers are available in the LCBO in Ontario, and it was the Hofbrau Original that inspired me to try my hand at brewing a lager (because it was delicious)!

My thinking behind this recipe was to keep it pretty simple and only add things with a purpose. My original recipe had Munich I and Melanoiden in addition to the Pilsner so this version is simpler. The traditional Helles recipe is just 100% Pilsner malt with just enough hop bitterness to balance. I decided to add a tiny bit of interest in form of Vienna malt and a touch of Saaz as a late boil addition. I’ve found that sufficient lagering time is very important for lager styles since high clarity increases their appeal. Check out how clear the 2.0 turned out!

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Brett Brux Trois IPA – My GTA Brews Advent Beer

Advent Calendars aren’t a new idea, but the idea of a homebrew advent calendar is a relatively new one to me. I took part in one last year with the regional SOB group. This year my local club in Toronto (GTA Brews) managed to get a full 24 people (and then some) together to exchange homebrew and create a club advent calendar. This post is about my submission to that advent calendar.

I poured this for Rebecca before I left for work. Hey I needed a picture!

I poured this for Rebecca before I left for work. Hey I needed a picture!

When deciding on a style of beer to brew for an advent calendar there are two approaches people take. The first is the brew something safe, something that can showcase your skill as a brewer. The second approach is to go outside the box and try something new and exciting. I decided to go with the latter approach on this one and brew my first brett beer, a 100% Brett IPA.

I had read enough to know that Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois (WLP644) is the most common strain used in beers like this. With this beer I decided I wanted to go with something fruity and tropical so I decided on Galaxy hops, then paired them with Simcoe to get the grapefruit and pine. This beer was brewed right before the local bulk grain buy so I was running low on 2 row (after brewing my Ten Fidy clone) so I was forced to substitute most of my grain bill with Pearl. I had also just run out of Crystal 45L, so I just went with the closest I had, which happened to be Caramunch III (65L). I used my usual Magnum US bittering hop, and threw a little bit of Cascade in for good measure. Continue reading